Marketing and Retailing will be impacted across three key areas due to new and contemporary advancements in technology

Marketing and retailing will be impacted across three key areas due to new and contemporary advancements in technology. The future of marketing and retailing will transform dramatically as a result. These three areas of change or ‘pillars of change’ include:

  1. Marketing and competitor intelligence
  2. Customer assistance
  3. In-store social interactions

1. Marketing and competitor intelligence

Marketing and competitor intelligence aims to have a good understanding of consumers and their consuming behaviors, better than their competitors, in order to gain a competitive advantage. In digital marketing, companies gain a competitive edge by having a vast insight into competitors’ digital marketing and social media strategies, etc.

Consumer-generated content helps in marketing strategy decisions. Consumer ratings, reviews, videos, and images can be used to get a clearer picture of the competitor’s situation and what decisions to make. Additionally, social network data provides a wealth of data collected from social media revealing how consumers respond to a company’s brand, product, or service, i.e. liking, sharing, or commenting on social media platforms. It shows consumers’ interest in the company’s brand/product/service and informs the company of the progress of their competitor. The likes of Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure (external service providers) offer big data analytic services to gain consumer insights.

Consumer-generated content was done traditionally by conducting surveys with small sample size. Results from that small sample were intended to be an accurate representation of the general public. Nowadays, more accurate representations are extracted from consumers through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. this way getting mass consumer-generated data.

 ‘Twitter monitoring’ helps marketers in understanding their consumers e.g. over 18,000 tweets can be collected (coronavirus-related) and analyzed using text-mining software to generate a map that showed what people were tweeting/talking about and certain feelings that were expressed (i.e. sadness and fear) towards a situation/event (coronavirus pandemic). It is more common for people to openly express feelings through social media platforms.

Image and video analysis is another development in AI which scans images and videos uploaded by consumers or competitors on social media. This helps companies in choosing appropriate marketing strategies and understanding the competitor better. Image recognition software is a type of machine vision that can identify objects, people, places, actions, and writing/text from image scanning. Tools like eye-tracking capture facial expressions, eye movement, electrodermal activity, etc from videos in order to retrieve more data based on consumer behavior (e.g. iMotions software to carry out human behavior research).

2. Customer Assistance

Automation, self-servicing, AR and VR, robotic technologies, and rational technologies (i.e. AI) are new technologies with the ability to improve efficiency, adequately fulfill customer satisfaction and easily assist and interact with consumers. These technologies give companies competitive edges over their competitors as every company is trying to be the most efficient.

Virtual agents or virtual assistants (e.g. chat-bots) are being integrated into more organizations as it provides consumers with real-life interactive experiences by mimicking human conversations and languages. Some luxury retailers have started using chatbots – Ted Baker’s ‘Seemore’ and Victoria Beckham’s Messenger Experience’ – via Facebook providing help or inspiration to customers. Also, Maynooth University’s Dr Rajibul Hasan uses a Smart bot to easily interact and assist with students who have queries.

Similarly, voice-assisted AI like Siri and Alexa makes customer interaction as realistic to human interactions as possible (e.g. shop online from Amazon using Alexa, check the weather with Siri, Siri reading out messages or emails while you are driving, etc). Augmented reality (AR)  and virtual reality (VR) are other technologies that are becoming more prevalent in marketing and offer value to customers. AR lets consumers experience the real world which has been digitally rendered or augmented (e.g. AR-enabled on iPhone camera, wearables and smart glasses, AR headsets). Contrastingly, VR provides the consumer with a completely immersive and simulated 3-D experience that shuts out the physical real world (e.g. virtual 360-degree tours of college campuses from faraway, architects or design professionals’ 3-D drawings of buildings/houses prior to any changes, Coca Cola’s ‘sleigh ride’ VR experience, Marriot ‘Teleporter’ VR experience, and Michelle Obama ‘the Verge VR video’).

3. In-store social interaction

Social media sites (e.g. Facebook or Pinterest) are interfering with in-store shopping experiences by offering more information on products and how to use products etc (e.g. Elverys providing click and collect option post-lockdown ). Studies found that young people actively use social networks instore which support and empower the shopping experience, guide the purchasing decision, and also shift relationships from consumer-to-employee toward consumer-to-consumer. As a result, retailers embed social media in-store as much as possible to enhance consumers’ shopping experience. Therefore creating a good store and retailer reputation and having a  loyal customer base, often through positive word-of-mouth or having a strong social media presence.

