Today’s post comes from Jeremy Black (@jeremywblack on Twitter), who specializes in helping retail and CPG brands build multi-channel solutions as Director of Business Development at Xtreme Labs. Located in Toronto, Palo Alto and New York City, Xtreme Labs leads the world’s biggest brands in creating award-winning solutions for mobile, tablet, TV, mobile web, connected devices and more, spanning both the consumer and enterprise industries.
We’ve closed the book on another South by Southwest (SXSW) and I’m happy to report that it was the best edition yet for two topics near and dear to me: mobile and retail. Urban Airship’s Mobile Saturday was the first time I’ve seen the two topics collide with such great energy and content.
An oversized yoga studio (complete with post and beam construction and barn doors) was the perfect setting for our group of over 200 to discuss the true meaning of a seamless customer experience. Our session, appropriately titled Seamless Customer Experiences, put the focus on where we’re headed, the challenges in getting there, what we can do today, and a bit of a call to action to “close the loop.”
Where We’re Headed
We started the session by talking about the Disney MyMagic+ experience. Disney’s plan is to invest up to $1B in the coming years to make their theme park experience more amenable to modern customer behavior. They will use radio-frequency identification (RFID), delivered through bracelets, that will enable everything from ride entry, to payment, to unlocking your hotel room.
The goal is to make the theme park experience more personalized, context aware and frictionless.
These same principles of personalization, understanding context and reducing friction, should be the goal for any retail organization when interacting with their customers. The challenge for retailers is to do the small things right and consistently evolve their customer experience alongside their customers’ expectations.
How To Create Seamless Customer Experiences Today
The first commitment every retailer needs to make is to be available wherever and whenever their customers want to engage with them. Increasingly, that means providing a great mobile experience. And if you really want to engage customers with a premium experience that integrates your brand into their everyday life, you need to consider building native mobile applications.
Native experiences give you the opportunity to engage in a dialogue with your customers. These experiences allow you to save state (e.g., form fields, searches), send targeted messages directly to the device and track location, among other functionality that isn’t as easily accessed via the mobile web. If you approach mobile with a customer-centric strategy, you can use these tools to create truly seamless customer experiences that add tremendous value through each stage of the customer journey.
But that’s only the customer side of the story.
Close the Loop
The next wave of mobile innovation in the retail sector is going to come from organizations that can calculate the true value of the mobile channel. Using location targeting services, application analytics, universal carts, and unique customer identifiers (e.g., loyalty programs), we are starting to develop better models for calculating the true impact of your mobile channel. That’s very exciting for the marketing folks, the IT department, your merchandising teams, and most importantly, your customers. When retailers understand the value of their mobile channel, customers are the beneficiary.
The key takeaway from our session on seamless customer experiences, is that the audience – your customers – are becoming apathetic towards “average” customer experiences, but are very excited (and loyal) when they have great customer experiences. Great mobile experiences are a strategic imperative for any retailer that aims to consistently engage and excite their customers.
The best part is that it only takes a few small steps in the right direction to start delivering more seamless experiences for your customers.