At the end of a decade characterised by speedy service and online interaction, and where Netflix and Uber dominated the headlines, you could be forgiven for thinking that technology is now well embedded into most consumer offerings.
But, for many markets (particularly for those of us in service industries), that simply isn’t true. Just look at the hair and beauty industry, where my company, Powered by Flossie, operates. A shocking 75% of hair and beauty salons in the United Kingdom still primarily use paper-based diaries to book appointments with their customers. This is demonstrative of the fact that some industries digitalisation isn’t as fully integrated into every aspect of busin as we would expect.
It’s not as though the evidence isn’t there. Examples of employing tech to achieve a better consumer experience are powerful – take L’Oreal’s use of AI to create a ‘try it on yourself service’, to the multi million pound business that Deliveroo is doing in our capital.
So what’s the problem? Let’s take a look at what’s holding firms back, and how they can overcome the barriers to digitalisation, before they become obsolete.
Addressing the tech horror stories
There’s no doubt that tech can be scary. We only have to look at Microsoft’s Tay – hailed as a game changer in online comms, to see how badly technology can fail. Within 24 hours of its launch, an organised trolling effort took advantage of the bot’s social-learning abilities and immediately flooded the bot with alt-right slurs and slogans. Tay copied their messages and spewed them back out, forcing Microsoft to take her offline and apologise, within a day.
Furthermore, two-thirds of chief marketing officers say that having experienced “disasters” when it comes to managing data in campaigns. Many organisations have fallen foul of data breaches, from Fortnite to Facebook to Capital One all reporting incidents in 2019 alone.
And, downtime is a nightmare that keeps recurring. What happens if that clever booking system we’ve built for our customers goes down? What’s the impact, both on income and on brand reputation if the tech we rely on simply doesn’t work?
Get expert help
The marrying of technology and marketing isn’t always easy, then, but it is now necessary for brands who want to keep up with the competition. So, how do companies make the best use of tech and avoid brand-damaging failures?
The first is to work with experts.
It’s widely agreed that it’s more cost-effective to ‘buy’, rather than ‘build’, technology solutions. And given the density of the landscape – the sheer number of products on offer – it’s understandable that there’s a wealth of information out there about how to pick the right technology vendor. From data storage technologies to security systems to booking software like Powered by Flossie, company execs are well versed in the idea that they must be careful to choose the tech firm that best meets their needs.
Savvy organisations already look towards strategic purchases which will meet corporate objectives, rather than just buying ‘gadgets’ (It’s not enough to have an iPad in every retail outlet). They check for service level guarantees and uptime levels – and pick a tech vendor that can act as a true partner, flexible enough to scale and support them as they grow.
And that’s a good start. But, is it enough?
The robots aren’t coming
UK shoppers want all the benefits of digital. But they also want a human touch. In a recent Consumer Intelligence Series study, Experience is Everything, 60% of UK respondents say the use of technology to enhance customer experiences has seen companies lose touch with the ‘human’ element. And 50% don’t believe digital experiences will remove the need for real people. Finally, asked to rate which elements of a customer experience are worth paying more for, their top three picks are speed and efficiency, convenience, and friendly & welcoming service – neatly capturing the need for a blend of technology and people.
And of course, that’s where industries like mine, win out. The salon business is able to reap the benefits of a hyper connected world in terms of booking appointments and with payment solutions, but it won’t lose the benefit of the actual treatment itself, The personal consultation and service that ultimately builds brand loyalty.
So, I’d urge other companies to do the same. Use tech where it makes a difference, not just because you want to keep up with the Joneses. And don’t forget the importance of your people.
Believe the hype
So, tech is here and it’s now. And your business depends on it. The threat of irrelevance for the salon industry is now imminent and the same is true for many others. So I believe that it’s time everyone took heed of what’s happening in our industry and began to embrace digital disruption.
I get it, technology can be scary – it’s constantly changing and beyond our everyday comfort level scope. For the high-street apparel businesses it’s in some ways decimated them, but for services, it’s the saviour. All that is required of you is to care about the customer experience and find ways to improve it. Start there.
- Powered by Flossie is a single API for enterprise hair and beauty businesses to aggregate data and retail bookings with smarter frontend tools.