With Halloween and Bonfire Night behind us, retailers have flipped their attention to Christmas: we've already seen the switching on of the Oxford Street Christmas Lights and now all of the major brands - from John Lewis to M&S and Sainsburys - are unveiling their festive, feel-good Christmas adverts starring furry pets and happy families. The season of emotional marketing is upon us!
Across the country, millions of people have been 'ooohing' and 'aaahing' at John Lewis' trampolining woodland animals. The heart-warming ad has got a lot to live up to though. Last year's 'Man on the Moon' struck a chord with virtually everyone. But it didn't just draw a tear - it brought the holiday shoppers to the retailer too. The company reported a 44.3% increase in sales in the five-week period leading up to December 25th. If this is anything to go by, then connecting on an emotional level has a pretty big role to play in influencing our purchasing behaviour.
It strikes me that the raft of 'emotional' Christmas campaigns we're currently being treated to are part of our changing expectations of, and experiences with, brands. Think of the interaction we have with 'disruptive' digital brands like Amazon, Uber and Netflix, who offer personalised and convenient experiences. I would argue that, above and beyond the convenience of getting what we want when we want it, as customers of these brands we also get a feeling of being valued and appreciated. I bet those discounts from your favourite online shoe shop on your birthday make you feel good. What's more, I for one now want the same experience from traditional brick-and-mortar companies. Why can't the sales assistant in the department store know it's my birthday when he serves me and give me an extra 10% off, or a small free gift? It's clear that modern consumer insight and personal service is also part of the whole emotional connection.
I'm sure you're wondering what this has to do with technology. To me, there's a huge connection, I think the key to how brands are starting to create this emotional connection is now rooted in technologies that are helping these brands understand what customers really need most to spur a buying decision. I've written previously about predictive intelligence and AI. It's a technology that, among other things, gives brands the ability to know what each customer wants, sometimes even before they want it - and to make it easier than ever for them to buy.
And this is the fundamental benefit offered by predictive intelligence. It's changing the game by automating how companies learn about us - their customers. For instance, using predictive intelligence, when you click on an automated "How can I help you?" service, these intelligence-powered robots or "bots" as you probably know them, access your profile and update it with critical, new information as they interact with you.
This same technology can also simultaneously analyse thousands upon thousands of online customer reviews; it can deliver succinct, actionable insight practically at the touch of a button; it can take all the information you share about yourself and your interactions and connect it in one big database of actionable insights.
With predictive intelligence, brands now have the information and ability catalogued precisely in order to accurately predict how a customer will react to a specific offer or service. As a result, each customer experience, whether it's an in-store sales associate making an informed recommendation, a call centre agent fielding a complaint, or a marketer able to extend the right offer at the right time, should become more relevant and therefore more emotional. For example, a retailer, understanding your regular shopping habits, can send a special offer on a tie to go with the suit you bought last month.
This isn't the future. It's now, and this Black Friday, this Cyber Monday and in fact throughout the holiday shopping season, I'm sure we're going to find more and more retailers using it. As a result, hopefully you'll feel more positive towards these brands and at the very least see a boost in your experience as a customer.