It is likely that you already know that customer experience (CX) is important. CX has evolved rapidly in the past few years to become an established part of the way that businesses plan and implement change to achieve their organizational and financial objectives.
Where CX was once essentially a worthy and modern alternative to measuring internal standards through mystery shoppers, improving customer experience is now a strategic and commercial imperative across most leading businesses. This is true across nearly all sectors, channels, and industries. CX now has a readily recognised purpose.
The CX industry cannot afford to stand still. CX leaders need to continually push the boundaries of CX further to ensure its long-term relevance. These messages, ideas, and solutions need to be delivered in the context of the changing realities of our age; including technological, economical, and even political shifts.
In the next two articles, I will break down how to keep your brand relevant in the ever-changing world of CX into two parts:
- Part One: Adapting to Changing Customer Requirements to Stay Ahead of the Competition
- Part Two: Building a CX Strategy to Reflect Global Trends
Omnichannel Is Changing the Way We Shop
Year-on-year footfall on the high street is falling, with shoppers’ visits to retail stores declining every year. This trend is down to the increased convenience and improvement in the experiences delivered through digital. There are other economic and social factors behind this fall in numbers that we need to bear in mind.
In the past year we have seen digital retailers open up physical locations (e.g., Made.com, Missguided, and Amazon Go) as companies look to tap into the benefits of offering a full omnichannel experience. They recognise that in order to drive loyalty and sales they need to consider opening up a phygital (physical and digital) offering, as well as the obvious PR in doing something new. Evidence that customers who engage with more than one channel spend an average of 4% more on every shopping occasion in the store and 10% more online than single-channel customers has to be a key incentive to expand across channels. InMoment also conducted a retail study recently, which reinforced this finding.
Omnichannel traffic is more typically weighted towards brands facilitating a greater proportion of online experiences for their customers, even if the purchase is ultimately made in a physical location. Webrooming (i.e., researching products online) especially amongst millennials is a behaviour that has challenged typical journey mapping tactics and entrenched department silos.
There are signs that the collaborative message is landing. We have recently seen Adidas launch an online tour of their flagship store in Stockholm, filmed with a 360-degree camera to create a virtual store experience (and aid the pre store process). Gap has gone further and created an augmented reality fitting room so that customers can “try clothes on” at home.
We can also recognise a blending process where investment is being made to bring the online benefits of ease and personalisation into stores, hotels, and restaurants. Our 2017 global CX Trends Report explored the types and importance of personalisation. From Inamo (London restaurant) where the whole ordering experience is delivered through an in-store tablet through to the trial of facial recognition technology in KFC China to predict customer orders; boundaries are being tested. In retail, we have seen a pursuit of “retailtainment” where stores are reworked as experiential spaces, with the concept of the Hackett Gin Bar in London especially capturing my own imagination (if not yet my spend).
In-store personalisation still remains a challenge even with the most optimised customer relationship management (CRM) systems in place. When one of the best examples of delivering a personal experience is Topshop’s pop-up store on Oxford Street selling Hello Kitty gear with the shopper’s name added on, you have to realise how far we still need to go to get anywhere near the level of sophistication found on the web.
The past 12 months have delivered fresh excitement in how technology is changing the ways we deliver, train, and share experiences. Amazon Echo stands out as the poster child for the opportunities in artificial intelligence (AI), and rightly has created a lot of buzz. Early adoption does, however, often come hand in hand with risk. For example, the largest supplier of broadband in the UK (BT) regularly struggles to connect to Echo has damaged the initial excitement of customers getting their hands on this new kit and has led to real frustration.
To appear innovative and allow funds to be redistributed to where it is most needed, AI is the way to go. The risk of not going there is probably greater than the investment required in taking the leap. Failure of USA Hearing Care businesses, who did not adopt a 3D approach to manufacturing, to survive has to be a clear warning that failure to quickly adapt to new technologies can be terminal.
Starbucks have been cited as a victim of their own success in tackling the need to provide joined up omnichannel experiences. Mobile pre-orders were reportedly causing stores to struggle, causing slower service—and unhappy customers. Transactions in the USA dropped due to the popularity of their order-and-pay app causing unforeseen strain on the process in store, allied to a move away from traditional malls.
Sometimes there may be the need to turn down the dial on technology. Mistakes will be made, and demand may at times outweigh the capability to cope. Issues will need to be resolved quickly, and we should expect the world to become more “artificial” over the next decade. CX can help us understand at what point technology is seen as an experience enabler ahead of more traditional touchpoints. In the meantime, CX offers a great measurement of a brand’s ability to maintain satisfaction levels whilst evaluating trials of new and innovative kits.