When I first opened my business in 1994 as a computer consultant, the drivers of new technology were a lot different. In the mid 90s, it was typical to first buy a computer before figuring out what software you could use on it. Many of my customers wanted their own programs written, too. Those were the days of DOS and Windows 3.1, and the options for software were limited to what you could find in your local Egghead Software store, or you had to program it yourself.
Advances of faster Intel chips and larger hard drives allowed software vendors to make better software. Back then, it was the availability of new hardware that allowed software developers to create better software.
That was the time when hardware advances were pushing the growth of software.
For me, it was the autumn of 2000 when the hardware/software relationship changed. I was using PhotoShop version 5.5 and I needed to upgrade my computer to the latest Intel Pentium chip with a 9GB hard drive in order to run PhotoShop 6.
Continuing through the early 2000s, I always had to review the hardware requirements of all my software before purchasing a new computer. Advancements in computer software were clearly pushing the required need for faster and larger computer hardware.
I don't use my computer for gaming, but in recent years I've been using gaming computers. I find that they have all the horsepower I could possibly want for at least 2 years. To this day PhotoShop and the Adobe Creative Suite, Master Collection continue to be the most resource intensive software I use.
I've recounted this story to help explain the push/pull between website software development, mobile technology, and how those advances touch upon our personal lives.
Like it or not, everyone walking around with a smartphone is allowing themselves to be tracked in many different ways. Tracking is built into every smartphone app, and into very mobile website.
The weather app knows where you are right now so it can report your personalized weather, but they also keep a record of all the previous locations you were when you opened the app.
My banking app always offers to find the closest branch to my current location. I have no doubt that they track where I am when I search for a branch. I assume they track all their mobile app users and that they use the collected location data to determine where they should open their next branch. And I wish they would open a closer branch than the one that's 3 miles from me!
Websites and mobile apps have the ability to tap into the physical hardware of your smartphone. They can all read your IP address without notifying you, but they have to ask your permission to use your GPS, camera, or microphone. While many people, including myself, often block these requests, there are plenty of times when I do allow them as long as I feel I will benefit from giving away my personal information.
You can't simply ask for personal information without providing a real benefit. Think of it as a really cool customer interaction feature. How can you extend your customer service through a smartphone if the customer is willing to log into your app and give you their location?
Google and Apple have been closely monitoring how people use the Android and iPhones, and to our benefit (we hope) they have continued to develop hardware that allows for closer ways for the technology to touch our personal lives.
Apple had high aspirations to create a watch with advanced sensors that would monitor blood pressure and stress levels, but they had to settle for the same personal sensors already available in other health monitors. While the Apple Watch has a host of activity tracking apps, the real goal is to make communication more personal.
Apple had a goal to achieve software that could achieve that personal connection, so they developed their own hardware to do it.
I've detailed all this today not just to present a scatterbrained list of software and hardware history, but to try to illustrate that through your own mobile website you have the ability to create a deep customer connection if you tap into what's readily available today.
Your customers are willing to give you access to their personal data if you give them something really good in return.
Here are some ideas:
* Personalized website features based on previous browsing behavior
* Personalized offers based on specific dates like birthdays and anniversaries
* Complete history of all prior purchases, including pictures, insurance coverage, and servicing instructions
* Access to special areas of your mobile website that you can't see without logging in
As communications become more personal, your customers will expect that your business can interact with them through these extremely personalized levels. These ideas might be science fiction and fantasy for the retail jewelry industry, but these features already exist in other industries.
Here's the problem though; you won't find any software today in the jewelry industry that provides this level of amazing customer engagement. The hardware exists to make this happen, but the software doesn't, at least not in real time like other industries have it.
By real time, I'm talking about a customer being able to purchase something in your store and have that purchase immediately appear in the purchase history area of their online account. It would also schedule future SMS or email notifications for when the jewelry needs to be cleaned.
Now imagine the same real time availability of repair orders or custom design progress.
This level of customer engagement would certainly be an incentive for them to log into your mobile website and provide you with their GPS location too.
So far I've only explained how you should be using technology to advance different areas of customer service, but what's your business benefit?
Here are a few:
* Location tracking to see where your customers engage you
* Service tracking to see what parts of your services are important to customers
* Tracking from various marketing methods
* Greater customer retention
* Improved word of mouth referrals from existing customers
Every one of those bullet points will help you understand your customers more, and they will guide your business decisions.
From now on you should be thinking of new ways you can improve customer engagement using the technology available today, but building software for a better run business of tomorrow. Your website and in-house point of sale software need to seamlessly transfer information to make this happen.