Introducing the Augmented Customer
As tech becomes more immersive, new technical and ethical challenges emerge.
The application economy is evolving into something subtly but significantly different. The mobile app—formerly the convergence point for digitally-transformed business—is increasingly just one drop in the ocean of connected technologies, into which customers are deeply immersed. As trends like virtual reality and the Internet of Things become more mainstream, companies are faced with the prospect of new kind of augmented customer.
The term “augmented customer” comes from a new Ovum research report, which notes that because growth in mobile device sales is slowing, leading hardware companies are shifting their focus to areas such as virtual reality, augmented reality, the smart home, artificially intelligent assistants and wearables. These technologies provide a more immersive, personalized experience for customers.
It remains to be seen which companies will most successfully leverage this new level of immersion or how they will do so. However, a couple of key considerations are likely to emerge as differentiators. Chief among these is connectivity. The companies best equipped to meet the needs of the augmented customer will be those that have already invested in making their digital assets available online.
From a practical standpoint, this means those companies that have used APIs to open valuable data and functionality for use by a variety of devices, applications and partners. But to succeed, these companies will need enough organizational agility to quickly and efficiently conceptualize, build, test and update software that makes full use of the potential unlocked by an API-enabled IT architecture.
Privacy and Security in the Augmented Economy
Additionally, as pointed out in a recent ReadWrite article, these new levels of connectivity and immersion will amplify concerns around security and privacy. Having large enterprises put data-collecting smart devices with microphones and video cameras into homes is bound to cause a few raised eyebrows—and there is already some controversy around products like Amazon Echo. So, how can enterprises address these concerns?
If you’re going to “augment” your customers, you’d better be sure you’re doing it with their permission, on their terms and in ways that provide them with maximum benefit and minimum negative impact. This will require a truly customer-centric approach in which achieving business goals is effectively a byproduct of meeting evolving customer demands and new technology is never used for technology’s sake.
This, in turn, will require enterprises to maintain high ethical standards and be entirely transparent about how data is collected and used. It will also mean protecting the complex infrastructure required to make the augmented customer a reality—from securing the APIs that enable communication between the many moving parts, to managing identity and access at the app user level.
As the app economy evolves, it grows ever more complex in terms of technology and ethics. The enterprises that succeed in this context will be those able to simplify the process of offering a truly customer-centric approach to immersive connectivity.