Is Hype Damaging Business?

Talking about, or really using technology. . .

If you’re reading this article, it would be safe to assume that you’re interested in disruptive technology. The majority of consumers are, too. Even if they don’t necessarily understand the tech, they’re certainly intrigued by it. In the corporate world, this curiosity hasn’t gone unnoticed. As a result, a number of companies have quickly adopted the vocabulary of advanced tech. There’s a huge divide between businesses that are successfully using tech, and those that simply say they are. This can be confusing for customers, and damaging for businesses, and is in part responsible for the problem with disruption. Could inaccurate use of terms negatively affect innovation, and how have companies used technology to gain a competitive advantage?

Competitive coffee
A prime example of how companies can use disruptive tech for competitive advantage is currently underway at Starbucks. By linking Starbucks Rewards member accounts with a predictive analytics system called the Digital Flywheel programme, an algorithm can suggest a product to a customer before they’ve even decided they want a drink. The service takes into account the time of day, the weather, and order history to make an informed prediction. If it’s a cold winter’s afternoon, a customer will be more likely to order a frothy hot chocolate. If it’s 7am in the morning, you could almost bet on the customer ordering a strong espresso. External metrics can also encourage uncharacteristic purchases that align with customer preferences. Similarly, machine learning techniques are used by FinTech companies like Numerai to predict stock market movements. Other disruptive technologies have made their mark in manufacturing and retail. Shapeways, for instance, uses 3D printing to make highly personalised products that are far more enticing for customers than picking from an online catalogue. These examples demonstrate that innovative technology can be marketed to great effect. . . providing that it isn’t all talk.

Banning the buzzwords in business
When applied meaningfully, disruptive tech can entice customers and improve profitability. This increasing realisation is likely to encourage the development of similar services, designed to maximise customer engagement. Eventually, this will become the norm. Customers will demand personalised, predictive services that complement their wants and needs. Unfortunately, the success of quality services could be quelled by other businesses that are eager to join the club. By using certain terms, they can trick consumers into paying for services that aren’t what they claim to be. It’s all too easy for companies to jump on the bandwagon without actually developing the tech to support their claims. This is exactly what happened with chatbots, the app dwelling personal assistants. As bots became more and more popular, an influx of companies rushed to offer their own chatbot services. What they actually did was push customers away with poorly developed interfaces. Chatbots are still recovering from unfulfilled expectations. Will this happen to other technologies, too? At the moment, a lack of consumer knowledge is enabling this trend to continue. If the issue persists, regulatory bodies are likely to step in. Not only this, but consumers will gradually become more accustomed to technology and their knowledge will increase. Ultimately, businesses are going to need to be very careful about how they market their products.

For the companies that recognise the potential of innovative tech, creating a quality service and rolling it out to customers is a recipe for success. Claiming to offer advanced technology only works in a business’ favour if they can genuinely provide that service, though. As shown by the failure of numerous chatbots, this can be detrimental to the company as well as to the adoption of the tech itself. In future, misusing technological terms could become a serious issue for companies – and not just for those that wrongly apply them. Luckily, serial innovators have set a precedent for the creation of relevant services that do exactly what they say on the, er, coffee cup.

Does your business use innovative technology as a marketing tool? Will misinformation threaten technological adoption? In future, could the use of buzzwords be regulated? Comment below with your thoughts and opinions.