Gestalt: Rethinking what customers want & are willing to share in return
by Leeya Hendricks (@LeeyaHendricks) I was fascinated to read about robotic furniture recently — Silicon Valley’s response to the mounting need for better living space management. But space-saving is only half the story; self-storing/transformer furniture provides fascinating case studies of a new generation of successful data-gathering products.
Your ceiling — the next frontier of trust?
Space is a challenge for modern city dwellers who enjoy living in densely populated, culturally rich urban areas within walking distance from work and all amenities. Due to high demand for real estate, most will never realise their dream of comfortable urban living.
Now, with the incredible self-storing furniture of Bumblebee, Ori and others, even junior workers who can only afford a tiny studio apartment can revel in space that feels twice as big. Say hello to tables, cupboards and beds that either tuck themselves away or change into something different, depending on their human roommate’s needs at any given time. Done sleeping? Your bed will now hoist itself up into the ceiling. Need to declutter? A storage robo-basket will descend from up high at your command, receive the book you’re done reading and reattach itself to the ceiling, out of sight and out of the way.
The good AI in your bedroom
Self-storing/transformer furniture provides fascinating case studies of a new generation of successful data-gathering products. How is that even possible, you ask, after 2018’s Cambridge Analytica/Facebook data-harvesting scandal? Simply because these products open up new frontiers of customer value, sufficiently great to overcome public-trust issues.
Within robotic furniture units are tiny cameras that feed into vendors’ artificial intelligence-powered management systems. The AIs classify and catalogue objects stored in the units and build a searchable inventory, so humans never need to search for their keys or baby’s favourite book again. In addition, it learns their storage habits, revealing which items they use more frequently and which ones they could toss at no big loss.
This is data gathering that doesn’t veer into the shady territory of non-consensual ‘surveillance’. It has a clearly delineated and valuable purpose: to find out your product needs and usage patterns, which it then analyses for opportunities to improve usage.
Less is more
This made me think of the much-less successful ways in which marketers currently still use analytics to shape customer experiences. Many focus on personalising digital experiences, assuming all customers want personalisation, and build customer journeys around that. But, if we put more emphasis on analysing customer profiles, we may find that many people want less clutter, less stuff, less sharing of personal data, and more of what’s relevant to them.
It’s not a crisis by any means. As budgets get tighter and margins are squeezed, different paths of innovation inevitably come to the fore. Less is more. And when that happens, sharing personal data to improve that experience will be less of a stretch.
Regaining trust through transparency
But users are becoming increasingly more sensitive to privacy issues.
It’s true that they will share information when they are clear on defined benefits to new products, but even that isn’t enough. Clearly outline the permissions customers are required to give when using your product and be sure to highlight what sharing may lead to, whether it can be seen as ‘tracking’ or ‘spying’ or not.
Where there is clear benefit and clear communication, everybody wins!
Leeya Hendricks (@LeeyaHendricks) is a designated chartered marketer, global marketing strategist, digital driver and a Women in Tech leader. She holds a BA degree in fine arts, a BA honours degree in brand marketing management, an MBA in business management and is completing her PhD in management sciences, focusing on customer value and business transformation. She is senior director of marketing Europe at Gartner UK, responsible for customer acquisition and data-driven strategies. Leeya contributes the monthly column “Gestalt”, about putting customers first for sustainable business success, to MarkLives.