Technology and the Fine Line between Hospitality and Creepy

With Big Data comes big responsibility. I’m not here to warn you that Facebook will steal your underpants if you don’t post this in your timeline (although John  1  Oliver isn’t saying they won’t). As companies collect more intel on consumers, both openly and covertly, it offers tremendous opportunities to enhance the customer experience, but it also can leave them feeling a little uncomfortable.

2There is the occasional awkwardness when a casual acquaintance asks about a recent event you posted and you are wondering how they knew you just went sky diving. Despite some consumer pushback and rise of ad blockers, the data collection goes on making our lives more open than we may think. Following social postings of people can be good or bad. One of my favorite examples of this is with Morton’s Steakhouse and Peter Shankman; the ultimate instance of Surprise and Delight. On the flip side, Allstate’s Mayhem Guy hysterically demonstrated the dangers of over sharing.

The F&B manager of a major hotel brand recounted a story to me where a guest was bothered when an employee, seeing her eminent arrival and preference for a certain beverage, went out to purchase it and have it awaiting the guest’s arrival. For many it is a great example of customer service. The guest saw it differently and didn’t hesitate to share her creepy feeling (through a Tweet of course).

3Retailers are also trying to enhance the in store shopping experience in an attempt to lure customers away from their screens to bare the agony of a brick and mortar visit. Supermarkets are utilizing phone apps, beacons and payment technology to make the trip a bit less painful, all the while tracking you and collecting data.

Recently we ran an online ad campaign that was targeted based on purchase behavior. Our partner was able to create a pool of targets based on past purchases tracked through their loyalty card, find them online to deliver the ad, and then measure how people exposed to the ad were more likely to purchase than the control group from the same pool that were not exposed to the ad (paging Eric Snowden).

Where is this heading? Ultimately it will come down to what consumers are rewarded with for opting into the machine. A report from the Annenberg School for 4Communications looks at the growing portion of the population simply resigned to the fact that their data and information will be collected, sold and used to target them with advertisements, and lures for their dollars and attention. The payoff will have to be more than just coupons. They can use discount codes online. Improving the customer experience will be key, and the area where consumers are least resistant to being tracked. Easing those consumer pain points in the process will be far more rewarding than fifty cents off a box of cereal. What may be more paramount will be the availability to take all this data to customize the experience for each person. Not just to sell them more, but make the process a little more pleasant and less creepy.

Or if you are just into creepy, watch this video of an over-the-top avocado fanatic.

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