Each weekend in the winter, I drive 200 miles north to Warren, VT to feed my family’s appetite for skiing, and the funky hippie vibe of the Mad River Valley. Yes, you westerners, I know that I should have moved west years ago. But I consider this area to be my second home – but I hate driving around there with “Mass” plates!
And as I drive on VT Rt. 100, I pass this old abandoned travel information booth several times a weekend (yes it’s still there). I pass by it in my connected car, with “infotainment” and my smartphone, with access to WWW via cellular towers.
And I think back to days past when this booth was staffed, and packed with brochures and maps to help people make better decisions as they drove… somewhere (skiing, looking at foliage, buying maple syrup, looking for a hiking trail and… well that’s about it).
But there is a simple brilliance to the information booth concept. All of the information in this booth existed physically and it was only relevant to activities within a certain radius of this location. The information was put there by the state of VT to stimulate commerce and tourism by influencing the consumer journey, by delivering particular messages to travelers just as they were most likely to want some guidance – and importantly… nothing more:
- Where should I rent skis?
- Is there a gas station nearby?
- How far to Burlington?
- What are the best lodging options?
- Where is there a good restaurant?
- Which hiking trails are best?
Today’s connected consumers can get to all of this information, and much more, at any point along their journey. However, without the information booth, the consumer has to work hard to get to a curated set of content that is relevant to their experience. You see – the information booth already knew that its customers were looking for guidance on local attractions and experiences in northern VT. It could easily recommend just the right products, services, advice that would improve the experience for travelers. Customers would not be bombarded by offers about attractions in other states, nor products that wouldn’t align with travel, tourism, or outdoor recreation. In contrast, if I put in “ski vacation” into my smartphone, I am instantly bombarded with offers for products and services from around the globe – and I will need to work hard to avoid the misguided ads and offers that are fighting for my attention and hiding the personalized insights that I really want.
So before dismissing the information booth as a primitive and outdated concept, stop to consider that advanced analytics are starting to give us the Information Booth 2.0. That’s right! The information booth is still a cutting edge idea!!! It provided just the right information, in the right place, to the right audience. It influenced the customer journey at the very point of consumption. It wasn’t packed with irrelevant information about things that were not consumable then and there. In fact, global organizations are spending billions on marketing analytics trying to replicate the information booth concept for today’s digitally connected consumers and more often than not, failing to replicate the personalized experience that the information booth delivered.
So why hasn’t technology already saved the day and made this faster, better, cheaper, and easier. Well, tech has made it cheaper and faster, but certainly not better nor easier. Part of the challenge is the notion of the moment of truth – where a customer decides, or doesn’t, to make a particular purchasing decision. The travel information booth owned that moment, by nature of physical and geographic barriers. But now our connected world means that we’re experiencing moments of truth long before we reach the destination. We’re consuming relevant information, and offers before we get in the car, before we look at the mountains, and before we get to town. The physical location of the information no longer matters, because it’s always at our fingertips.
The vast availability of information has created much greater competition for our attention, and the ever-increasing number of data sources has made it much harder for any given organization to understand and influence the customer journey.
Building a rich understanding of the connected customer now requires advanced analytics across many data silos, and predicting customer actions, in context to their past actions, and their persona, is even harder. And harder still is being able to do something about it and engage the customer with an experience that connects the dots between the relevant products and services.
The TCS solution, Customer Intelligence & Insights for Retail (CI&I for Retail) is software that creates a 360 profile of each customer, maps their buyer journey, and generates highly relevant, contextual next best actions – be it an offer or recommendation. CI&I for Retail uses machine learning as applied AI to learn from customer data to understand current and future customer behavior, and is an open, extensible platform that readily fits into and with existing and emerging IT environments. This future ready solution allows retailers to step in and create exceptional end-to-end customer experiences and leverage any existing customer analytics, reporting and engagement investments.
We always hear that history repeats itself – I hope that old information booth stays there as a reminder.