2018 – The year tech gets a heart

Technological advances are constantly making consumer tech faster, more powerful and incredibly efficient. But, technological innovation is happening in the form of compassionate, empathetic and intelligent tech which will be able to meet the fundamental psychological needs that motivate the people using it.

First, the human need to connect & interact with others in a meaningful way

With the normalised use of artificial intelligence (AI) in everyday life – whether through the use of voice assist technology such as Amazon’s Alexa or Google’s Google Assist, robo-advisors in the financial sector such as MoneyFarm and Nutmeg, or the chatbots that are used across sectors – it is not new for brands to attempt to tap into this need. However, emotional intelligence (EQ) within these technologies is an area in which brands notoriously struggle to excel.

Voice assist technology has improved significantly in the last year, with Amazon introducing an update to Alexa which allows for recognition of different people – and therefore personalisation of interactions with different people. However, actual EQ which allows voice assist technology to recognise emotion in users’ voices and respond appropriately is where voice assist is heading in 2018. This would reduce misunderstandings and give more helpful responses.

Similarly, the main reservation consumers have about using robo-advisors is the distinct lack of emotional input or consideration when choosing investment options – simply put, a lack of ‘human quality’. Robo-advisors are able to provide a service at a cost much lower than conventional financial advisors; development of a level of EQ could ease the worries of those who seek some sort of emotional input and be a significant step towards the automation of financial services.


Second, the human preference for immediate gratification

In an age where everything is at our fingertips and on-demand it is no wonder no one has any patience any more. You can stream a film immediately with Netflix, grab a cab in minutes with Gett or Uber, and order goods and receive them the same day using Amazon same-day delivery. This will encourage more brands to create quicker and more efficient services, including those within the financial services sector. Instant insurance for specific items on-demand will be on the rise with brands such as Trōv leading the way in 2018.

Some studies have suggested that the human attention span has decreased significantly in the age of hyper-connectivity and with constant use of electronic devices. These claims, although intriguing, are largely founded upon non-causal and biased research. However, it is true that consumers now face far more distractions while viewing marketing content or purchasing end product.

With people accessing much of their information through mobile phones shrouded by distractions, this means an increase in the use of ephemeral content marketing over long-form content. Using targeted and specific ephemeral marketing – often within social platforms used by consumers – will allow brands to keep a ‘front-of-mind’ position while consumers continue to be bombarded and distracted by new information.


Third, the human need to control their environment

This need for control materialises itself as a need for brands to be transparent. This point has become especially salient in current political and social circumstances where telling people what you’re doing is not enough, you need to show them. In a post-truth era where everything is “fake news” and consumers fundamentally distrust brands and the establishment, brands need to be completely transparent in how they operate from start to finish; for example, by introducing blockchain.

The use of blockchain by brands helps them to record price, location, date, quantity and quality at every step of the supply chain and holds them accountable for supply chain processes by increasing traceability and transparency. A Transparent Company, set up by Neliana Fuenmayer with fashion designer Martine Jarlgaard and the app Provenance, aimed to increase transparency in the fashion industry. They used Provenance, an app based on blockchain, to track the UK alpaca supply from farm to final product. A unique token was attributed to each garment, allowing for each stage of its production to be tracked step by step. This information could then be accessed by the consumer by using the app to scan the garment’s unique QR code.

Within the financial sector, blockchain could be used not only to increase transparency but also could reduce costs by eliminating the need for intermediaries. In the context of settlements, each side would have access to the entire trade lifecycle and all the same information and data concerning the trade. For insurance, policies could be created in the format of smart contracts which allows for complete traceability and transparency for each claim, thereby speeding up legitimate pay outs and reducing the number of fraudulent claims, as blockchain could capture the origin and ownership of all items and assets insured.

Transparency of the supply chain will ultimately help to build consumer trust and loyalty, and accountability for the supply chain of goods will encourage businesses to make better and more ethical decisions, promote more sustainable business models and help to meet another of our most fundamental human motivations – to do good and to feel good about doing it – and who doesn’t want that?