The technology world stands at an interesting point right now. 20 years into the Internet revolution, companies are starting to realize that good enough isn’t good enough anymore. To truly stand out and succeed in the marketplace, companies have to be better. Whether they’re B2B, B2C, or anything in between, they have to provide unique, customized experiences to their customers. They have to be omnipresent, omnichannel and hyperlocal. They have to provide what customers want, exactly where they want it and when they want it.
It would be nice to think that companies could get there through focus groups, or by developing personas and developing products to cater to those personas. But that’s not enough. Companies that will succeed in the future need to combine an engaging front end experience with lightning-fast processing and analytics capabilities on the back-end, and do it in a way that’s transparent to the user.
Customer expectations are changing rapidly, and the biggest thing driving that change is the transition to mobile computing. IBM’s Ross Mauri said that there has been a 37x increase in mobile transactions per day, per user from 2004 to 2014. Mobile delivers immediacy of information and has changed our expectations for what’s considered “fast” from a response standpoint.
Forrester’s Julie Ask told the crowd that 21% of Americans have shifted their expectations of how they expect to engage with companies toward a mobile-first mindset, and 1 in 4 consumers expect every mobile experience to change based on their location. But companies aren’t living up to these expectations, largely because they’re treating mobile devices as scaled-down desktops rather than something unique with a different set of capabilities. And fewer than 50% of companies even have analytics in place to measure what’s happening with their mobile apps.
The other factor driving the need to create better user experiences is the Internet of Things. According to IBM VP of Analytics Inhi Suh Cho, as we move toward an “insight economy,” organizations need to curate insights in addition to producing goods & services. The driving factor for improved analytics is the increased amount of data coming from connected devices. Companies need to take huge amounts of real-time data, analyze it quickly, and provide results, responses or recommendations immediately.
The huge amounts of data companies and their users are generating every day can also be put to use to improve the customer experience. New predictive analytics tools can take historical and real-time data from individual users, as well as from broader pools of users, to allow retailers to make product recommendations based on products a customer currently has in an online shopping cart. They can combine with connected devices to allow a city like Glasgow, Scotland to better predict and manage energy supply needs as a way to help lower costs for people living in poverty.
Perhaps the best example discussed was IBM’s Intelligent Operations Center, which the city of Las Vegas uses to monitor issues going on within city and coordinate responses quickly. It coordinates traffic data and feeds from cameras to help city managers reroute traffic during emergencies. It combines real-time weather data with predictive analytics anticipate potential flooding issues, then close streets before residents have a chance to get stranded—and potentially injured. The system leverages technologies such as IBM’s z Systems, Power Systems, and storage systems.
IBM Edge is all about infrastructure, and what IBM demonstrated on the first day of the event is that the back-end hardware and software required to create the experiences needed in the future are here today. It’s up to the rest of us to put them to use.
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