This is the second part of our two-part series in which we look at the world of marketing as it faces a new wave of innovation. Ed Owen meets the Workspace customers who are rewriting the rules and paving the way for change.

Today marketing is the sector most altered by the digital revolution as customers move to digital media, making them harder to find, while ground-breaking technologies turn the sector upside-down.
The principles may have not changed, but the technologies and culture are unrecognisable. First driven by the tech giants like Google and Facebook, it’s now pushed forward by smaller, more agile, entrepreneurial companies. But how do they maintain the ‘human touch’ that helps people connect with marketing in a new and exciting way? And how will the UK market compete with the global companies in the future?

The human edge

In fact, all forms of experiential marketing have been transformed, according to Phil Watton, MD at Lodestar, a Workspace customer based at The Light Box, which manages special experiential campaigns for large brands. “The idea is to create experiences that produce valued moments – giving something to those participating, whether digitally or not. Brands are having to work a lot harder, combining different elements with human interactions,” he says.

Lodestar adopts various new technologies to give something special and memorable to the consumer, but the technology alone isn’t enough. “After a while, things become run-of-the-mill to people. One example is [virtual-reality headset] Oculus Rift, which gives a very insular, singular experience. Sharing experiences makes them more effective. You have to make experiences as dynamic and engaging as possible. It’s all about the creative,” he says.

The automotive sector is a good example. Potential customers can find out a huge amount about a car from specialist magazines, TV shows and websites, so marketing campaigns have to give something extra. That something extra could be an experiential campaign at an airport or in a shopping centre, for example. You would see the car sitting there in all its glory, with the added digital element of something like VR to help bring the car to life. Customers can take a virtual tour of the car and modify things like the exterior colour and the wheel rims. Even with the exciting technology add-ons, however, human presence can still have the edge, particularly for luxury or high-end vehicles. Watton explains, “We could use professional drivers, for example – they are seen as an expert third party, particularly if the car is high performance or 4x4.” These drivers would be paid to talk to customers about the car, or to staff the stand.

Chatting at The Chat Shop

Using real people has an advantage: people make these experiential campaigns work. Another example where humans improve the customer experience can be demonstrated by The Chat Shop, based at Workspace’s Q West. The Chat Shop manages communications for brands using a range of channels such as email, social, chat and more. It has discovered a near- perfect way to communicate with people: other people.

According to The Chat Shop’s Head of Marketing, Seán Cotter, research it conducted last year came to a simple conclusion. “We know that the human touch in digital means empathy. That’s what can’t be replaced by bots, scripts and AI. Empathy is about moving away from transactional experiences and towards the perfect experience. 73% of customers want to speak to a human and have an empathetic experience when they have a problem or make a transaction. Digital needs a human heart to be effective,” he says.

That’s not to say that technology doesn’t inform The Chat Shop’s business – it’s at the heart of it, giving the handler useful insights into the customer. “We have technology that allows us to pinpoint where a customer is on a website and evaluate where they are in their journey, so that our team can reach out with a message that’s suited to that person’s unique point of view,” he says.

It is perhaps a reflection of our digitally obsessed world that customers frequently believe they are talking to bots, not people, and give handlers their own version of the Turing Test to try and catch them out. Results are compelling. The Chat Shop says its methods boost satisfaction to 99% and marketing leads by half.

The future is bright

Quite what post-Brexit Britain will look like remains uncertain, but what is certain is that innovative companies like Igloo, Lumen, Lodestar and The Chat Shop are precisely the kinds of businesses that will keep the economy buoyant.

Lumen’s Follett says, “We have to have home-grown technologies we can export to every corner of the world. Pre-orders for our software product, which has not even officially launched, has meant we have not needed to do any marketing. People are coming to us.”

Experience the future at FutureFest Festival

Halliday agrees, and says that the UK has a definite edge in creative services. “We have noticed that the UK has the best content creators in the world. We have offices in the US, in New York and LA, but the content creators are not as good as the ones here. British companies like Visualise, Rewind, Framestore are all used by US clients who come here for world-class marketing, digital and post-production services,” he says.

Workspace’s shared working environment is a boon for creative services like marketing. Follett draws an analogy with the famous lobby built in animation studio Pixar’s headquarters, designed for people from different disciplines to run into one another and share ideas.

“The Workspace environment is really helpful for us,” he says. “We constantly bump into people who come from very different companies. This helps us because it’s interesting to have friendly discussions with other people from dance companies, fashion, modelling agencies, all these different areas, and hone our pitch.”

Marketing may be changing but the next changes are driven by companies with cutting-edge technologies who work for the biggest brands on the planet, based not far from you.

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