Thinkers and doers on Digital Customer Experience - A Symposium | DMA

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Thinkers and doers on Digital Customer Experience - A Symposium


On May 23rd, the DMA hosted the Academy of Marketing e-Marketing SIG Symposium on 'Exploring the digital customer experience: Smart devices, automation and augmentation'.

This symposium brought together thinkers and doers to share innovative perspectives on digital customer experience. Researchers from University of Birmingham, University of Essex, St Mary's University, Brunel University, as well as University of Southampton presented their research on consumer perceptions of digital and smart experiences.

Increasing availability and processing power of devices, such as smartphones and tablets, opens up new media-rich possibilities for brands to engage with consumers. Beyond two-dimensional interaction on websites and apps, Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) offer an opportunity to immerse the user directly in the simulated product or service experience. On the other hand, the data generated through consumer touch points creates possibilities for greater automation and development of smart, algorithmically-driven interactions.

Several perspectives were shared but the unifying message about consumer perceptions of these developments, is that consumers increasingly expect to be compensated with relevant personalisation for the data they inevitably share. In the data-driven marketplace users put increased expectations on brands in return for their engagement - expectation of relevance, value, recognition and control over message frequency and methods. Dr Ana Canhoto from Brunel University, perfectly summarises the equation consumers make in their minds when deciding to download yet another app for example, referring to it as the 'cognitive side of trust'.

We heard from Dr Fatema Kawaf from University of Essex, about how such expectations can be understood in terms of human psychology. Each individual is an expert in selecting the dimensions of their own preferred experience and no amount of research by brands can ultimately be more accurate than the users' own decision. It follows then that brands should focus on contextual factors, such as the user situation and environment, and tailor interaction based on previous experience to engage consumers effectively.

Prof Merlin Stone and his colleagues at St Mary's University, explained how wellbeing and health management as well as access to public services could be transformed through smart devices in homes. Using smart devices by the elderly, in particular, presents a wealth of opportunities. The popularity of Amazon Echo is only starting to mark out the huge impact that voice recognition can have on creating the 'empathetic home'.

The varied motivation of people to use smart devices were explored by Dr Julia Wolny, from University of Southampton. She presented a typology of self-quantifying behaviours that illuminate the user segments that exist in the 'smart devices' market. Some people are motivated intrinsically - they record scores to evaluate own progress, while for others external motivation is more important – they use social sharing to boost commitment to a goals.

In another sector altogether – arts and heritage – Matthew Tyler-Jones from the National Trust, demonstrated how a memorable user experience is a key to encouraging future museum visits. Surprisingly, apps in museum are relatively low in the memorability stakes, mostly due to contextual barriers to use. Yet those that really take care of all the potential obstacles to on-site use (no Wifi, lengthy registration) are seeing rewards, and it is predicted that the sector will increasingly be utilising technology to augment the visitor experience in immersive ways.

Let's not forget that behind automated interactions, humans make the difference between a more or less positive experiences. Dr Alexandre Schwob from Abertay University and his colleagues, explained how In regulated industries such as pharmaceuticals, the role of the sales staff on social media is precarious because of competing logics. Such duality reveals some limits in the exchange of free information by highly educated actors for commercial purposes.

In the afternoon workshops researchers and practitioners formed working groups to identify the implications of automation for commerce, public policy and the law. Doubtless this is an area with huge opportunities for research.

This e-Marketing SIG symposium is linked to a Special Issue on Digital Customer Experiences in the Journal of Research in Interactive Marketing (Emerald). Conceptual articles, case studies, opinion pieces and empirical studies are being invited, with a deadline of January 2018. Inquiries and initial proposals should be sent to Dr Julia Wolny (

Author: Julia Wolny

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