Each day it's getting harder to keep up with the latest trends in digital consumer engagement – not to mention the complex privacy risks that come with it. Take for instance the concept of digital twins, which has secured a spot in Gartner's latest hype cycle for emerging technologies. These virtual representations of a customer are intended to simulate, emulate and anticipate consumer behavior to help modify and enhance the customer experience.
While even Gartner predicts true market adoption is still at least 5 years away, it's imperative that companies start setting the right ethical foundation now.
Meet your digital doppelgänger
You may not have heard of a digital twin before, but we're all well-aware of the way in which companies track our behaviors online. When all that data about you has been put into an AI algorithm to run simulations and predict how you might respond to a new marketing message or a particular piece of content, you have created a digital twin. In essence, it's a virtual model of the real you.
"Gartner predicts [digital twins] will drive sales while delighting customers in surprising ways." When used in the right way, digital twins will allow brands to deliver exactly what you need just in the moment you were looking for it. It's something I like to call Customer Serendipity. I frequently experience this moment of delight through my Google news feed. In fact, that's how I learned about digital twins.
Imagine if, through these digital twin models, we had a truly accurate and predictive model of human behavior. A model that could know just how a group of people, or even an individual would respond. How might that allow us to better empower patients to make healthier choices or motivate consumers to adopt climate-friendly behaviors?
Of course, the questions this brings up about consumer privacy and trust cannot be overstated. How is the data is collected to form these digital twins? And how is that data is used to influence what kinds of behaviors? How do we ensure digital twins are used for good and not to manipulate?
Adopting a mindset of fit
If brands are going to make the most of digital twins and other emerging technologies while preserving consumer privacy and trust, we need to make the words "sales" and "marketing" taboo. Both terms imply that we are forcing something onto consumers. Convincing, persuading, manipulating.
I've always had a love/hate relationship with Don Draper's character in MadMen. He was a brilliant storyteller that knew how to pull on the emotional heart strings of consumers. But Don probably would have laughed if I told him that good marketing is not about selling a product to someone even if they don't need it. It's about first designing a product people actually need, then finding the people that need it and helping them evaluate that value to make the best decisions for themselves. Most important, it's about walking away from any potential customer where it's not a fit.
About 10 years ago, I was first introduced to the concept of fit by Blair Enns who helps services firms like White Rhino hone their value proposition and adopt a mindset of fit. In his book, Blair advises, "it is important that we establish fit — to see if our expertise matches the client’s needs." Since then, I've been a devoted advocate of always establishing mutual fit with our clients. I'm not interested in selling someone a service they don't actually need, and I'm happy to walk away if there isn't mutual benefit.
As I went through the process with Blair to better articulate White Rhino's positioning that would help us establish fit with new clients, the idea of fit came up again. This time, in the psychological concept of shared vision.
Shared vision is a fancy term for being on the same wavelength as another person and making decisions with their best interests in mind. It's about understanding another person's needs and co-creating the future. It's a key pillar of how individuals build trust with one another. Shared vision is also how brands can build trust with consumers — especially when it comes to data privacy.
Take for instance, how we think about website privacy policies online. Shared vision is the difference between:
And taking the time to clearly communicate the types of cookies you use, for what purpose, the value that delivers for them, and giving consumers the choice to opt in and out of different levels of cookies that's right for their needs on your website
While it seems like extra work to give consumers this flexibility, it actually can make things easier. Psychologically speaking, when shared vision is established:
We start to intuitively trust that others will make a decision similar to ours.
We trust they will work out conflicts fairly.
We have a sense of ownership and greater desire to make it happen.
I'd like to think this idea of shared vision is uniquely human. But we also see it everywhere around us in nature. Over the past 2 years, I've been introduced to the discipline of biomimicry, from which comes the concept of mutualism. It's the way in which bees get food from flowers while also fueling pollination for more flowers to grow. Or, naturally my favorite mutualism, the birds that land on top of rhinos - getting food from eating ticks off the rhino's skin - which in turn helps with pest control for the rhino. From these mutual relationships, both parties flourish. Nature shows us that collaboration results in a stronger system.
While no one can predict exactly how digital twins or other emerging technologies will pan out, there are plenty of examples of how we can approach these technologies in a way that is mutually beneficial. Adopting a mindset of fit and shared vision now will not only make the transition to these new technologies easier - but also more successful for brands and the consumers that put so much trust in us.
Interested in learning more about shared vision and other trust levers?
We'd love to engage in a conversation. You can also check out this great read that has empowered our perspective on the topic: Conversational Intelligence: How Great Leaders Build Trust and Get Extraordinary Results.