Elevated Customer Experiences Required

Deeper, technology-enabled customer understanding—richer experiences.

Marketers and industry experts often lead with the “what” of new technologies like Big Data, Artificial Intelligence (AI), or Chatbots, rather than starting with the point that these technologies allow us to have a better understanding of our customers—what they want and when and how they shop—so that businesses can deliver better overall experiences. Technology and data alone are uninspiring, but with context they unlock possibilities. With further digging and getting beyond the data and technology itself, we find insights that can help deploy technology to enrich customer experiences.

Before purchase, consumers are interacting with more touchpoints than in the past, and technology helps marketers understand what’s happening at each of those touchpoints with the opportunity to help the customer along their path to purchase, creating frictionless experiences. When a customer drops off through the funnel, it’s a moment where the marketer has failed to understand them. Something dissuaded the customer from moving forward. New technologies can help close these gaps.

Here are a just a few examples of where technology can help close the gap in consumer and customer understanding for richer experiences:

Do you know me?

Some applications of AI and machine learning are behind the scenes and allow businesses to better understand and deliver for their customers. A good example of this type of AI application is Stitch Fix, the online personal styling service that went public in 2017 and is reported to have sales of about $1 billion. The company’s mission puts consumer understanding and personalization at the center:

It’s our mission to change the way people find clothes they love by combining technology with the personal touch of seasoned style experts. The Stitch Fix experience is not merely curated—it’s truly personalized to you. We’re here to help you save time, look great and evolve your personal style over time.

Stitch Fix has a large data team that analyzes a significant amount of customer data the company collects from the initial styling quiz, purchase behavior, and additional customer responses. See how Stitch Fix explains some of what they do themselves with these benefits:

“Our business model enables unprecedented data science, not only in recommendation systems, but also in human computation, resource management, inventory management, algorithmic fashion design and many other areas.”

In addition to personalization, companies like Stitch Fix can use AI and utilization of a broad data set to get more intelligent about shopper anticipated buying habits and their supply chains to improve forecasting and customer delivery, while reducing returns. Read more from the World Economic Forum >

Here’s how Stitch Fix explains it:

(1) We must continually replenish our inventory by buying and/or designing new clothing for our clients, which provides an excellent opportunity to benefit from our rich data;

(2) We must anticipate our clients’ needs in order to make sure that we have enough of the right resources in place at the right times. We keep track of every touch point we have with each client—every item we send, every piece of feedback we get, every referral, every email, etc. With this data, we try to understand clients’ states and their needs when in those different states. We can then detect changes in state and consider possible triggers. This process by itself can lead to insights that help us keep our clients happier.

Do you see me?

There are many uses for facial recognition technology and the industry is set to grow to almost $8 billion by 2022 according to Markets and Markets. Some marketers are using the technology to code how consumers are reacting to offers on screen and then customizing the (hopefully more relevant) solutions provided based on that facial feedback. Two such examples—for Expedia and Olay—are shared in this article.

Do you “hear” me?

Chatbots, or bots for short, are providing a new, interactive way to engage with customers to solve their problems easier and faster. Many companies are experimenting with bots as consumers get more comfortable with texting, messaging apps such as Facebook, and talking to devices such as Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa.

A Google study by Northstar Research found that 41 percent of U.S. adults use voice search daily, and a Nielsen study commissioned by Facebook found that 67 percent of people said they expect to use messaging more for communicating with businesses over the next two years and primarily think of messaging as being convenient.

While not fully personalized interactions, companies are positioning their chat app’s as such to consumers, since the information provided back is based on the customer information provided. Yet, these technologies aren’t expected to just be one-way communication driven by consumer requests. Rather, there are predictions that they’ll be used to remind people to replenish purchases and more.

Some examples of companies testing bots include Macy’s with an in-store shopping assistant app and Starbucks with an app called “My Barista” that allows customers to order prior to coming into their stores. Several Quick Service Restaurants such as Domino’s, Taco Bell, and Burger King are experimenting with voice-enabled interactions. Whole Foods has a Facebook Messenger bot that allows customers to find recipes via different filtering techniques without leaving Messenger.

Beyond just these uses of bots, Space10, an IKEA-funded think tank, has a program called Röst, through which they are exploring audio as an interface, considering it to provide an opportunity to enrich experiences for those who today might be excluded from technological developments.

Can you help and educate me?

Tom Ford’s new store in London utilizes current technologies to provide information to customers during the shopping experiences and perhaps more importantly to provide personalized educational information to customers for use after leaving the store. For example, a video can be produced of a customer receiving guidance on how to apply their make-up. This will be provided to the customer for future reference if needing to be reminded of how to apply what they purchased.

Can you inspire me?

B8ta is a new retail company that features up and coming technology companies in an educational setting. It’s this decade’s Sharper Image but updated for both customers and producers alike. The format provides companies with new products the opportunity to get early customer input, educate the customer through digital in-store technology, and gather objective data based on how customers have interacted with the product and information provided. Customers get a comfortable, well-managed environment to learn about all the cool, new tech coming their way.

Technology often seems as if it’s deployed for the sake of the technology itself, instead of being deployed for a customer purpose. Make technology work to your customers’ advantage.

The Marketing Forecast: Help me feel understood and make my shopping experience frictionless and more enjoyable in exchange for the personal data I share with you.


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