Blockchain Will Require Shift in How Brands Market

Blockchain technology can provide more security and ownership, but its adoption will introduce new challenges for marketers in Asia-Pacific, and globally, who must reassess the way they think about promotions.

For brands, blockchain offers highly secure data acquisition and helps instill trust amongst consumers, says Abhishek Pitti, CEO and founder of Nucleus Vision, which develops technologies that capture consumer data and build customer profiles. Its products include an Internet of Things (IoT) sensor system that is touted to be able to detect mobile phones as users walk past storefronts or locations where the sensors are set up. The vendor uses blockchain to secure the data it collects and analyses.

In this Q&A with ExchangeWire, Pitti explains the role of blockchain in improving customer and brand experience, and highlights challenges marketers may face in adopting the technology.

ExchangeWire: What blackholes still exist today in identifying and building more accurate customer profiles?

Abhishek Pitti: Currently, customer profiles are built using data collected from third-party aggregators. The customer attributes derived from these large data warehouses are, at best, indicative as these datasets assume interest or intent based on the wrong parameters. Furthermore, there is a data authenticity problem; and wrong data is as good as having no data at all.

There is a need for capturing real-time data, along with past purchase data, to be able to create a more accurate persona. As it stands, there are not many systems in the world that have this capability.

How has the explosion of IoT devices further complicated this?

Abhishek Pitti, CEO & Founder, Nucleus Vision

IoT systems are extremely powerful and provide a means of capturing real-time data. However, they are subject to vulnerabilities. Even if one did have an IoT-powered solution, you are mostly going to make a huge compromise on customer data, which includes highly sensitive information like credit card details and personal information, that usually resides in home delivery systems and loyalty programmes.

In a nutshell, can you explain the role of blockchain in improving customer and brand experience?

Blockchain technology provides two main advantages: security and ownership. It brings security to an otherwise vulnerable system, as it will have no single point of failure and it puts ownership of data back in the hands of the user. Every user on a blockchain system will have visibility into who is trying to access their data, and has the right to share or not share their data.

In terms of brands, blockchain can provide a highly secure data acquisition and storage system, instilling a sense of trust amongst consumers and stakeholders alike. Furthermore, data shared consensually by the customer is updated in real time and is, thus, more accurate.

What does it offer that previously was not possible through existing CRM applications and footfall measurement tools?

Blockchain provides a way to handle real-time data securely. Existing footfall measurement tools may give you walk-in numbers, but to add any more customer intelligence capabilities to them would mean an increase in security systems, which the blockchain provides.

CRM data is collated usually after a sale at the bill-desk; and while this might prove to be useful in future interactions with the customer, there's no way it can capture real-time intent and act upon it.

Why do you see blockchain as particularly important to the offline-online integrated retail experience that the likes of Alibaba, with its 'new retail' strategy, are touting?

Such retail strategies are extremely data- and IoT-driven; and retail data is extremely valuable to anyone. However, IoT systems are not secure enough to be used to acquire and store sensitive information. Blockchain provides a ready-made answer to this problem.

Blockchain technology, though, isn't particularly easy for brands to grasp. What kind of challenges do you foresee in terms of its adoption, and how should companies overcome these?

I see three main problems here. First, blockchain talent is rare, and the few who are there today are expensive. Hiring budgets will be affected.

Also, integrating legacy systems with new-age blockchain solutions will be tough. It needs people who have seen both ends of the spectrum – and that is just a handful of people today.

In addition, most retail data and advertising systems are centralised. Decentralising them with blockchain, and putting power into the hands of the customers, will require a paradigm shift in the way marketers think about promotions. This will take some getting used to.

What can Asia-Pacific marketers learn from Alibaba's 'new retail' push?

Alibaba is essentially revolutionising brick-and-mortar retail with technology and data. The learning for other brands is simple: we are in the age of data; and every industry has to face the consequences of not being data-driven, especially brick-and-mortar retail.