Can Connected Handbags Bring Emotional Relevance And Customer Loyalty?

Published November 10, 2017
By Rachel Arthur

Here’s a question: If your handbag could talk, would you want the brand it’s from to listen? How about if sharing the data it collects on you could lead you to gain access to highly relevant, truly personalized and ultimately exclusive experiences consistently?

It’s a fine line between what of that is a serious privacy conversation, and what’s otherwise merely an outlined future of projected value exchange tied to the internet of things.

This is the future being imagined and worked on by New York designer Rebecca Minkoff with its line of #AlwaysOn smart bags launched in stores last week Avery Dennison’s smart tag solution.

“We’ve always wanted to enrich our customers’ lives and deliver a brand experience that extends beyond the products themselves,” said Uri Minkoff, co-founder and CEO of Rebecca Minkoff. “By bringing #AlwaysOn smart features to the bags, we’re opening doors to a world of amazing, hand-picked experiences we think our customers will love, while making it easier than ever for them to access special offers, recommendations, and other loyalty rewards.”

The bags each feature a serialized smart label that, when scanned by a smartphone, will enable the owner to receive exclusive offers, product recommendations and video content from Rebecca Minkoff. For now, that offering remains a fairly basic one, but long term, the vision is indeed for truly personalized experiences presented off the back of real-time data fed to the business from the bags.

The roadmap for 2018, for instance, includes using geo-targeting to reach additional partners within the lifestyle, wellness and beauty realm. The user may well walk into a hotel in Austin, Texas, for instance, and be presented with personalized content recommending what to do while in the city. Collaborations can follow with food, travel, concert brands and more.

The concept marks a broad potential movement, according to a report commissioned Avery Dennison, that suggests brands should be using the data that digital products can provide to drive emotional engagements with consumers.

Written by Dr Phillip Powell, research fellow at the University of Sheffield, the academic report shows that data from digital products like Rebecca Minkoff’s can be used to help brands better understand, anticipate and respond to the emotions of customers, triggering greater consumer engagement and sales.

This "Digital Emotional Intelligence" (DEQ), essentially suggests that in better knowing our customers – their emotions, associations, memories and moods – we can more successfully encourage and motivate their purchase and loyalty behaviours. Those who are able to “mine rich, new seams of data to improve their knowledge of, and relationship with, customers will dominate”, said Powell.

Speaking at the launch event in New York this week, Andy Hobsbawm, said: “The backdrop is really straightforward: we’re emotional beings, and tech is central to our lives more and more… This report tries to understand that further. We’re looking at how humans respond emotionally to technology, and that feels like a pretty important area for competitive advantage.”

“That’s why we jumped at the chance,” Uri Minkoff commented. “The idea that an item can unlock experiences for [our customer] based on who she is and where she is, creates this almost alternative reality. Because she is she, and only she, it means she gets to have experiences that the person next to her doesn’t have. Or the person next to her has her own different experiences. Technology provides optionality, provides experiences and provides emotional relevance.”

“The idea of using your own products to create a channel to the consumer is so powerful,” added Liz Bacelar, founder of open innovation firm, TheCurrent. It's an interesting concept in the context of more than 800 billion digitally capable consumer products being expected to ship by 2020.

To surpass the privacy conversation, this is set up as an opt-in scenario only, but largely means things like knowing where customers are, what they’ve bought in the past, perhaps even what they’ve tried on but then rejected in the fitting rooms, and how they then continue to use their products thereafter. The user thens get targeted benefits from the company in return.

Analyzing this data in real-time and combining it with machine learning can expose and predict physical emotional response, far beyond assessing purely digital behaviors, the report explains. “The more someone digitally engages in
 the connected physical world through devices and smart products, 
and the more varied the contexts of interaction, the more data will be generated and collected. This enables the brand to forecast consumer expectations by applying predictive algorithms to real-time and historical data,” it reads.

The key is that it’s about feeling personal, not intrusive – about emotional connections and attempting to humanize the brand. “Because you know I’m me, you can offer me something appropriate and relevant and timely. When you personalize things well, it is emotional,” explained Howsbawm.

He referenced recommendations from the likes of Netflix, Amazon and Spotify as being “cool when they know what I like more than I do”. This sort of personalization is also the original promise of the web, he noted. The report cites Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the web, in 1997: “Marketing on the web is going to be a lot more humane than marketing in traditional mass media because it’s possible to treat people individually.”

The difference now is doing it at scale, and with this concept, connecting it to the offline world as well.

“At a time when the retail industry is in complete transformation, connected products with a unique digital identity are paving a way for brands to not only easily capture stock visibility, but also engage on an emotional level with their consumers. This is key to winning in the marketplace,” explained Bill Toney, vice president of global RFID market development at Avery Dennison.

Long-term, the report suggests achieving DEQ will lead to greater attachment with customers who don’t just trust the brand, but actively seek out its recommendations.