By Chris Gilder
CEO and Founder
Meridian Zero Degrees
Identifying market trends has become, well, a “trendy” thing to do. All too often, though, when such movements are discussed in the self-service industry, there is rarely a clear answer to the question of “so what?”
Taking advantage of prevailing developments in any business can be a risky endeavor. Thus, I want to discuss three critical trends in the self-service marketplace and how to capitalize on these, or any, shifting technologies.
Mobile Integration – It's becoming a necessity in self-service to develop solutions with mobile integration in mind. According to new research from Pew’s Internet & American Life Project, more than 60-percent of Americans own a smartphone; that’s staggering! Nearly two-thirds of American consumers have a smart device at the ready.
This trend is only growing. And as consumers become increasingly dependent upon their mobile devices, self-service providers will have to be capable of deploying solutions that are mobile-integrated in order to remain competitive. This is what the market is demanding and will continue to demand.
Omnichannel – Mobile integration is crucial, but it's only part of the picture. Consumers, now more than ever, want the freedom to conduct a transaction at their leisure. Whether it is via a Web browser, on a tablet or personal computer, at a kiosk, at a brick-and-mortar store or through a combination of all of these, creating a seamless consumer experience is becoming vital to the marketing success of all companies.
As a self-service company, we at Meridian know we have to be in touch with this need and provide solutions that will work in an omnichannel landscape. In fact, there may be cases where self-service solution providers will have to lead the way, guiding companies to an understanding of the necessity of creating a consistent omnichannel experience for their customers. We must be equipped to lead as solutions providers.
Interfacing with New Technologies – Webopedia defines interface as "a boundary across which two independent systems meet and act on or communicate with each other." We're all familiar with user interfaces (UI) like the keyboard or the mouse and with graphical user interfaces (GUI) like Windows or iOS.
Moving forward, our industry will be increasingly shaped by interfacing with new technologies like Bluetooth, facial recognition, character recognition, and others. Understanding how these technologies benefit clients and end users is paramount to any self-service company’s success. Collaborating with partners that grasp these new interfacing technologies makes for widespread innovation; and with innovation comes thoughtful, managed solutions that are good for everyone.
Ideas plus analytics equal a win-win - Now that we know the critical trends shaping our industry, what’s next? How are we to gauge risk versus reward when it comes to capitalizing on trends that may, or may not, take hold in the self-service marketplace?
In my experience, there are two critical components needed to gauge risk versus reward.
First, there must be thoughtful and well-planned proofs of concept that lead to pilot projects. Second, there has to be a plan to collect and measure data. Without these components, a solution provider is no better than a pilot flying an airplane without navigation. There is no way for him to know what is up or down – no information guiding him to the place he needs to go.
Without measurable indicators as to what works and what doesn’t, there is no way to say to a company, "Here is a successful solution to your problem," because no one knows if it is or isn’t. When trying to capitalize on shifting trends, capturing empirical data is vital – it's vital to the self-service solution provider, to the success of its clients, and, ultimately, to the satisfaction of the end user. When we carefully plan proofs of concepts, deploy pilots and measure data, we create a win-win-win scenario instead of wasting time and resources for all parties.
Navigating the landscape of the self-service industry is not easy. None of us can predict the future. But, we don’t have to be soothsayers to be successful. Recognizing trends, testing well-planned ideas, measuring successes and failures with analytics – these are the means by which we can create a winning environment for all stakeholders.