What is Digital Marketing? How digital marketing is related to different technologies? What are the key elements of Digital Transformation?

Digital marketing is best described as “the application of the internet and related digital technologies in conjunction with traditional communications to achieve marketing objectives”. The application of digital marketing is vital in order to be able to identify, anticipate and satisfy customer requirements. Not only is the internet essential in terms of market research and understanding consumers’ wants and needs, but it also provides consumers themselves with the necessary information in order to aid them in the decision-making process.

The internet plays an important role in the everyday life of millions of people. Since the turn of the century, the internet has become a daily necessity for billions of people worldwide. In 2018, internet access penetration was 54.4%, with the highest penetration in North America (95%) and Europe (85.2%). The development of 4G mobile coverage has allowed individuals to access the internet on the go, with three-quarters of the world having access to such technology. However, with the never-ending evolution of technology, the world is moving towards 5G. The introduction of 5g will enable internet users to download videos to mobile devices within seconds. Over 4 billion people can easily access the latest technologies as a result of easy internet access around the globe. Some of these evolutionary technologies include chatbots, automation, voice-led devices, as well as augmented and virtual reality.

In order for companies to ensure a steady stream of business improvements and keep up with the ever-evolving market they must incur some form of digital transformation. They must invest in such technologies in order to improve their efficiency. For a company or organization to digitally transform they must ensure the following: everyone in the organization must be involved, it is an ongoing process, meaning it will never end. It must be organization-wide and also be understood by everyone in the organization, It is necessary for the transformation to be cultural and not forced. Digital transformation includes the following key elements:

Big Data

Big data consists of a compilation of data and information from and about everything internal and external to the organization. The purpose of compiling such data is to enable companies to monitor customers and their communications along with allowing businesses to measure and manage the customer experience.

Reverse marketing

Reverse marketing is where consumers trust the opinions of other consumers as opposed to trusting to marketing messages pushed by organizations and brands, resulting in the customer essentially becoming the marketer. Conversations between customers on platforms such as Facebook, as well as customers posting reviews on platforms such as TripAdvisor are simple examples of reverse marketing

Mobile Applications

In recent times the mobile phone has become the preferred device in terms of internet usage, largely due to its convenience as opposed to a PC

The Internet of Things (IoT)

The Internet of Things can be best described as a network of physical objects and computers that are interconnected with the purpose of completing tasks without the need for human interaction.  Sensors, software, and other technologies are usually incorporated into such devices in order for this to be possible. Many of these devices are wearable and can be used to monitor health, along with athletic performance, Fitbit is an example of such.

The Automation of Business Processes.

The oldest element of digital transformation refers to the use of technology to automate processes. Examples of this may be a factory assembly line or computers doing administration work.

Should we digitalize everything? Evidence from the Fine-dining Restaurants in France

Digitalization is probably the term, which is omnipresent in your daily life. However, what does the digitalization exactly mean for companies? Should we digitalize everything? To what extent services could be digitalized? Could we have the same degree of digitalization for high-end and low-end services?

Recently, we have conducted a research on service digitalization of fine-dining restaurants in France in order to know what customers and the restaurant professionals think about the digitalization of fine-dining experience. The following figure highlights the key findings of our study and underlines the perceived benefits and costs of service digitalization for both restaurant managers and their customers.

Source: Vo-Thanh et al. 2022

As we can see from the figure that 100% digitalization is not possible for fine-dining restaurants. Fine-dining restaurants are highly experience-centric compared to other types of restaurants and customers want to relax, enjoy haute cuisine experience and interact with the chef & frontline employees. For example, in many fast-food chains (e.g., Burger King, KFC, McDonald’s), where speed of service is critical and menus are simpler, digitalizing the whole customer journey or incorporating the use of SST (Self-Service Technology) has been a great success and will continue to play an increasingly important role. However, in the context of fine-dining restaurants, where the aim is to deliver a superior and memorable experience to customers, 100% digital interaction (i.e., radical digitalization) is not the best solution because of the existential foundation of fine-dining restaurants—their experiential and symbolic dimensions—and their customers’ expectations. Therefore, the lack of human interaction is the biggest obstacle to digitize the dining experience.

