Technology is Getting Even More Personal to Help Brands Better Target Consumers

Published November 9, 2017
By Genevieve Scarano

Digital Emotional Intelligence will be the next thing on brands must-have list.

In short, Digital Emotional Intelligence, or DEQ, will be the way brands get the real-time data they need to deliver more relevant and engaging experiences for consumers.

At Avery Dennison’s Customer Design and Innovation Center (CDIC) in New York Wednesday, industry members came together to discuss DEQ and how brands can use it to better understand consumers’ emotions and purchasing habits—key as harnessing the power of DEQ to deliver on personal style needs will mean increased sales and a better competitive advantage.

What exactly is DEQ?

DEQ is a strategic framework that evaluates how human behaviors and emotions change across physical and digital channels. It involves brands using data from smart products, connected devices and other digital sensors to interact with consumers more efficiently by allowing them to understand their consumers on multiple levels.

For example, if a company has a smart garment that contains a special RFID tag, a consumer could scan that tag on their smartphones and get access to discounts and exclusive event invites. While the consumer has a memorable experience, the brand also has access to consumer data, enabling them to understand the consumer’s purchasing motives and tailor future products to fit their needs.

A recent Avery Dennison report, “Digital Emotional Intelligence,” said, “Digital isn’t a ‘poor relation’ of physical anymore. Smart technologies and ‘always on’ mobile services combined with physical objects and spaces give our experience of the real world added color, depth and community. Consumers are adapting to hybrid physical-digital living–the utility of mobile tools combined with personalized, socially-connected experiences–and brands need to catch up with these new human behaviors. In short: brands that use digital technology to connect more emotionally, personally and contextually will win.” 

Uri Minkoff, president and CEO of Rebecca Minkoff and a panelist at the Avery Dennison talk, discussed how the company is using DEQ to advance the consumer experience.

“We are constantly looking for ways of how the fashion system doesn’t make sense and how we can change it for a more modernized culture and consumer,” Minkoff said. “We are here today because there is this beautiful thing called IoT that fashion hasn’t taken advantage of.”

Rebecca Minkoff recently launched a new line of smart handbags that offers consumers personalized experiences. Minkoff’s #AlwaysOn bags contain a code that, when scanned by a smartphone, provides the bag owner with exclusive product recommendations, offers and video content from Rebecca Minkoff. With the new handbags, Minkoff aims to facilitate new consumer relationships and also analyze consumer behavior for future branding decisions.

“The idea that that item can unlock experiences for her based on who she is and where she is creates this alternate universe reality that she gets to have in private—because she has that particular item, there is some experiential component that she gets to have and the person next to her has their own version,” Minkoff said. “Technology provides optionality. We are creating this parallel universe of experiences as she is going on her mobile journey that we think is fascinating.”

Why does the industry need DEQ right now?

DEQ could help brands navigate retail’s uncertainty, since it uses data to bridge the gap between brands and consumers. Retail’s evolving landscape has pressured brands—including those that aren’t familiar enough with the digital landscape—to continue experimenting with data from smart products.

According to the report, 90 percent of consumer product companies lost market share in 2015, while 62 percent experienced declining sales, mostly to digitally native companies. What’s more, some brick-and-mortar retailers are missing the mark when it comes to consumer desires—consumers don’t just want a product, they want an engaging and convenient purchasing journey on their digital devices—and this is where DEQ comes in.

“Good personalization is emotional and powerful. There is an opportunity to unlock more data flows, so suddenly you know if someone is interacting with a product,” Hobsbawm said. “If someone feels the brand cares about them and knows about them, it’s an emotional experience.”

The panel went on to describe how digital purveyors, including Stitch Fix, have nailed the personalization factor with their avid data use. Even though not every brand is meant to be a data-driven subscription box model like Stitch Fix, non-digital brands should still know every step, measurement and purchase of the consumer, while communicating with them in a colloquial manner.

What’s needed for DEQ?

DEQ does host a myriad of benefits, but it will require brands thinking outside the box with their data.

Some retailers are applying DEQ to multiple retail channels—including mobile—to cater to consumers’ needs. Today, mobile shopping has gained momentum in the industry, and this channel could enable brands to connect with consumers and also replenish channels efficiently. Data could alert brands on the products consumers like and whether they need to stock more of those products during crucial times of year, including the holiday season. Brands, however, will first have to understand how mobile and DEQ could come together since multiple consumer demographics are using smartphones to shop.

“There is this new paradigm of the enterprise consumer experience on mobile and how you connect that experience with inventory product availability,” said Bill Toney, Avery Dennison’s VP of global RFID market development and panelist. “How do we understand the mobile consumer and on top of that, as tech evolves, how do different generations adopt and use that technology?”

DEQ applies throughout the entire supply chain, and doesn’t isolate the brand, products, retail channels and consumers. The panel noted that, although DEQ is important to stores and e-commerce sites, brands have to think creatively about how DEQ impacts other parts of the supply chain, including production and distribution. Using DEQ data, brands can tweak their supply chain according to consumer preferences, including adding more sustainable materials and minimizing product delivery times.

“On the retail side, they know they need to create experiences and to collect data and put that data to use,” said Liz Bacelar, founder of Decoded Fashion and a panelist. “If you are brand, you are not committed to the store only, you are thinking of everything.”

Technology will also play a role in how DEQ takes off in the industry—but it will be up to brands to facilitate one element missing from most technology—human interaction. Tapping into data via smart products will allow brands to not only provide relevant products to consumers, but facilitate a more personalized, convenient and engaging purchasing journey.

“The narrative has become a lot about efficiency, transactions and convenience,” Hobsbawm said. “For technology to be more emotionally aware is a very powerful new territory.”

According to Minkoff, brands may not survive if they only depend on good products in retail’s tech-infused future.

“Brands in the future, it won’t be who has the best item,” Minkoff said. “There will have to be an additional layer, whether it’s tribe, community or sustainability, there is a fundamental thing you will have to add besides product.”