‘The best consumer experiences now define the experiences in all other sectors’ – Publicis.Sapient’s Nigel Vaz on evolving customer expectations

Nigel Vaz, CEO of Publicis.Sapient in APAC and EMEA

Customers expect easy and frictionless personalised experiences in their moments of need, but how are brands fulfilling their requirements and what trends can we expect to see in this unknown territory of digital transformation? Speaking ahead of the Adobe and Publicis Groupe panel discussion on Digital transformation at CES in this month, Nigel Vaz, CEO of Publicis.Sapient in APAC and EMEA speaks to The Drum about how technology is impacting consumer expectations and upcoming trends.

The term ‘Digital Transformation’ is used quite often in the industry but how many brands take it seriously? Marketing and communications global leader, Publicis Groupe has been busy rebranding and restructuring over the last few years to adapt to the changing market and enhance its leadership position in technology. First, the Paris-based group acquired US consultancy Sapient for $3.7bn, creating a new platform, Publicis.Sapient to focus exclusively on digital transformation and the always-on world. And now, Publicis.Sapient has merged its digital agencies Razorfish and SapientNitro to form SapientRazorfish.

Vaz has been in the midst of all these big changes, having been at Sapient for almost 20 years now. A self-professed “strategist by training”, Vaz has been examining big trends for consumer technology for most of his career. At Publicis.Sapient, he oversees three businesses across EMEA and APAC. One of the biggest shifts he sees happening is something he calls the “eco-system evolution” where the best experiences consumers have “define the experiences” they have across other sectors.

“Any experience that you have in one place affects the context of everywhere else. If you think about the fact that I am about to transfer money with my bank, but it happens to be able to access and understand where my physical location is, then they don't have to ask me the five or six questions about whether I'm in the same country that I am transferring money to or not,” Vaz explains.

For Vaz, it’s all about linking consumer experiences so that technology actually solves problems in his life, as opposed to “simply delivering experiences”. One might think of Apple’s closed eco-system approach, where all of Apple’s devices seamlessly link up with each other. But this is not what he means.

“That’s assuming that everything can be in one walled garden owned by one company. What I am talking about is actually a bank creating an open platform that allows you to make a micro payment on your device because your telecommunications experience is connected. Consumers by and large seem to be asking the question, ‘Why can't my bank talk to my telecom’?”

The big tech players Amazon, and Uber are often mentioned when it comes to knowing consumers really well and always being a step ahead of the curve. So do brands need to behave more like the Amazons and Ubers of the world?

Following its convenient ride-hailing model, Uber launched a food delivery service, UberEats which lets users order from a range of selected restaurants with the promise to deliver the food quickly. But for Vaz, what’s special about Uber’s personalisation efforts is in the way it has really involved the consumer in the entire process from the time the food is ordered to when it is delivered.

“If you look at their services up until then, they did a really good job explaining the basics to you, but they didn't really involve you in the process. [With this, you can follow the process from the time you made the order to when they have finished cooking your food]. That whole experience is a really good example of simplifying and creating visibility into a process that was otherwise 'ok' to a user. Which now makes you feel like you have choice and control.”

In the near-future Vaz also sees something he calls a “data passport” appearing that will connect personal data on a whole new level.

“If I want to dock my data with [a person] then they can have access to this stuff about me. Or I can do it with an institution like a bank. When I disconnect myself from that, then that data is still contained with me.

“[I also think] technology and platforms will become critically important [as they will be] built not just for themselves but with open APIs that will allow them to connect to other organisations. Because you are now starting to live more in a platform world than in an inherent siloed world.”

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