business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

There was a time when shopper hackles were raised by simple loyalty cards, which were positioned by some privacy advocates as a way for companies to spy on consumers.

That was then.

Today we watch at shoppers willingly trade information non-stop. It’s not just Waze or Facebook postings or countless other apps that allow us to proudly announce where we are and where we are going. We increasingly ask questions of Siri and Alexa and only now - as Kevin has reported here recently - are we seeing some of the consequences of our constant monitors.

Any thoughts you have about the trend ending might collide with a stunning new reality on Carnival cruise ships where tracking technology is about to shift into an entirely near gear. And this is a story you need to follow because the key to Carnival’s effort is about providing customer value that makes the exchange of information seem like an endless benefit.

One executive summed up everything you need to know like this: “the cost is in the hundreds of millions of dollars and over time, more than that. People want the world to be organized around them. On vacation, even more so.”

Carnival’s story, written about last week in the New York Times and delivered at the Consumer Electronics Show, involves giving passengers the opportunity to carry a small medallion that makes the cruise ship their own. It starts with the basics, such as opening stateroom doors or making it painlessly simple for passengers to pay for drinks or anything else. In other words: no lines and no worries.

That’s just the start. Guests can load up their preferences before they get on board. Then armed with the app, for example, guests can order food wherever and whenever they want. The wait staff will know who gets what because as an order nears the customer that passenger’s picture will appear on a tablet device.

Or say you are in your stateroom watching a televised version of a live show that’s taking place elsewhere on the ship. The performers will know who’s watching and can give you a shout out. Go figure, Big Brother does comedy.

While the Carnival folks admit there is a feeling of creepiness to this they expect most passengers to eagerly sign up for a simple reason. As one Carnival executive told the Times, “As long as you benefit the guest, they don’t mind sharing.”

And that’s the thing: provide value and your relationship with customers might change drastically. Sure the critics of early frequent shopper programs overstated the invasion of privacy, but they did have one strong point. Usually there were few compelling benefits to those same programs beyond coupons.

Remember this: those same Carnival passengers are, in a different context, your customers. So that desire to have the world organized around them won’t end at sea. Isles or aisles, their expectations will be the same.

Time to set sail.

Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available on Amazon by clicking here. And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon by clicking here.
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