What’s Next? Convenience and robots

by Sofie Papen - March 01, 2017

I was lucky enough to attend the What’s Next Conference, organized by Snackbytes in ‘den Boerentoren’ in Antwerp (thanks, These Days!). The conference featured three speakers:

It’s all about the customer

Steven told us that whatever technological advances come next, companies need to focus on bringing the customer a fast, convenient and hyperpersonalized experience. “Convenience is the new loyalty”, as he put it. When the public was asked who used Booking.com, almost everyone raised their hands. When asked who loves the brand however, only a couple of hands stayed in the air. Everybody likes the site because of its convenience, but not a lot of people love the brand behind the site.

We don’t fall in love with the brand anymore, but with the algorithm – Steven van Belleghem

Peter noted that it’s not about technology, but about mindset. He cited Planet Labs, a company launched by ex-NASA engineers, as an example. The engineers were frustrated by working on giant space installations for so long that by the time it was completed, the technology had become obsolete. That’s why they started producing their own satellites, with the same technology, but way more compact, in a time span of 3 to 4 years.

Will Marshall, CEO of Planet Labs, with one of his shoebox-sized satellites

Will Marshall, CEO of Planet Labs, with one of his shoebox-sized satellites

Let’s mourn the undigital

Peter compared digital transformation with death: the first phase of dealing with it, is denial. When internet was becoming a thing, some businessmen were convinced that the entire internet was a fad. Oh boy, were they wrong. Not all companies believe digital is a prerequisite, but it definitely is. In fact, we’ve already moved to the next phase: mobile. Just like we made the switch from radio to tv, businesses will have to switch to smartphone and all things digital. So much has already been done (there are shoes with built-in GPS, a smart hairbrush,…) but what if we’re only halfway there? Peter believes we’re on an inflection point and there’s still a lot to come, like Augmented and Virtual Reality.

Mark Zuckerberg at the Mobile World Congress, walking past his audience all watching the same video in VR.

Mark Zuckerberg at the Mobile World Congress, walking past his audience all watching the same video in VR.

The way we perceive reality will be altered – Peter Hinssen

Gary was upset digital isn’t given a fair chance by all companies, even more so because it’s hurting them: the high fashion industry is one of the sectors struggling to adapt. While brands like Louis Vuitton and Dior are spending tons of money on a one page ad in Vogue, they compete with 50 smaller Instagram brands who are getting their name out there in a much more efficient way.  Another trend some brands are struggling with is influencer marketing. According to Gary, it’s highly underpriced right now because companies don’t realize its full potential. They should give their product to the influencer and let them do whatever they want with it, but naturally, brands want to keep control of what is being said about and done with their product. Lastly, you hear a lot about adapting content to social media. It’s said that videos have to be as short as possible, since we have an attention span of 8 seconds. But Gary posts videos of 20 minutes and more on his Facebook page every day, and people watch them until the very end.

Content is content. If it’s good, it’s good. If it’s bad, it’s bad. – Gary Vaynerchuk

Come with me if you want to live

What technology comes after digital? Artificial Intelligence. As Peter and Steven said, a lot of our decisions are already based on algorithms: Amazon recommends products related to your purchase, Netflix proposes new series to watch based on what you’ve already seen and we even find love based on complex algorithms. AI will contribute to the fast and convenient way of life customers are looking for. The technology is so effective because it is purpose built: designed for a limited set of abilities. For example, Google Deepmind beat legendary players at Go, considered one of the most difficult games in existence. It was able to do that, because it was built exactly for that purpose. Faced with the possible superiority of AI, humans have started a heated debate: what if AI becomes smarter than all humans? What if turns evil, Terminator-style?

An experiment where AI agents had to pick virtual apples showed that, the less apples were available, the more aggressive and competitive the agents became.

So basically, AI is a bad loser. As Gary said: “Humans will be fine until the robots kill us”. But you know, no worries.

Sofie Papen

Intern Account Executive & Copywriter