In the rush to exploit online innovation are retailers in danger of overlooking the face to face experience? Innovative digital and mobile technologies are increasingly being used to personalise the online experience; but it is also essential to include the retail store in that experience to maximise the value of every aspect of the customer/brand engagement. Mitesh Patel, Managing Director, Fifosys, outlines the value of mobile apps, innovative customer loyalty programmes and a joined up, multi-channel operational platform in ensuring customer engagement across every channel.
Customer behaviour is changing radically. Individuals can interact with an organisation via different channels, at different times of day; and they increasingly expect any organisation of any size to be able to deliver a high level of consistent, cross channel service. But they also respond positively to creative engagement. They share experiences via social networking and proactively advocate brands that deliver a good experience.
Engaging with customers in the right way can significantly extend the reach of a retailer. Rather than rely on the gut feel of the marketing team or the randomly selected focus group, organisations now have a myriad of ways of communicating with existing customers to support on-going strategy. Why not pilot a new product or gain feedback on the location of a new retail store with individuals who are already committed to the brand? In addition to gaining far more relevant feedback, the process of proactively communicating with customers on these strategic decisions adds further value to the relationship.
For bike retailer Specialized, for example, an innovative iPad photo application that provided a picture of a customer sitting on a bike in front of a Tour de France screen at an exhibition provided an excellent way of capturing customer details – along with their imagination. In addition to using the information to create offers linked to the closest store, customers were also encouraged to share the picture via Facebook or Instagram, providing the company with further recognition across the social sphere.
To deliver the most appropriate experience, organisations need to recognise the context. For example, short, sharp interactions via mobile to meet a specific objective, as compared with the ability to access deeper information via a portal. The experience must also reflect the environment: for beauty brand Clinique, the creation of a smartTV and iPad game to be used in store was all about fun and providing a way to build a relationship with consumers. Customers played the game and volunteered information in order to win prizes. The experience was short but compelling and encouraged consumers to get involved with the brand.
Extending user interaction via a digital or mobile channel is not an add–on; increasingly the face to face and mobile experiences will occur in tandem. To deliver the right user experience the entire digital model must be embedded within core business processes and that has a significant impact on the provision of IT. To succeed in this new era, retailers must have an IT infrastructure that is inherently agile and adaptable in order to react to the evolving customer experience, and enable it.
By Mitesh Patel