The Future Is Now

by Ray Kong & John E. Carroll

In the movie Minority Report, Tom Cruise's character is asked by a holographic store clerk upon entering a futuristic version of The Gap "How did those assorted tank tops work out for you"? That's right, even Tom Cruise of the future gets solicited for customer feedback! While holographic store clerks might not yet be a regular feature in the customer experience of today, geolocation triggered feedback is about to breakthrough into mainstream of customer experience measurement, modeling and management.

Thanks to the smart mobile devices being carried and used by customers for everything from product research to price checking (see 10 Things You Don't Know About How Customers Use Smartphones) it is now possible to capture active and passive customer information right at the time and place customers are making decisions and indeed purchases.

Before describing the insights managers can gain and actions leaders can take using new geo-based technologies, it is worth describing a few bits of terminology. First, Geolocation is technology that taps into mobile device Global Positioning System (GPS) and in some cases Bluetooth functions to pinpoint a user's location. Next, Geofencing is the approach that establishes virtual perimeters with a specific radius or pre-defined path around a location. Finally, Geotriggering is the process which initiates automated actions including active surveying and passive data collection based on user proximity and interaction with geofences.

How does Geolocation work in practice for customer experience measurement and management you might ask? Working in collaboration with our partner Google, we recently completed work to investigate why shoppers at a major retail chain were sometimes not purchasing items they were intending to buy. It turns out this is a $25+ billion missed revenue issue for a single retailer alone! Accessing Google's panel of 600,000 consumers, we geotriggered surveys to shoppers who had been inside the retailer's locations and asked shoppers whether they had purchased the items intended. We took a sample of 1,000 from those who had not purchased intended items and launched a brief survey to the shoppers' mobile devices completed in return for Google Play credit. Within 48 hours, we had a full explanation of what and why items were not being purchased which put us well on path to developing effective strategies to win back some of the $25 billion prize at stake.

Overall, geolocation will play an important role in customer experience measurement, modeling and management for three reasons:

  1. The quality of geo-based data is extremely high. Geotriggering allows the capture of customer experiences, attitudes and behaviors in a location validated way in real time right at the moment of truth when customer perspectives are fresh, easy to remember, and quick to relate.
  2. The investment requirements for geo-based data is quite reasonable. Mobile user devices are ubiquitous and GPS data is already available at economies of scale. In the example above, finding 1,000 non-purchasers for a single retailer took only a few hours using completely automated processes and tools.
  3. The potential for new insight and action is incredible. Mixing passive and active geo-based data will provide new avenues of customer insight and new potential for taking action in the moments that matter. Take a look at Banjo to see what geo-based data combined with social media can do -- this is a company that just landed an additional $100 million of venture capital and is just one of the pioneers of geo-based big data analysis.

What do customer experience managers need to do now about geolocation? Experimentation is the key. While the technologies are in place to provide geo-based insights, the practical applications for every industry and business issue are not so well known (yet). To get started, innovative leaders are looking at the way they currently capture and report customer feedback and putting geo-based approaches into mix. For example, at Ipsos Loyalty offices, employees are greeted when they approach and asked via a geo-triggered survey to provide responses to brief employee engagement questions and hot strategy issues of the day.

Whatever the case, you don't need to wait for a dystopian future like those found in so many Tom Cruise movies to start putting geolocation to work for your organization!

Customer experience