Here's Why Time is the Next Differentiator

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Customer Experience
More than ever, companies are competing on time. As people rush through their day, the ability to save time or provide a service at the right time differentiates businesses. And like many things, the ability to leverage big data is behind these advancements.

More than ever, companies are competing on time. As people rush through their day, the ability to save time or provide a service at the right time differentiates businesses. And like many things, the ability to leverage big data is behind these advancements.Time-saving products are not new. But just as light bulbs extended our days and household appliances reduced time spent on menial tasks, advances in technology are on the verge of disrupting the customer experience.

"Businesses are competing for time," noted Constellation Research Principal Analyst and Founder Ray Wang during a presentation at the CRM Evolution conference earlier this week. "If you look at Uber, it's not competing with Lyft, it's competing to save customers time." Uber's product--providing users with a car service-- is not innovative, Wang continued. What distinguishes the company is its ability to simplify the experience of hailing a cab when you need one.

"They're using social technology to generate driver reviews, mobile technology to deliver the app, cloud technology to power the whole thing, and big data analytics to track surges that alter their pricing," Wang said. "It's a very innovative business, but it's not about replacing taxis. It's about removing an intermediary that gets in the way of inefficient transportation, and making the process simpler."

Another example is Amazon's futuristic delivery-by-drone project, Prime Air. The retail giant's R&D lab is developing "unmanned aerial vehicles" that will deliver a package to your doorstep within 30 minutes of placing the order. But in addition to passing regulatory hurdles, Amazon will need to solve a number of logistical issues.

For example, the company will need to know in real-time whether a drone can deliver the package to the requested location. And once it delivers the package, what will be the drone's next destination? Amazon must harness huge amounts of data to coordinate its drones and it appears to be hiring the brain power to do so. The company recently hired former aerospace engineers, a NASA astronaut, and the co-founder of Keyhole (the startup that became Google Earth) among others, to work on Prime Air, reported TechCrunch.

In addition to faster delivery times, knowing when to provide a product, service, or message is also key. Incorporating context into a business' offerings is essential, Wang observed. Even though marketers are embracing real-time capabilities, they also "need to use context to improve analytical insight and make better decisions," he said.

Instead of sending you a coupon for a cup of coffee when you're probably rushing to work, analytics can show businesses that you are more likely to use the coupon in the afternoon or at the coffee shop next to the train station.

Using data to personalize the customer experience also brings companies closer to the one-to-one relationship that customer experience experts Martha Rogers and Don Peppers have championed for years, Wang added.

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