Zero One: Falling in Love with the Customer Experience
Every company wants to create an eye-popping customer experience, but this is about as tricky as getting someone to fall in love with you. Both rely on navigating the nebula of human emotions with the odds not in your favor. Cyrano, where are you?
Silicon Valley’s trash heap is littered with products trying to woo consumers with a new customer experience. Time and again, hyped technology falls victim to the whims of emotion. Remember Google Glass? The geeky eyewear promised to usher in augmented reality only to get sucker punched by privacy fears.
It’s impossible to know which digital customer experiences will win hearts, which ones will forever be spurned. Of course, this doesn’t stop people from trying. Research firm Forrester has created an algorithm, called the Emotion Evaluator, to anticipate adoption of emerging technology such as virtual reality by understanding how people feel about it.
Emotion Evaluator sampled 100,000 sound bites since March last year, including emoticons, abbreviations and complete phrases, and uses a taxonomy that puts an emotional value on words. Moreover, Forrester scrapes the Web for consumer posts, comments and reviews on social media, blogs, forums and review sites.
All of this helps Emotion Evaluator get a handle on emotions.
“By capturing emotions as they are naturally or organically expressed through passive tracking mechanisms like social listening or facial analysis – rather than rationalized or articulated in a survey – we can observe the biological processes that spark behavioral responses,” say Forrester analysts Anjali Lai and Juan Salazar in a research note.
Forrester put Emotion Evaluator to work on virtual reality to gain insight on the market’s potential. It’s a case that shows the difficulty of predicting market opportunity when emotions play a major role. In short, nothing seems to make sense.
Conventional wisdom says virtual reality appeals mostly to millennials with enough disposable income to pony up for the latest tech gear. But Forrester found that a good swath of U.S. online adults showing emotional interest in virtual reality headsets are 55 years or older and have an annual household income below $50,000.
Emotion Evaluator found that virtual reality initially elicits joy and excitement from consumers, especially gamers. One out of three consumers who haven’t used virtual reality headsets or know much about them indicate they’re interested in experimenting with the technology.
However, this doesn’t mean virtual reality will ride the adoption curve to lofty heights.
Fickle emotions often get people to say one thing, but they end up doing another. It’s a staple for romantic comedies. For instance, people initially had a negative reaction to the Aeron chair in the early 1990s due to its radical design but now sit in them all day. Conversely, people cheered Fitbit early on, but sales and usage have since soured, Forrester says.
When emotions run the show, people don’t know what they want. “You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them,” Steve Jobs famously said in 1989. “By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.”
Related: Earn Customer Trust, Avoid Betrayal
While emotions constantly evolve, Forrester’s Emotion Evaluator has found two in particular that can really stymie adoption: anger and disgust.
Unfortunately for virtual reality, people become disgusted when vendors miss their launch dates. Initial enthusiasm wanes. Anger arises when they see the price tag. Early adopters often get disgusted when virtual reality headsets give them motion sickness. Anger follows when the temperamental technology breaks down.
“What’s more, consumer trust dramatically drops as they react to the intrusiveness of the technology,” Lai and Salazar say. “They talk about virtual reality being ‘evil’ or ‘invading the home.’”
Understanding emotions at various stages of adoption can help tech vendors stay in consumers’ good graces. That is, virtual reality headset vendors better work hard to meet launch dates, fix motion sickness, and create use cases showcasing real benefits in order to earn consumer trust.
Tom Kaneshige writes the Zero One blog covering digital transformation, AI, marketing tech and the Internet of Things for line-of-business executives. He is based in Silicon Valley. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.