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Still Human - The Future of Customer Experience

Strategic Content Lead

May 09, 2019

There is no longer a place for digital for digital’s sake. As we become more advanced in our understanding of the application of digital in transforming businesses, we must become even more intelligent in how we adapt and respond to the new normal.

Take the Retail sector, where Customers now demand seamless experiences that deliver value directly to them. Not just financial value, although that helps… real Human Value; time, pleasure, experience, emotional connection. In a digital first world we expect experiences that invisibly connect online and offline behaviours as standard; innovations that make our lives easier, faster, happier.

‘Business used to be easy’ said Allison Simpkins, SVP Valtech NA in her recent closing Keynote at Sitecore Experience.

‘Once upon a time, retailors determined what consumers could buy, where, when, how and of course for how much. They called the shots. They pushed retail to consumers. Now it’s shoppers who call the shots. Pulling from retailers what they need and demanding to navigate effortlessly through what retailers once called ‘Channels’ – touchpoints that included stores, catalogues, call centers and online commerce sites’.

As businesses begin to respond to the multitude of digital opportunities available to them, consumers in turn face a deluge of new options as they leave the highstreets and head online. Consumers, often driven by price, are strongly impacted by emotion, experience and by a brand connection that pulls strongly to one seller over another. How can brands survive and how should they respond to this new reality?

The Economy of Experience

At Valtech, we call this expectation the Economy of Experience.  Behavioural analysis (and personal experience) shows that shoppers move between online and physical touchpoints, often at the same time. They spend time researching, comparing and reviewing before making a decision. That means there are numerous instances where we can ‘lose’ that customer and that sale. On the flip-side, it opens up numerous opportunities to strengthen the brand loyalty, reinforce the message, reinforce the experience, show how personalised and intuitive we can be. Each touch point generates more data, more insights and more branches of the customer journey.

‘This is where brand loyalty can come into question’ says Allison. ‘Companies must recognise this shift and be designed to operate as a single unit to focus on creating a universal customer experience.  Retailers must banish channels for good and replace them with a customer-centric thinking that spans all digital and physical operations, woven into the fabric of the organisation’.

When Heineken were put under pressure by the craft beer market, they had to pivot; so they came up with a strategy to partner with craft ‘Beerwulf’ and give consumers a subscription service. Beerwulf wanted to combine the rapid growth and interest in special beers with the opportunities offered by e-commerce. Therein lay the opportunity; Seeing the potential, Heineken got behind the idea and, as the only investor, made a financial commitment to Beerwulf B.V. Within the first year 1.5 million craft beers had been sold.

Brand Magic

As things move online, it might lead us to think that the bricks and mortar age is dead. But that’s just not the case. There is still a real and genuine need for the store – the challenge now is in making sure that the customer experience is seamless. In an age of limitless competition, that brand magic is the strongest pull that you have. As soon as they are in your 4 walls should know what they want, need and why they need it. Businesses must use all of the data available to them and use it in a way that drives the customer from browsing to buying.

When the world’s leading beauty retailers came to Valtech to help them reimagine beauty in the digital age, we worked with them to create experiences that transcended the physical and the online shopping standards. We developed smart mirrors that ran skin analysis and suggested key products and suggestions based on your skin type, requirements and budget. But we didn’t just build an app, we put those smart mirrors in beautiful stores with gorgeous interiors. We raised them from the ground level, to the second floor to increase the sense of exclusivity.

The in-store behavior and product selections are mapped to your digital profile, sending the expected; suggestions, offers and notifications…. As well as the unexpected; the community element that solidifies the lasting relationship and deepens the brand relationship.

A Human Connection

It’s vital not to lose sight of how important this connectivity is. Yes, we expect digital experiences to make our lives easier, but equally, we are still human, and humans will always crave connection and validation. We need to feel the brand; it needs to mean something and it has to hit us emotionally. We continually observe and recognise the value of human connection. That to have a great experience, we have to feel it, it needs to move us in some way. The most powerful ad campaigns move us, inspire us, influence us and we can’t underestimate the value in that.

We have to create businesses that are future proof and that means that we need to be fully invested in delivering experiences that perfectly match the expectations of the consumers growing up in the here and now, the digital age. They have never known anything other than full connectivity and the ease of instant gratification.

In her keynote, Allison neatly outlined that, ultimately, we all want the same things;

  1. Increased customer acquisition, retention and loyalty
  2. Increased customer satisfaction
  3. Maximized customer lifetime value
  4. Increased revenues and profits

Brands who do not succeed in offering appealing experiences due to lack of vision or paralysing process or infrastructure will disappear or be minimalised. At the end of the day it’s about understanding your business objective and outcomes and what priorities you can make that will have the biggest impact.

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