Monday, January 07, 2013

Marketing with the Five Senses

Can a smartphone smell or feel?

Each year IBM posts the annual"5 in 5" - trends that their analysts see occurring in the next several years.   The question of interest: how will the five senses be integrated into technology?

While the examples cover everything from monitoring soil to reading MRI's for anomalies there are implications related to retail marketing.  
  • The goal of satisfying needs profitability requires a) making it easy to decide in the face of hyper-choice and b) providing a frictionless path to purchase/consumption.   A lot has been done in the latter arenas, e.g. click-to-store and text2buy.  These five trends suggest that the experiential part of choosing will be next frontier in retail.
  • Of the five senses, they will be adopted in the order in which consumers find them useful to filter out noise and uncertainty.  The trends suggest that devices will provide input on the environment, not just show features.  
  • Examples of these trends abound today...
    • Sight: virtual and augmented reality is used in a number cases where information is overlaid based on context and location.
    • Hearing: SoundHound and Shazam make building playlists easy by identifying ambient tunes.
    • Touch: tactile products abound - from Corinthian leather to shag carpet - that need to be felt to buy.
    • Smell: breathalyzer apps like Alcohoot use the same process as smell.   Can a wine app be too far behind?
    • Taste: the business rules for food pairing are continuously evolving.  Thus, it seems likely that judging the freshness of fruit and seafood can't be far behind.
Some broad thoughts about the future that are broad, strategic 'facts of life':
  • The future comes slower than we think, but change happens faster.  Thus, any predictions are likely to be vaguely correct but precisely wrong.  Remember, ATT passed on the mobile market in the early 80s when the number of handsets was estimated to be less than 1 million in 20 years time.
  • Miniaturization allows for portability. We have willingly morphed into cyborgs where technology is used to enhance our normal capabilities.   The smartphone/tablet is a step in the communication pathway and glasses will be next.
  • Disruption will happen on the fringe where problems are solved rather than products being sold.  LifeWatch, the first medical device based on current mobile standards is in development based on patents filed 10 years ago.
Time to get creative about putting the smart into a device.

No comments: