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Digital Transformation of Business and Communications - Part 4

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As a business owner and communications industry veteran, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, President of Shikatani Lacroix, a Toronto-based branding and design agency, has seen a massive evolution in technology and customer/employee expectations over the last two decades. In part four of this multi-part executive Q&A series I will chat with Jean-Pierre about the future and where digital transformation will lead us.

Doug: Things are changing so fast. Do you think if organizations can tie a business process into that exponential growth to increase revenue or decrease cost they will be in a position to reap those benefits for years to come?

Jean-Pierre: It's an opportunity to leverage consumer behaviour to your advantage. We're so connected to our phone. The first thing people do when they get up in the morning is check their phone. The last thing they do when they go to bed is check their phone. They check their phone every three to four minutes. When they go to the bank, when they're in the branch, they're checking their phone. They're not connecting with the digital signs because they're looking at their phone. So, there's a real opportunity to disrupt that behaviour and engage that consumer through digital signage - through large-scale digital signage and geo-fencing, things that connect to their phone. Those are the real opportunities that we see in the near future. Geo-fencing makes sense, so if you walk into a bank you would receive a message through their app. You get it now with Starbucks. You're close to this restaurant, that restaurant. But there's been this huge reluctance by retailers and manufacturers to leverage geo-fencing, and I just scratch my head.

There is huge impact. In the petroleum business, there's a company that did a test and they increased sales at their store by 30 percent through geo-fencing and just reminding the customer of an offer or "Hey, come in and have a coffee."

We're so busy in our lifestyle, we have so much on our mind every day. We have not just complexity of choice, I call it complexity of tasks. You get up in the morning, you have 20 things to do, and heaven forbid if your kids go to soccer or hockey, and you got another 30 things to do. We don't have time to think about anything else. Being able to offer it as a valued service, as a reminder about something you may have forgotten or something you may need - to me, that just makes sense.

Doug: Where do you see things 25 years from now when you and I sit down to have this chat again?

Jean-Pierre: There are couple of factors that are going to have a huge impact on our behaviour as consumers: how we buy, how we think of things. One is artificial intelligence. We have so much data and we don't know what to do with it. Artificial intelligence eliminates the human factor and through algorithms and learning processes, takes that information and customizes it to every individual. Today the consumer wants personalized service. They don't want mail that's been sent to everyone; they want an email that talks specifically to their needs. Reminders, services and offers based on their buying patterns and their behaviours. Artificial intelligence is going to provide that in spades. It's going to free up time. Look at the auto industry as an example. They are predicting that by 2025, half of the cars sold in the world will be self-driving cars, driven by artificial intelligence. So, you're going to see that movement impacting everything we do, the way we buy, the way we shop, the way we enjoy life. To me that is a pivotal technology.

The second technology is what I'll call invisible technology. I believe that innovation happens when you eliminate steps and friction points in the way consumers live their lives. Think of Apple Pay, you don't need to carry your wallet anymore if you have your phone. Google Maps allows you to travel and never get lost. Eliminating these friction points or these steps is where innovation has succeeded at bringing value to consumers. One of those steps is how we absorb visual information. Now the technology is hanging a digital sign on the wall and building a network, but I believe all of that's going to go away. I don't know if you're aware of this but in Sweden, I believe, they will paint a wall and the wall will become an LCD screen. So the physical restrictions of digital signage will go away and it'll be whatever you want it to be.

That will open up all kinds of great avenues for experiential and immersive experiences. We think of virtual reality and augmented reality as being kind of trailblazing. I view those as interim steps because you have to wear this clunky thing on your head. To me, immersive experiences are going to be real, they're going to be 3D - 3D and 4D projection screens where you're going to be in that space. We're just at the cusp of that technology.

Doug: The best way to get information to a person is through their eyes and we have the ability to help our customers combine data with a visual experience. What do you think the future looks like for our companies?

Jean-Pierre: It's a very exciting era for designers. When you start creating virtual experiences, you're no longer restricted by the power of gravity, the laws of gravity, and you don't need to be an architect to build a building now because you can build it virtually. You just need to have the right aesthetics and understanding of consumer behaviour, but you don't need to be an architect. So, you'll see a designer designing a building, see architects creating identity programs. You're going to see the tiers of design professions collapse. That will have a huge impact, and already has had a huge impact on our industry.

If you go back 20 years we had typesetters. Overnight, that disappeared. Companies making packaging, that's gone away. Even printing now is going. Now it is customized printing, digital printing, the big print runs have changed to customized print runs. You're seeing a big shift from efficiencies of mass to efficiencies of personalization. I think that's going to play a really important role in how we deliver communication marketing materials. It'll all have to be personalized. It'll all be about, back to my original comment, what's the right content. What's the story we're telling to our customers, and how relevant is that story at that moment of purchase? How do we intertwine that story with the way they live their lives? How different is that story from their neighbour's story or their daughter's story or their spouse's story? That is where the real battleground will be won. It's about content and content management.