Huge mergers abound, with the likes of AT&T and Time Warner, and a possible CVS/Aetna combo ready to connect. It’s created an environment where I look around and wonder what else, what other entities may merge in a symbiosis that makes business sense? Indeed, I’ve had my eyes open for it everywhere in the past few months and enjoying the moments I’ve seen where it really works for companies and brands.
I still, however, have my eyes peeled for mergers that make human sense—those moments that are uniquely characterized by serving both the practical and emotional needs of the consumer.
Through the conversations I’ve had with consumers about emerging technology over the past few months, we’ve built a lot of exciting and creative ideas together – and I can readily see some great angles that rally the idea of mergers going forward, particularly those that leverage new tech:
There is of course, the notion of convenience
The idea of all-in-one has become pervasive. Why have remotes and cables when you can wirelessly control your speakers, your TV, your lights and AC from your smart phone? The smart phone as magic-wand analogy is certainly one that has rapidly spread through the tech sphere: touchscreen dashboards powered by Google in cars and voice-assistant towers that put a bevy of household brands at your door from a command at the kitchen counter.
On the ground, Amazon is capitalizing fast and early here—acquiring Whole Foods and delivery fleets across the United States to complete the purchase cycle with more agility than any other player. At the same time, they’re using in-store human interaction to promote Amazon’s Prime membership and services. It’s an unstoppable cycle of convenience.
There are countless other examples of brands partnering to make things easier, simpler, more immediate for the consumer. I would mention, however, that making things easier for the consumer is an advertising pitch that stems well back into marketing history, and is not a very unique story for a brand. At least not in the long term.
Combining the practical with exploration
Convenience is always going to be the fundamental ask from consumers that the merging of devices can provide, but when merging for practical reasons combines with a flair of exploration, it becomes an emotional value add.
Recently, on a bout of ethnographic research, I found myself in an idea-building exercise where a young woman peaked in excitement over an all-in-one travel app that consolidated the services of several apps into one: she could research, compare, book spaces and activities, plan routes and scout her plan, visually, using augmented reality.
I’m willing to bank that with the abundance of apps, we are going to continue to hear a request for ‘housing systems’ for apps that fulfill needs within distinct categories: travel, finance, planning a home, children’s activities, to name a few. Combine these new one-stop-shops on your phone with the ability to dive in and explore through augmented reality experiences for tap into consumer’s left and right brains.
But that still leaves us with room for inspiration
Outside of the digital realm in particular, there lies an area where high-touch brands can tingle consumer’s senses more intensely. The advantage to being a brand that consumers always need to interact with in-person (because the engagement is sensitive, personal, of higher-investment, or simply of a travel-nature) is that these brands get a chance to really shake hands with that right brain and make emotional connections.
A recent example I’ve experienced was while traveling for business (a mandatory, practical activity); I opted to try out a newer hotel brand called 21C. The concept behind these hotels is that beyond the typical hospitality, the hotels house a museum with astounding, multimedia, highly-immersive, contemporary art. One of the most common laments of business travelers like myself is that we get to travel so much, but never get to see much of the areas we visit. 21C brought discovery, mental renewal and inspiration to my trip. I can only imagine this getting more immersive and creating more respite as technology, art and hospitality come together.
From this experience, I began to imagine doctor’s offices that were also centers for learning, using AR lessons to teach kids and adults about the human body while you wait. How about airports that let you test-drive experiences and attractions during your layover? What if you could walk into a Home Depot and leveraging an in-store YouTube tutorial that lasts just minutes, leave with a brand-new skill? And just imagine the next-generation in fitness and yoga classes, that transport you to new dimensions of wellness but also reality!
There are so many places emerging technology like AR can conveniently take us and ways that it can shape us. From what I’m hearing, consumers are buzzing and ready to be practically and emotionally engaged. Are you ready to engage them?