EBCs of the Future

Twenty years ago, few consumers had personal computers in their homes. Today, 72% of people in the U.S. carry tiny computers in their pockets everywhere they go. In 20 years, accessing the Internet has gone from a painstaking dial-up waiting game to instant, always-on access. 

If you told people in 1996 that computer and internet technology would change so much in their lifetime that they’d never need to keep another map in their car, flip through a phonebook, or look at an encyclopedia again, they probably would have laughed. But here we are now living in that reality. Technology is changing rapidly, and the things we scoff at initially have a way of working themselves into our daily lives.

In 2016, high-speed internet and the smartphones we access it with seem like old news. Companies are looking for other new and exciting ways to advertise, connect, and delight customers. Advancing technologies are certain to have long-term effects on the way we do business, and businesses who become early adopters will set the stage for how these technologies are used in the long-term.

While they might sound like something out of an episode of the Jetsons, the following technologies are likely to become commonplace in the day to days of business in the coming years. 

Wearables

Wearables have been around for a while, but they just haven’t taken off. Google Glass was a flop, and sales of the Apple Watch failed to meet the hype that preceded its unveiling. But just because the initial insurgence didn’t win over the masses, it doesn’t mean they won’t succeed. 

Wearables haven’t died yet. In fact, they may simply be at the beginning of their rise or wearables 2.0.

One recent wearable success story comes from Snapchat. Their Spectacles allow users to take 10-second videos of their surroundings that can be uploaded to the social media site. They’ve been so successful that people wait in line for hours to buy them when they’re released in a new city, and while their retail price is only $129.99, they’ve sold for as much as $2,000 a pair on eBay.

According to a report from Bloomberg Technology, Apple is also experimenting with a wearable glasses product. All of this goes to show that wearables may not be on their way out—they may have just had a rocky start. It’s safe to expect that more companies will attempt to follow Snapchat’s lead for successful wearable sales in 2017 and beyond.

Within EBCs, wearables could be used in a number of ways to enhance the on-site customer experience. PowerPoint projections may no longer be needed; images are projected directly to participants’ wearables. Exhibits interact with wearables to draw attention to important areas as a visitor navigates a facility. Wearables could also be used for networking or as a means of identifying other visitors; names, organizations, and titles could display when approaching others.

Virtual Reality

For some people, virtual reality has been a technology that was akin to flying cars. And while we may not see flying cars in our lifetime, virtual reality is here. Consider these use cases for how businesses are using or plan to use virtual reality to enhance customer experiences and generate sales:

  • eBay has a virtual reality store where shoppers can browse products for sale using virtual reality technology to mimic the in-store browsing experience.
  • Facebook is working on technology that will allow people to hang out with friends in a virtual environment.
  • Ikea’s VR Experience allows shoppers to investigate a complete kitchen, open cabinets and drawers, and even redecorate.

Virtual reality technology has a lot of potential for completely overhauling the way business is conducted. Imagine virtual meetings that allow participants to sit together at a table without ever setting foot in the same building—participants from three continents could meet “in person”. Virtual briefing centers could eliminate the need to have multiple locations around the world; participants could watch presentations and go on tours virtually while still having a fully immersive experience.

The Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) is the process of utilizing internet technologies in everyday items. Popular and well-known examples include refrigerators that tell you when it’s time to restock items and thermostats that can be controlled away from home with your mobile device. But the possibilities of IoT stretch well beyond simple at-home convenience items:

  • Disney World’s Magicband is a wristband that guests use to simplify executing common vacationing tasks like checking into hotels and paying for meals at in-park restaurants. At certain stations throughout parks, guests scan wristbands at special stations, which allows theme park operations to collect data on the popularity of specific rides, shops, and restaurants in order to properly staff those stations.
  • UPS uses sensors on its delivery trucks to monitor as mileage, idling time, and speed. The data collected is used to optimize delivery routes, create a more environmentally friendly system, and save money through reduced gas use.

While these use cases present obvious benefits for improving efficiencies, the goal of many IoT implementations is the acquisition of big data. While Magicband simplifies task execution for users, it also gives theme park officials data on exactly what places in the park visitors are interested in, allowing for highly personalized future marketing opportunities. 

According to a report from IHS Markit, the number of IoT devices is expected to grow from 17.66 billion in 2016 to 75.44 billion by 2025. Technology already exists that allows businesses to pair mobile apps with beacon technology to guide visitors around events or briefing centers—and to see what areas and exhibits visitors have accessed—but this technology could just be the starting point for IoT advances in visitor experiences.

Taking a cue from Disney’s approach, technology embedded into an ordinary object could be recognized when a visitor enters a building and used to direct the visitor to each location on his/her agenda. It could alert leaders to the arrival of an important prospect so immediate attention could be provided. For members of your sales team, IoT could provide critical sales information—products a prospect is most interested in—upon approach at a briefing or event.

What Does the Future Hold for EBCs?

Futuristic technologies may sound like something from a sci-fi movie, but the bottom line is that these technologies exist and are already in development. Forward-thinking EBCs can utilize these technologies in many ways to enhance the user experience and collect valuable data:

  • Providing visitors with directions to your EBC may no longer be necessary. Instead, you’ll be able to send a self-driving car to pick visitors up and bring them to your facility.
  • Drones can deliver boxed lunches to visitors regardless of where they are in the building when lunch is served.
  • Robots can greet your visitors when they arrive, answer questions, and direct visitors to meeting rooms.
  • Augmented reality technology could enable prospects to experience how products will be utilized when installed in their own facilities.
  • High-profile thought leaders or influencers could give presentations to a group in holographic form, eliminating travel requirements for presenters with limited time.

These advancing technologies have unparalleled potential for simplifying tasks, streamlining operations, and providing detailed data. Early-adoption companies will be the first to benefit from the big data they provide and will lead the way in finding creative implementations that amplify the customer experience journey of the future.