Picture this: It’s Saturday morning and you decide to start the day with a brisk walk — what’s a walk without a few jams? You tap a button on your Songza app, and it plays for you some Sufjan and Grouplove — perfect for a neighborhood stroll. It begins to drizzle, so you head back inside to put on a pot of coffee — tap tap on your app — and you’ve got Sam Smith and Flume keeping you company in the kitchen. After an evening shower, you’re ready to get dressed for dinner — tap tap — you wrap up the day with Kid Cudi’s Soundtrack to My Life.
This is reality in the life of a Songza user, a wonderfully human-to-human curated playlist that literally plays the soundtrack to your life. At Edgecase, we love the story of this startup, recently acquired by Google, as it embodies all that we envision the ideal shopping experience to be — thoughtful, participatory, and inspiring.
The music streaming industry is quickly realizing that people want customization. They want control of their experience, without feeling the pressure of having to manage it entirely themselves. There are plenty of music apps that build playlists, but most use machine-generated algorithms. We love Songza because they understand that their users want more. Music is the expression of deep emotion and is heavily affected by the infinite moods and dispositions of a person — a fluctuating state that cannot be understood by computers, no matter how advanced and complex the formula. A multitude of Songza curators identify what you, as the user (and a fellow human), will want to listen to when working on that dull report at work, or when you’re out on the boat with your rowdiest friends.
How is the shopping experience any different? Each purchase starts with a concept in the mind of the shopper…a situation, an idea or possibly a solution. Add onto that the shopper’s context — at their desk, on the couch or in the park. Offering a standardized experience and guessing what each shopper is looking for and cares about is not going to cut it. As with Songza, the shopper has to be involved in setting the stage for the shopping experience, and they expect the experience to improve with the inputs they give each time they shop. Creating this type of evolved experience is at the heart of the Edgecase vision.
Songza knows “humanized” curation is the next generation of streaming playlists, but it’s not just the music industry that sees the value in offering a personalized user experience. Retailers are on the cusp of reaching a never-before-seen level of technology innovation and customer engagement, with personalization at the heart of reaching shoppers with the right product at the right time. A personalized shopping experience, fueled by “humanized” merchandising and individual curation for every retailer, can meet the constantly evolving and rising expectations of shoppers today.
Google recognized (and deliberately acquired) Songza’s human-to-human curation as the secret ingredient to its popularity, and we agree. You need people on your team that can think like other people, because an algorithm will never reach a human’s natural level of intuition and discernment. The power of machine learning is undeniable, but there are still things that a machine just can’t do.