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The TCS New York City Marathon: A Living Lab for the Ever-Changing Consumer Experience

 
November 25, 2016

Being the title sponsor of the TCS New York City Marathon is more than a chance to boost TCS presence in a key market. Its a unique opportunity for us to understand how new technologies can help companies in all industries deliver a more personalized and engaging experience for their customers.

Led by Big Data, analytics and the Internet of Things, a perfect storm of new technologies is driving digital transformation in customer focused industries like retail, banking and telecommunications and changing how consumers experience brands. Its also spawning a new breed of nimble competitors like FinTech firms challenging incumbents in these markets.

The same technology forces are behind the smart cities movement, helping governments deliver more innovative and efficient city services for surging urban populations.

The common factor in these disruptive market changes is that todays digitally savvy consumers are now in the drivers seat. They wield greater power, have more choices and higher expectations for the companies and organizations they do business with — whether its for a commodity product, luxury item or city services paid with their tax dollars.

Through social media, they also have a stronger voice. Theyre not shy about sharing opinions about experiences with brands, products and services. Faster than ever, theyre shaping market winners and losers and impacting brand value.

In this era of continuous digital transformation, the companies that prosper will be the ones most committed to delivering the most fulfilling, personalized experience at every point along the customers journey with their brand.

Just as marathoners on November 6th experienced the 26.2 mile course as a kaleidoscope of diverse neighborhoods across New Yorks five boroughs, the way consumers experience brands and cities is not a linear, one-dimensional journey.

Quite the opposite. To win over todays empowered consumers, companies and cities are realizing they need to take ownership of every aspect of the customer journey to deliver the most personalized, compelling and delightful brand experience possible.

For banks and retailers, that experience was once confined to in-person interactions at a branch or store. But todays customers interact with companies through multiple channels. Its a customer journey of interactions spanning the physical and the virtual world: mobile apps, texting, phone calls, websites, email, customer service experiences, direct mail, promotional events, third party channel partners and countless other ways.

In such a world without boundaries, every touch point with a consumer is an opportunity to connect, reinforce and build upon the brand promise. Or risk doing the opposite.

Meeting the rising expectations of todays empowered consumer is a big challenge. It forces companies to assume responsibility for literally every touch point that affects the individual customer experience. This means designing seamless, connected customer journeys not for traditional demographic profiles and customer segments, but truly personalized for individual customers.

Thats a big hurdle for todays marketers, but technologies like Big Data, analytics, artificial intelligence and the Internet of things now make it possible. Along the customer journey, its how companies will make empowered consumers delighted at every turn.

All around us, new technologies are reshaping the customer experience. FinTech startups are delivering frictionless customer experiences that threaten to disintermediate banks. Retailers are using virtual dressing rooms and magic mirror technologies that let customers virtually try on clothes or purchase them from window displays with their smartphones. The Internet of Things is powering intelligent devices like smart thermostats that adapt to our personal energy needs. Augmented reality, virtual reality and innovative gaming apps are redefining what customers will expect at their bank or favorite retailer.

For companies grappling with digital transformation, the TCS New York City Marathon is a showcase for the customer journey.

Just as marketing is not simply touting the features of a product or service, the marathon is much more than watching competitors and comparing their performance. Its about the collective, immersive experiences that digital technologies enable for consumers at every touch point, both on and off the race course, well before and after the event.

For companies associated with the marathon, its also an opportunity to associate their brands with not just a premier sporting event, but with other brands that share their values. When complimentary brands join forces in a connected customer journey, it results in a more authentic experience for the consumer, deepening engagement.

Consider some of the customer engagement technologies TCS deployed at this years TCS New York City Marathon:

Augmented Reality More than 129,000 marathon competitors and fans who visited the TCS New York City Marathon Health and Wellness Expo at the Jacob Javits Convention Center, as well as visitors to the Marathon Pavilion, enjoyed a large-scale, augmented reality experience of the race course. The storytelling platform allowed participants to virtually experience key points along each runners journey such as course elevation changes, mile markers, fluid stations and points of interest along the route.

Virtual Reality Expo and Pavilion visitors experienced the sights and sounds of the marathon in full virtual reality. A guided, immersive virtual reality experience powered by mobile-enabled headsets and surround-sound headphones allowed them to see the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge filled with runners, cheer with the crowds on First Avenue and watch competitors cross the finish line.

Internet of Things — TCS outfitted 10 elite runners and wheelchair athletes with biometric sensors to track their performance in real time and incorporated the data into the TV broadcast for a more engaging viewer experience. Called TCS Performance Metrics, the solution captured biometric data in real time so that fans could see the immediate effects of the race on each athletes performance by measuring running cadence, body temperature, heart rate and breathing rate.

Augmented Reality and Gamification — A collection of 26 Smile Markers representing unique pieces of content celebrating the marathon — were placed on bus shelters, sidewalks, billboards and bike sharing stations across the five boroughs. Echoing the enormously popular Pokmon Go game that bridged the physical and virtual worlds, fans who located Smile Markers unlocked their content using the TCS New York City Marathon mobile app to access a unique digital experience at each location.

TCS New York City Marathon Mobile App Downloaded a record 313,500 times and ranked the #1 Free Sports App in the Apple App Store on the day of the race, the official marathon app developed by TCS provided race specific features for both athletes and enthusiasts. Users could track the progress of up to 20 athletes in real time; view race results, interactive course maps and details on local attractions; and access event communications and alerts.

The immersive experiences developed by TCS enabled athletes and spectators worldwide to engage in the marathon in new ways across many touch points — before, during and after the race. The insights captured will help TCS develop solutions that enable retailers, banks, communication service providers and cities build deeper, more intelligent and connected customer journeys.

Like winning the marathon, its a marketers dream.

Seeta Hariharan is General Manager and Group Head of Digital Software & Solutions (DS&S), a subsidiary of Tata Consultancy Services. Launched in 2014, DS&S Group offers fully integrated and industry specific software and solutions designed to help clients thrive in a radically changing digital environment. Seeta is responsible for all aspects of the business including strategic vision, product research and development and sales and marketing. During her tenure as Group Head, she has uniquely positioned the emerging company for fast growth by creating a culture of cooperation focused on solving specific business problems. Previously, Seeta held leadership roles in IBMs software, services, hardware and microelectronics division. In her last role, she had worldwide responsibility for sales, channels and strategy for Information Management and Business Analytics software. She also held worldwide responsibility for marketing of IBMs communication sector, representing 10 billion in annual revenues. Before IBM, Seeta spearheaded an entrepreneurial venture that offered solutions to an underserved technology market.