Big data analytics is now being used in a vast multitude of ways as organisations seek to gain a business advantage from the mass collection of statistics.

With US giant IBM expanding its own big data services, the IBM Interactive Experience is emerging as an innovative agency that helps brands use data for creative means.

Keen to find out more about the service and how it is helping businesses in practice, we grilled the company's European leader Matt Candy on the subject.

TechRadar Pro: What is IBM Interactive Experience?

Matt Candy: IBM Interactive Experience is a new breed of digital agency, bringing together strategy, analytics, design and data (internal and external) to create experiences for growth.

The practice leverages IBM's huge investment in research, as well as expertise in data analytics, social, cloud and experience design to create, implement and manage seamless, innovative customer engagement at all touch points - whether it's online, via a mobile app, in a physical storefront, etc.

We help organisations make better use of data to inform creative design, customer experiences and business strategy and we have the benefit of being powered by IBM which means that we have the capability, scale and experience to deliver.

As part of that IBM is establishing 14 IBM Interactive Experience Labs to help clients drive innovation and engage with customers in new ways. The 14 labs include four existing labs and 10 new labs.

TRP: What will the new IBM Interactive Experience labs offer clients that they haven't had before?

MC: Experts in the IBM Interactive Experience labs will work side by side with clients to create work based on a clients needs around the following key areas:

  • Customer Strategy: help clients to rethink their business model and customer engagement strategies to capitalise on physical-digital convergence in an omni-channel world.
  • Customer Analytics: help clients to identify and understand their individual customers and predictively address customer needs to grow loyalty and advocacy.
  • Innovation, Creative and Design: Differentiate client's experience through digital innovation across the customer lifecycle.
  • Customer Platforms: help clients to orchestrate continuous customer interactions across digital, social and mobile platforms to engage and transact, anytime and anywhere.

TRP: Why has IBM decided to invest in these new IBM Interactive Experience labs now?

MC: We have seen growing demand in the marketplace around IBM Interactive Experience capabilities and the front office transformation. IBM is the only company that can bring research, creative and design skills, data experts and a traditional consultancy together to solve our clients' biggest problems.

We see this demand globally and wanted to expand beyond the existing IBM Interactive Experience labs in the US to create centers around the world where we can collaborate to design innovative solutions with and for our clients.

TRP: Where are the new labs located and why these locations?

MC: Since we are globally expanding the IBM Interactive Experience practice, the new labs are located in key commercial and financial cities around the world including Bangalore, Beijing, Groningen, London, Melbourne, Mexico City, New York, Sao Paulo, Shanghai, and Tokyo. The existing labs are in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, and Toronto.

TRP: How has IBM Interactive Experience worked with clients before - can you give some examples?

MC: An IBM Interactive Experience client is Jaguar Land Rover:

IBM Interactive Experience helped Jaguar Land Rover transform the car buying experience with the Jaguar Land Rover Virtual Experience.

  • As a large car manufacturer, Jaguar Land Rover has hundreds of thousands of options available for its cars, which creates a problem for local dealerships that want allow customers to see visuals of what each combination of components looks like. Additionally, Jaguar found that around 80% of consumers that test drive a Jaguar, buy a Jaguar.
  • In order to extend its test driving experience beyond the dealership and solve the problem for local dealerships, Jaguar Land Rover worked with IBM Interactive Experience to develop the Jaguar Land Rover Virtual Experience, which is a digital application deployed on a PC-based system that allows customers to examine and change components of a virtual rendering of a car, using motion-detection technology.
  • The solution demonstrates how the physical and digital worlds are merging to reshape the shopping experience for consumers as well as how companies engage with their customers.
  • Customers are able to engage and interact with almost life-size, high-resolution renderings of vehicles as well as take a 360 degree view of the exterior and interior, open doors, start the ignition and get detailed information on key features.
  • Additionally, since the Jaguar Land Rover Virtual Experience can run on a laptop PC, it is mobile which allows Jaguar to transport it and use it at auto shows around the world.
  • All data from the Virtual Experience is collected, which allows Jaguar Land Rover to get insight into what customisation - i.e. the colour of the car, 2-door or 4-door, etc. - customers chose for the cars they view in the Virtual Experience. All of this data can help Jaguar Land Rover with sales strategy and what they show in their physical dealerships.

