Mark Shewmaker, chief experience officer at SMITH, an independent digital experience agency based in Seattle, Washington, will chair the final judging committee for the creative awards categories (Apps, Live Events, Publications and Videos) of The 2014 American Business Awards, the U.S.A.'s top business awards. (Entries for this competition are still being accepted. Get your entry kit here.)
We asked Mark, with his deep understanding of user experience, for his thoughts on what major innovations in technology would most affect businesses in the coming year.
“I work with many clients who are trying to find out how to connect the customer experiences in their online and offline businesses,” Mark told us. “This often finds its epicenter in the retail channel, where customers, who regularly shop online with a brand, often feel anonymous when in the physical stores.”
Bridging the Gap
“Until recently, there were few options available to bridge the gap,” continued Mark. “Some retailers have tried digital kiosks or other static, immovable installations at their stores, but customers seem to lose interest quickly, leaving these installations to collect dust–or worse, break and never be serviced.”
Moving with the Customer
The breakthrough, in Mark’s opinion, is to leverage the customer’s digital footprint by building shopping experiences that recognize customers specifically, move with them, and remain under their control. For example, as Mark suggests: “Retailers should use their customers’ cell phones or WiFi-enabled tablets to deliver tools and services.”
While this is no small feat from a technology or logistics perspective, Mark advises: “It’s vital that businesses invest in what they’re confident will provide value both for themselves and their customers. To do this you first need to understand how customers use their personal devices to make their shopping experience easier.”
We asked Mark what ecommerce solutions he would recommend to businesses. Mark is most excited by technologies that allow retailers to measure foot traffic and engagement in their stores by installing wireless-signal or video-based tracking systems. According to Mark: “Ecommerce is a key focus for SMITH, so I’m excited by technologies like Apple’s iBeacon which is the darling of the category, but there are many more, like Nomi, Xandem, and LightHaus.”
Added Mark: “The ability to use real data to precisely understand shopper behaviors allows retailers, venue managers–really, any business with a space you can walk through–to experiment and prototype new in-store digital interactions, measure their potential success, and plan for a larger-scale rollout.”
Mark travels a lot on business, so we asked him what business apps he found most useful. “Thankfully, apps are simple and utility-focused these days, which makes my life as a regular business traveler a little more bearable, and I depend on a few great ones to get my job done,” Mark told us. “But my most important, my most relied on, my if-I-were-stranded-on-a-desert-island-with-my-cellphone-and-still-had-to-do-my-job app is Dropbox.”
“I use Dropbox exclusively,” adds Mark. “It has thoroughly supplanted all other storage resources I have access to—including, sadly, those in my own brain. Even my vocabulary has changed in deference to this mighty wizard of technological convenience. I don’t ‘send’ files to others any more; instead, I confidently ask ‘can I Dropbox this to you?’ which is almost always met with acknowledging approval.”
According to Mark, the most life-saving feature of Dropbox is: “Transferring files to my co-workers. I simply send them a download link, which the app automatically creates from what’s stored in my account. I never have to transfer a file over email or VPN—a sketchy proposition anyway when you have no other option than unreliable hotel and airport WiFi connections.”
An added bonus, according to Mark: “It also means you’re rarely the offender who clogs everyone’s email account with enormous file attachments. So if you’re regularly put in ‘mail jail’ for exceeding your Outlook quota, you may also want to give Dropbox a shot.”
A Business of Invention
Having worked in digital communications for nearly two decades, Mark is inspired by the notion that ideas are no longer bound by the barriers of standardized media or channels, like the old days of print and TV advertising.
“My teams have the freedom to dream up clever ways to solve problems,” says Mark. “To me, it’s become a business of invention. New technologies are being constantly introduced, giving us countless building blocks to create fresh solutions for our clients and their customers.”
Concludes Mark: “Frankly, I find it all very exciting, even after nearly 20 years of chasing the future. A new device can be launched and—BOOM!—the whole game changes instantly.”
About Mark Shewmaker
Mark is an expert in user experience with an impressive portfolio of award-winning campaigns and digital solutions created for some of the planet’s most recognized brands. At SMITH, Mark leads UX, creative, and content teams on their mission to craft cutting-edge and revenue-driving brand experiences.
Prior to SMITH, Mark was Executive Creative Director at R/GA San Francisco. Throughout his 9 year relationship with R/GA, Mark worked with clients such as Microsoft, Nike, Verizon Wireless, Abercrombie & Fitch, L’Oréal Paris, Lowe’s, Wal-Mart, IBM, and Merck, overseeing the development of category-leading digital commerce, mobile, retail, marketing, and product-design initiatives.
When he’s not traversing the planet on business, Mark finds his home in the Bay Area of Northern California, with his wife Wendy and two children.
SMITH is one of North America’s leading digital experience agencies and global commerce service providers. Creators of transactional brand moments for humans living in an all-channel world, SMITH’s clients include some of the world’s most important and highly recognized brands, including Microsoft, AT&T, Cisco, Motorola, Nestle, Sam’s Club, Xerox, and MasterCard. The company is headquartered in Seattle and has offices in Atlanta, Portland, Spokane, and Ottawa. Learn more at www.smith.co.