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December 1, 2017

A few months ago I attended a baby shower for my best friend. She was registered at two places and I chose the one targeted specifically for babies (BuyBuy Baby). I was curious to see how the baby product industry had embraced digital transformation. A few years ago an advanced baby monitor conveyed clear sound (and maybe a fuzzy picture if it was really advanced). Today’s products have advanced significantly doing things we could not have dreamed of a few years ago. The baby monitor that blew me away the most in terms of embracing a digital transformation was one that also monitors sleep patterns using ‘computer vision’ to learn a baby’s movement patterns so it can score and rate each night and presents the data on a dashboard beneath a highlight reel of what your baby’s night looked like – all on your Smartphone. It is marketed as a ‘baby translator’ that helps you get to know your baby better so you can rest easier.


Gone are the days of wondering if your baby is asleep. Gone are many nights of trial and error learning how best to get your new little one to sleep through the night. Hear her fussing? No need to get out of bed and creep down a chilly hallway, just launch the app to see what your baby is doing. Wonder if last night’s extra serving of milk helped baby sleep for longer? No need to guess, just launch the app and it will tell you both in image and stats.

It somehow reminds me of a Tamagotchi / Gigapet, a 90’s digital ‘pet’ on a keychain featuring an LCD and sound card of beeps. You ‘fed’ and cared for it with tiny buttons, indicating progress in alerts, beeps, and points. Technology has come a long way since then, and the five forces (Social, Mobile, Analytics, Cloud, AI) have created ample opportunities for us to embrace it for the betterment of our lives. ‘Computer vision’ is a marketing term for technology that analyzes thousands of digital images for patterns that can be grouped, categorized, and presented to us mere mortals for comprehension and learning. It puts into stats what once was vague and could only be assessed by a ‘gut feeling’ or instinct / intuition helping us make decisions easier and faster.

I’m writing about this experience now, not because of the product I saw, but because of the marketing from the store that just hit my girlfriend’s inbox a few days ago. It was a personalized, and customized ad aimed at moms with 15 month olds – the age of her daughter. It featured products that a new mom with a growing baby-to-toddler life-stage child may need and was addressed specifically to my friend. I found it remarkable until I remembered that when my friend signed up for the baby shower registry, she had to provide some information and chose to opt in to the marketing program for special offers. It is an obvious indication of how retail has begun to embrace technology and leverage data that sat dormant and unused for years previously.

The idea of marketing to a specific life-stage based on demographic, psychographic, and other input variables is applicable to the general marketplace but isn’t aggressively leveraged yet because we are still figuring out the ins and outs of how to do it successfully and without infringing on privacy. The key to this success was that my friend had ‘opted in’ to receive such offers in exchange for some data about herself. In the Age of the Millennials, and with the world of IoT abundant, this idea isn’t far from becoming a standard expectation from retailers and other organizations.

An innovative online financial institution was looking to obtain more customer data points like social media handles, preferences, and life events. It stealthily offered a gameified wedding planner to help the bride track things like dates, names, addresses, costs, and so on. in exchange for her data. It didn’t specify which data it would track, but it was easy and fun to use and promised to be a wonderful ‘journal’ for the experience so it would be seen as easily worth the exchange. This institution now has access to a wealth of data with which to communicate to the customer about or to barter with in an ecosystem of partners in the future. The customer is happy because not only does she have a keepsake of her wedding experience, but her bank is also sending her highly relevant and contextualized messaging on her preferred channels.

Another brick and mortar based financial institution tried their hand at collecting customer information by presenting a popup upon login, “Tell us what your annual salary is so we can customize our offers better for you.”  I’m guessing that wasn’t as successful as the previous example. It’s a pointed and direct question from a bank soliciting you for this information so they can extract more money from you with these offers, and nowhere is the reward mentioned to the customer. The even more striking piece of that story is that the account holder who received that popup had her payroll directly deposited into her account at that bank – and the transaction was described as ‘Payroll.’  Talk about insult after injury and a play poorly executed!

To quote an IDC Study, 60% of businesses are stuck in the early phases of digital transformation and banks are no exception to that. Many executives are still uncertain as to the kind of investment that is needed and expectations of the outcome. Fortunately banks understand they are sitting on a gold mine of customer data and they know they have to monetize it. They have some challenges to overcome including legacy systems, silos, and business vs IT concerns, but with connected consumer intelligence platforms it could become a reality. Retail on the other hand is quicker to respond, having had experience with loyalty programs, but most  retailers are also still stuck in early stages of digital transformation uncertain of what the next steps are and how to navigate this new landscape. Beyond a technical platform, digital transformation expertise is crucial to expediting the return on investment.

Suzanne is a Product Consultant for Customer Intelligence & Insights at TCS Digital Software & Solutions Group. She has 15 years of experience consulting on performance, management, and technology with several companies across the main industry verticals (finance, healthcare, telco, retail, travel / transportation, hospitality / entertainment) and enjoys helping clients realize quantifiable ROI as a result of her projects. With the digital disruption shaking all industries, she sees great opportunities for technology investment to yield solid ROIs while improving both the customer and employee experiences and optimizing operations. Prior to joining TCS Suzanne worked for customer analytics software companies, a performance management consulting group, in executive management at two small businesses, and a nonprofit. She has her Master's Degree from Northwestern University where her studies focused on Integrated Marketing Communications & Business, and undergraduate degrees from University of Dayton in Marketing, Management, International Business, and German.


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