In my previous post, I referenced Paul Greenberg’s brain dump of technologies, concepts, and theories that are pulling the CRM community toward a larger market of customer engagement. CRM innovation is shifting from delivery of technology 1, to building intelligent, behavior oriented systems for complex customer interactions. With a core concept of customer engagement, companies are looking to build ‘shared value’ with their customers. For shared value to be created, however, the equation requires reciprocating engagement from customers. An underlying assumption of shared value creation is that customers will eagerly, and directly, engage. What if customers incorporate their own technology layer as a buffer to all of this engagement activity? What if the customer has a digital butler, a VRM layer 2, to filter out the noise?
Marketers, and marketing technologists, will likely be on the vanguard of understanding how this will impact brands. Toby Gunton, of OMD UK, writing for The Guardian:
[The movie “Her”] suggests a world where an automated guardian manages our lives, taking away the awkward detail; the boring tasks of daily existence, leaving us with the bits we enjoy, or where we make a contribution. In this world our virtual assistants would quite naturally act as barriers between us and some brands and services.
Great swathes of brand relationships could become automated. Your energy bills and contracts, water, gas, car insurance, home insurance, bank, pension, life assurance, supermarket, home maintenance, transport solutions, IT and entertainment packages; all of these relationships could be managed by your beautiful personal OS.
Brands in these categories could find themselves dealing with the digital butler (unless we, the consumer, step in and press the override button), in which case marketing in these sectors could become programmatic in the truest sense.
It’s entirely possible that the influence of our virtual minders could reach far further. What if we tell our OS that we’ll only ever buy products that meet certain ethical standards; hit certain carbon emission targets or treat their employees in a certain way? Our computer may say no to brands for many different reasons. 3
To summarize, Gunton’s piece reflects a future where algorithms market to algorithms. The implications for CRM technologies, and their buyers, are significant. We are already seeing a glimpse of this future with enhancements to Google’s Gmail.
Last year, Gmail added a ‘Promotions’ tab, a feature that effectively redirects mass marketing emails out of the customer’s view 4, programmatically reducing the noise that Gmail users see. I haven’t read specifics, but reflecting on my own experience, I’ve seen roughly 60% of my email routed away from my direct attention since I activated the promotions tab. While this is not exactly Her 5, parts of that VRM future have already arrived 6. As this future is more evenly distributed, engagement will require different models of engaging. A more sophisticated digital butler can be seen in the Glome project 7.
Creating genuine shared value will require meaningful rethinking of what customer engagement means, and, at the same time, require a significant rearchitecting of siloed CRM interests 8. Successfully building technology for the Customer Engagement market will also necessitate a radical shift in how this technology is sold and delivered. We’re in the early stages of this tectonic shift, but there is no doubt that change is coming. Like I said in the previous post, the next eighteen months or so will be an interesting time for all the players in the CRM world.