The future for brands is in service design

By Mariam Cheik-Hussein | 22 July 2019
Graeme Wood

In the future people will overlook privacy concerns of smart homes in exchange for a more convenient lifestyle, as demonstrated by a Starcom study, and brands should be shifting their focus to design service to prepare.

The Future of Connected Living study was carried out by the Publicis-owned media agency in partnership with brands such as Visa, Samsung and Seven West Media.

It took a diverse set of Australian families and fitted their homes with smart devices, such as voice-activated speakers, smart TVs and fridges, and climate control systems, with the aim of understanding how people will behave once these technologies become commonplace in the near future.

Graeme Wood, national head of product and futures at Starcom, oversaw the study and says participants were quick to embrace the technology.

“We were surprised at how fast and willing people were in adopting the technology,” he says. 

“They really pushed further than we expected and came out with lots of new ideas that we, and I suspect lots of retailers, hadn’t thought of before,” Wood says.

This behaviour is referred to as the "expectation revolution", where new technology means people demand more, further advanced technology. For example, it wasn’t enough that a coffee machine could be voice-commanded to make a cup of coffee. Participants in the study wanted the machine to have the right data to recognise their voice and make their preferred coffee.

The "expectation revolution" is also driven by the use of voice which means people don’t feel like they’re talking to just a speaker, or handing over their data to tech behemoths. Instead, using voice means our brains process it subconsciously as though we’re talking to another person, which Wood says means we expect more from these devices.

Participants’ desire to provide their data to big techs such as Google and Amazon is at odds with the current level of concern around data privacy across the industry. This month Google admitted its contractors were able to listen to recordings of what people were saying to its AI-system, Google Assistant.

Wood says that while people in focus groups understood more about how much technology knows about them than he anticipated, they overlooked any concerns if they saw value in it. 

“The big shift is that when we talk about data and privacy, people usually hear it because it’s linked with Facebook and Google and through the lens of them being advertising companies which use data for targeted advertising,” Wood says.

“There’s no value exchange for the consumer in that. But when the participated enter the smart home, they weren’t thinking about advertising, they were thinking about what services they’re home can perform for them."

This means brands will need to focus more on service design to attract users in the smart home.

For example, Woolworth’s app for Samsung fridges allows for meal planning which means people shop by recipe, rather than searching for each item.

“People implicitly trust the service that brings value to their lives,” Wood says.

“In the connected home that means making them feel better about themselves and their environment, providing value both through the way you connect with other people and price value.

“The key is to accomplish things almost frictionlessly, making things you don’t need to worry about happen in the background.”

As more connected devices enter people’s homes, data will cease to be truly transactional.

“We will be able to offer something that is a blend of advertising, promotion and value add services into homes based on what people have already expressed a preference for,” he says.

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