Another client is the Australian Open:

As it is a relatively small organisation for most of the year, Tennis Australia uses analytics, cloud, social and mobile technology to extend its reach far beyond the 680,000-plus spectators who walk through the gates at Melbourne Park each year. In fact, the Australian Open website had some 15.5 million unique users last year, with almost half of those visitors accessing the site using mobile devices.

  • IBM has worked with the Australian Open to help them market to and engage with the huge audience of fans at the annual tournament as well as on their website year round. The goal is to continually improve the experience for fans.
  • Ausopen.com is hosted on an IBM private cloud, which uses predictive analytics to automatically allocate the computing powered required to keep the site performing optimally, even at peak times.
  • The tournament's mobile apps provide real-time updates, and allow fans to follow or post about players and track players' popularity on social media.
  • IBM SlamTracker on ausopen.com analyses more than eight years of Grand Slam data to provide key statistics and live insights into what each player needs to do to win and each match's key turning points.
  • ReturnServe is a virtual reality experience that allows fans to test their skills against serves from the world's best players.
  • The Australian Open Social Leaderboard tracks and analyses comments on Twitter to determine the most popular players at the tournament by both the total number of tweets and how positive those tweets are, providing a "sentiment" ranking.

TRP: How should clients go about evaluating their overall client experience?

MC: IBM likes to offer 4 strategies we believe companies should follow for 'Reinvention'

  1. Treat data as the new natural resource – how are you going to make data your differentiator and drive hyper-personalisation
  2. Extend physical experience with digital – how are you going to blend these experiences
  3. Use digital to enhance personal engagement – how are you going to immerse your customer in an experience that draws them closer into your brand and therefore drives growth
  4. Create experiences that bring people together – how are you going to create collaboration between people/individuals to craft and create new sources of value

TRP: Can client experience be measured?

MC: Internal and external data from clients is beneficial in innovating to improve customer experience and engagement. With the new practice, we also announced six new capabilities from our research lab that uses analytics to explore big data to better understand customers when creating campaigns.

Here's a view of the new capabilities:

  • Life Event Detection -- Analyses unstructured social media data to detect important events in customers' lives. For example, this technology can assess specific "life events" like a marriage and then make correlations to a range of financial decisions.
  • Behavioural Pricing -- An algorithm that combines behavioural models on consumer response to pricing, such as 'surprise' and 'thrill of a deal', with historical transaction data to help retailers design personalised pricing strategies that help consumers make purchasing decisions and improve their experience.
  • Psycholinguistic Analytics – An algorithm that combines the psychology of language with social media data to understand inherent personality traits of individuals and identify their preferences. This technology goes beyond generalisations and recognises the individuals to identify how they prefer to receive and consume information and offers.
  • Intelligent Customer Profiles -- An analytics-driven solution that enables consumers to directly manage the personal information companies use to provide them services. It also allows companies to proactively ask consumers questions, using a learning model to determine the next best question to ask an individual for a clearer picture of their preferences, while respecting privacy constraints. This helps companies improve the quality of customer profiles so they can provide better service, enhancing the relationship between a business and their customer.
  • Influence Analysis -- An analytical approach that goes beyond basic social media influencer scoring to identify individuals who influence other consumers related to a specific topic. By knowing which consumers influence others' opinions of products and services, clients can optimise interactions in consumer communities down to the specific target topic. Combined with existing enterprise data, this capability allows clients to develop their own robust, customised influencer analysis that can be tuned based on specific business factors such as local location or language.
  • Customer Identity Resolution -- A rules-based matching toolkit that helps enterprises build a broader understanding of who their customers are by connecting information across different data sources such as customer relationship management (CRM) records, social media accounts and other profile information. This is particularly useful for better understanding prospective customers that companies have little information on. After a company builds out comprehensive profiles of their customers, they can use analytics for business insights or conduct direct social marketing to existing customers on an opt-in basis.