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At the intersection of design and business, should marketers worry about automation?

As design drives business, should marketers worry about automation?

A common question businesses face today is whether design is worth investing in, as the costs of redesigning anything can rapidly balloon out of control.

This is a common question, according to Stefan Hirsch, partner and ASEAN lead, IBM Experience, as pinpointing causality and the business impact of design thinking can be hard.

“We’ve done some work with large banks in the region, where we’ve gone through design thinking and agile delivery to create a new customer experience, and the early results of that are the business is picking up to a factor of three,” says Hirsch.

“On an individual product level, when we rolled it out, we can see the business return was threefold than what it was before. Now is it because of the design thinking approach, or how you have done the experience design or are you offering new functionality? You can never argue that,” he adds.

While it is hard to quantify the value of design, Hirsch notes that the design value index saw a basket of design-driven companies outperform the S&P 500 by 228% over 10 years, lending more credence to the value of design to businesses.

“On the flipside, if you look at companies that don’t look at experiences and aren’t design-driven, quite a few of them disappear. If you don’t engage, you’re playing with your future,” he says.

Automating the future

For businesses looking to capitalise on design, the first steps can be the hardest, according to Hirsch, as companies begin improving processes by breaking it down to look for ways to improve the experience throughout.

“The simple things have been done, now you need to really engage in designing the micro-moment, and the sequence of experiences as you go through,” says Hirsch.

“And that’s hard work. We, as a company, certainly adopt it at a large scale, and we at IBM train on design thinking to the point where across the board people adopt it as the framework and methodology to solve problems,” he adds.

Achieving repeatability is assured with the approach and method used, but individual processes and journey still need to be looked at, Hirsch notes.

While automating can help repeat experiences, leading to better customer traction, automation seems to be creeping onto marketing functions, such as artificial intelligence and chatbots.

Hirsch acknowledges that the debate still rages on about whether jobs will go away due to automation, but argues that technology is there to make humans better.

“How can we empower you to do a better job through technology? Maybe as a marketer in the past, it was your job to define segments and audiences and target those audiences, but today technology can help you figure out at an individual level what is the right kind of campaign, what is the right kind of product,” says Hirsch.

“As a marketer, instead of previously having to do a lot of manual spread sheet work to figure out the audiences, I can focus my time on thinking of new experiences, products or campaigns to an individual who meets a certain criteria. It’s more empowering, and plus technology is always around making humans better and helping humans rather than removing human labour,” he adds.

This translates to digital advertising as well, as the landscape shifts with the winds of technology, and Hirsch notes that both sides of the coin of marketing agencies and brands are still grappling with this.

“There is an on going debate of what is the role of advertising in the future, it’s about the experiences you create. In the past with TV advertising, it was the story the brand told and wanted to project. Today people want to tell their own story and when they like your experience, they will tell a positive story about it, and if they don’t it’ll be a bad story,” says Hirsch.

Brands are moving towards design and orchestrating experiences for consumers, rather than traditional marketing, notes Hirsch.

“You can see the value given to the role of chief design officer versus chief marketing officer, and that collaboration changes. Then for the marketers the roles revolves around what is the brand values, what do we stand for, how do we interpret this brand,” says Hirsch.

“But the role of the chief design officer is how do you turn that into journeys, micro-moments and experiences with the brand. Within IBM, our focus is very much on designing experiences, much more so than telling a story,” he adds.

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Benjamin Cher

Benjamin Cher is The Drum's APAC reporter, reporting on the interesting and quirky nuances of digital marketing and technology in the region. Based in Singapore, he has interviewed major brands such as Dell, Lenovo and IBM before, covering an extensive range of topics from cyber security to innovation. In his time at the drum, Benjamin has covered issues ranging from influencer marketing to data analytics to startups.

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