Anatoly Roytman, managing director, Europe, Africa, Latin America at Accenture Interactive
Where once it was the consumer that sought out the brand, today the brand must increasingly come to them.
A consumer now expects to have instant access to digital services throughout the day, automatically suiting the context or environment from where they’re using it.
So, if a consumer is listening to a music streaming service in their house and they need to travel somewhere, they will expect to continue listening to it from their car.
Or if they’re checking their bank balance or paying a bill, they’ll want their mobile banking services integrated with other digital platforms to make it easy to access when they need it.
For brands, these increasingly liquid consumer expectations represent a unique challenge.
Creating services that flow as freely and fluidly as a consumer does is no easy feat. The brands that are best responding to this are those that have embraced a unique process we like to call atomisation.
The process of atomisation is crucial to building the hyper-personalised and contextualised experiences
Atomised brands take a less rigid approach to their products and services, allowing them to be super distributed across various platforms and third-party services, while still retaining their brand identity.
They operate in a world where the rules of branding and conventional business structures are fundamentally challenged and disrupted, where services appear intuitively to offer themselves to consumers according to their time, place or situation. One obvious pioneer of this approach is Spotify.
The brand’s music streaming service is available across several platforms, including desktop, iOS, Android, Sonos home entertainment, Samsung Smart TV and even Ford's auto dashboards.
Another digital music service, Deezer, enables account integration with Facebook and Twitter, allowing listeners to share favourite music and playlists with friends.
Intergration and atomisation
Atomisation is also widespread in financial services, most markedly with payment processing and social banking where many banks are integrating services with retailers or social media channels. Turkish bank Garanti’s digital banking initiative iGaranti is a good example of this.
Atomisation is not only beginning to manifest itself, it will increasingly take hold over the coming decade
The service provides wallet, savings and loan apps and is integrated with social networking sites Facebook, Twitter and FourSquare.
This integration allows customers to send secure payments to friends and take advantage of location-based shopping.
The atomisation trend witnessed through iGaranti and Spotify is part of a much bigger transition we’re now witnessing called Living Services.
It will revolutionise the way brands offer interesting and increasingly contextualised experiences for consumers.
Advanced sensors, the cloud, connected smart devices and big data are coming together to allow brands to build digital services that come to life; constantly learning from our behaviour and adapting in real-time to our changing needs and circumstances.
Early examples of Living Services are already beginning to emerge. Premium electric car manufacturer Tesla has developed Smartcar, an in-car app that adapts to the driver’s behaviour for a more personalised driving experience, such as knowing when to heat up the car on a cold morning before a commute.
And Philips has developed a wireless lighting system that uses smart technology to create a home lighting scheme that can be individually controlled to change colour, mimic natural sunrise, alert you or welcome you home.
The process of atomisation is crucial to building the hyper-personalised and contextualised experiences Living Services promise and modern consumers increasingly expect.
But, while the benefits of this approach are clear, the path towards atomisation has some challenges ahead for some brands that are used to maintaining control of their image and relationship with customers.
Mature companies with entrenched marketing processes might find relinquishing that control particularly difficult.
Similarly, for brands that have historically treated customer data as a valuable and protected asset, the inevitable sharing of data that is required as part of these partnerships could also pose a barrier.
That said, atomisation is not only beginning to manifest itself, it will increasingly take hold over the coming decade as the range of digital services expands and their availability and the way we can access and manipulate them increases in sophistication.
We’re now entering a world full of digital plugs and sockets, where businesses can plug into each other and combine them with their own products or services.
Brands must embrace this new atomised world and not fear the loss of control it entails. After all, people don’t live their lives through silos, so why should brands?