Illustration of High-Tech VS High-Touch Restaurant
(Photo of SST in Burger King & Chef Alain Ducasse 3* Michelin Chef)

Our study also finds that the digitalization could help restaurants to optimize their performance (e.g., quick task accomplishment, staff performance improvement, reduce psychological waiting time, etc.). Therefore, our study highlights how restaurant managers may find a balance between the high-tech and high-touch in order to provide the best fine-dining experience to their guests.

Main research : Vo-Thanh, T., Zaman, M., Hasan, R., Akter, S. & Dang-Van, T. (2022). The service digitalization in fine-dining restaurants: A cost-benefit perspective. International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management (forthcoming).

The potential of chatbots in travel and tourism services in the context of social distancing : Focus on Habit

As many other sectors, the travel and tourism industries faced great challenges following the Covid-19 pandemic, with confinements and border closures bringing travel to a halt. In this regard, the purpose of our research was to examine tourists’ chatbot usage intentions in service encounters within the context of a future international travel, assuming continued social distancing. Our results indicate that automation, habit, social presence and health consciousness all contributed positively to chatbot usage intentions (see Fig. 1).

Fig. 1 : Proposed model by Hasan, Koles, Zaman & Paul (2021)

Our results highlight that the habit of using such services (e.g., messaging apps, etc.) strongly influences the chatbots use intention, and it is even more significant when tourists have experienced a lockdown. During the lockdown, most of the people were working from home and they were forced to use/adopt new communication tools (e.g., Zoom, Teams, etc.). Therefore, our research underlines that these habits are going to stay and tourists will prefer to use chatbots.

According to Statista (2021), more than 2 billion people are using WhatsApp and 1.3 billon are using Facebook Messenger every month (see Fig. 2). As people are already habituated to messaging apps, they would like to talk to chatbots. Therefore, the chatbots could be an
effective communication and service delivery tool for the service providers.

Fig. 2 : Most popular global mobile messenger apps as of July 2021, based on number of monthly active users (Source: Statista, 2021)

Do we have some evidences from the travel and tourism industry ?

Yes. We do ! Skyscanner (leading flight comparison website and online travel agency), which was one of the early adopters of chatbots in travel industry, affirmed that 69% of the customers preferred chatbots for quick communication with the brand and in February 2018, Skyscanner recorded more than 1 million customer interactions via their chatbot. KLM (Dutch Airline Group) also saw a 40% increase of customer interactions through its Facebook Messenger channel. In an earlier study, Oracle highlighted that 80% of the business would have integrated chatbots by 2020.

The Covid-19 has certainly changed the customer beahviour and their way of travelling. Service firms should explore these opportunities in order to enhance the customer experience.

Our original research on this topic : Hasan, R., Koles, B., Zaman, M. and Paul, J. (2021). The potential of chatbots in travel and tourism services in the context of social distancing. International Journal of Technology Intelligence and Planning, 13(1), 63–83.

What shapes of robots are preferred by consumers in hospitality services?

From one of our research, we found that nonphysical robots, like artificial intelligence in smartphones (Please see photo 6 below), are the most easily identified and preferred shape (mean: 3.65). We can also see from the following pictures and statistics that trash bins (photo 2) or tray robots (photo 4) (mean: 3.49; 3.47, respectively) are also preferred by consumers in the hospitality industry. An interesting point is that Human-looking robots
(photo 1) appeared only one from the lowest preferred (mean: 3.35). It may be because it scares consumers and it requires more research to be done in the future to understand this situation. The spider shape robot was the lowest preferred (mean: 2.31) robot (photo 5) and it lacked hospitality service application.

In conclusion, we can say that human shape robots may not be preferred always in the service sector. Consumers may like nonphysical shape robots because they may provide consumers a sense of control instead of getting scared looking at their scary shapes such as spider robots.

To know more about this research, please visit our following published research in a TOP journal –

de Kervenoael R.;Hasan R.;Schwob A.;Goh E. (2020) ‘Leveraging human-robot interaction in hospitality services: Incorporating the role of perceived value, empathy, and information sharing into visitors’ intentions to use social robots’. Tourism Management, 78 [DOI][Details]