Today, just about everyone understands that digital and online channels can be used to build better customer relationships, but there can be huge variations in how effectively companies use these channels. Last year, research from Forrester highlighted that software – including mobile apps, connected products, websites and more – is increasingly changing how consumers interact with brands and that, if the software fails, the brand suffers. Here are some tips for how best to succeed in delivering the best possible digital customer experiences in a retail environment, where flexibility and the ability to react quickly are of paramount importance to cater to new and emerging tastes and trends:
Tip 1: Learn Lessons from Successful Sectors
One very innovative sector is fashion:it has to move extremely quickly to set trends. Influences on buying decisions are everywhere - tube station, airport, home, store, magazines, online - and technology is playing a key role in driving brand relationships. Close relationships with customers and a good understanding of what they like can be the difference between the latest season’s range being a success or a failure. It is an industry that is not only highly competitive but also one that is heavily influenced by external trends, such as the media, celebrities or rival fashion brands. In such an environment, having customers who are engaged with and loyal to the brand is the Holy Grail.
There are numerous examples of fashion companies using advanced digital customer experiences – much more than just using Facebook or Twitter - to great effect. For example, Burberry's London flagship store uses RFID technology to show customers useful information on screens about clothes and accessories they are trying on, and it also helps track and manage inventories. By coupling the latest fashions with innovative, exciting digital experiences, fashion brands have a new way to achieve this goal – and their methods can provide inspiration for other brands.
Tip 2: When you have a moment to shine, take it
At the last Fashion Week events in New York, London, Milan and Paris, high-end fashion houses including Valentino and Stella McCartney used Snapchat to give their fans and followers exclusive behind-the-scenes access, offering early glimpses of new designs and giving a flavour of life on the catwalk. DKNY and Marc Jacobs have also been among the first to use the live streaming app Periscope to broadcast live video to their followers. For customers, these experiences help them feel closer to the brand with a personalized, intimate experience and level of service they cannot get elsewhere. The brands themselves, meanwhile, build enhanced customer relationships and obtain a wealth of digital data to help inform their decision-making in the future. Businesses have an opportunity to seize an event or launch as a means of engaging with customers in new and innovative ways, driving better insights and improved sales through the process.
Tip 3: Make Data a Priority
A recent survey on digital customer experiences we carried out across Europe showed most businesses believe that analysis of digitally-derived customer data is key to their company’s innovation efforts but, crucially, there is little confidence in the quality of their digital offerings. Only a third of businesses believe a customer’s current digital experience could qualify as “high quality” and just 3% believe that it is “excellent”. As a result, they are missing out on the numerous opportunities presented by Code Halos - the digital data that surrounds almost everything their customers do. This data, everything from an individual’s Facebook ‘likes’ and social media posts to the way they browse a website, can provide customer insight unlike anything that has come before and which retailers can use to tailor their products and service to increase customer loyalty and differentiate the experience.
In order to realize this value, organizations need the ability to analyze data from digital interactions and, right now, that is proving to be a challenge. In order to make progress, the mantra to make data insights a priority must come from the top of any organization and insights should be made accessible to all teams making decisions about current and future products and services.
Of course, not every new digital service or social network will be right for every brand. Companies that have yet to make strides in the digital world must learn from innovative brands and work to expand, personalize and tailor the digital experiences they provide. For many, there is still a long way to go, but the inability to address how best to collect, analyze and distil meaning from digital data will have ramifications for the future success of their business.