Category Archives: Experience Trends

It’s a Fight For Brand Loyalty!

Source: Forrester NSCTAS 2006 Benchmark Survey, North Amercian Technographics Benchmark Survey, Q2 2010

Source: Forrester NSCTAS 2006 Benchmark Survey, North Amercian Technographics Benchmark Survey, Q2 2010

We’re in a new age of competition for brand loyalty (the propensity to repurchase a brand). The battle for market share is fierce and according to Forrester over the past 4-5 years American’s brand loyalty has been declining. People no longer feel that owning the “best” brand is important. This is due in part to economic conditions but there is an even bigger culprit. Technology. Technology is one of the forces eroding loyalty.

According to JP Gownder, Rapid innovations in consumer technologies has caused this shift by provided consumers with new tools for comparing, evaluating, choosing and experiencing brands. Anyone selling products today have to deal with the likes of Google Products, ShopSavvy, Expedia or BizRate, who offer both product and channel comparisons, increasing the likelihood shoppers will find a new brand or a better deal to entice them away. There are lots of ways to find a deal. Deal of the day sites such as Groupon that make consumers feel like they are entitled to things at a huge discount. They like to haggle on price and share their stories and tips for how to win (sharing the secrets of inventory cycles at Target or ways to handle “hostile” cashiers who won’t give you a discount). They even share their coupons on swapping sites like Hot Coupons. Online coupons are 1% of the coupons issued but represent 10% of redemptions.

Studies have shown that armed with these technologies, customers are becoming increasingly brand agnostic. Statistical analysis shows the more technology-optimistic a consumer is, the less loyal she becomes.

Passion for a brand (think Nike, Apple) comes from wanting to be a part of what they represent, a sense of valuing the same things as others who buy the brand and the people running it. Successful companies like these use their goods and services as props for engaging people in their brand story, they focus on creating a meaningful connection.

I believe the key to winning the loyalty battle is to use technology to work for you rather than against you. Empower your customer with digital technologies that reinforce the value of your brand, rather than erode it. Design your experiences and services to deliver real value in a practical and meaningful way. For most organizations this will mean rethinking the customer and product experience to find ways to make this connection.

With a toolbox of technology capabilities like location-based services, sensors that monitor people or an environment, and smarter IP-enabled products there are even more ways to connect and serve customers. Organizations have a few exciting possibilities they can explore:

Think differently about the role of marketing and add conversion as a metric We tend to focus on marketing to attract. But with all the digital touch points available Marketing shouldn’t just be focused on using digital to generating leads. Explore beyond looking to get the attention of a customer when they are thinking about what to buy (Google, Facebook and Twitter are great at doing that).

  • Look for ways to make them feel a part of your brand. Right now most emotional engagement is still happening in traditional media (especially during the Superbowl). Create content that will pull people in or can be shared. Gucci does an interesting job in store of creating an emotional experience.
  • Connecting with customer’s and helping them with their goals will enable you to know when to take action. There are some existing examples like The Home Depot’s Kitchen Design tool that lets customers to pick potential designs for a kitchen renovation. They can save them to a project folder that can be accessed by a Designer.
  • Bringing together data from various sources to be able enable you to pick up signals that help anticipate customer needs over time. Banks have been paying attention to life events that will cause customers to refinance their home. Imagine what you will be able to do as the internet of things increases the amount of touch points.

Create an ecosystem by combining digital experiences with the physical products. Manufacturer’s are increasingly looking for how they can offer digital services. Digital Services are compelling because they usually involve the customer contributing data over time so the barrier to switching is greater, they generate new sources of revenue and enable your teams to learn more about what your customer’s want. There are great examples like Nike Fuel Band, iTunes I have covered before. It was about a year ago that I did this blog entry talking about the need to create VALUE. It’s becoming more and more important as core products become rapidly commoditized.

Think differently about customer service. Get your employees more connected across channels. Your people are the best at creating connections and driving loyalty. They need to be present online and offline and today they are “trapped” in a specific channel or location. Imagine a consumer electronics expert in a low-volume store being able to serve a customer in a different store through high-definition video, answering questions on Twitter or responding to a question on your website!

Find ways to turn this loyalty trend around to make technology a competitive advantage by deliver value to people.

“Real-Life” Digital Experiences are Emerging with IoE

We often think about digital and physical as two separate experiences, two separate channels, but to our customer they aren’t really separate any more. We’re moving in to a new age of the internet – first it was about collecting knowledge, then social connections and now with the Internet of Things its about physical space and connecting to objects.

This is providing lots of opportunity to re-think the use of digital within physical and get over the failed attempts which were usually because you did nothing more than deploy your website on a stick. Consumers have grown accustomed to the information and ease of connecting when online and would like to have access to information when they are vising you but in a way that enhances real-life. It’s time to leverage this next wave of digital to engage of more senses than those used clicking with a mouse.

Keep them in your brand experience by providing what they need: enable them to search for information, get them engaged through storytelling or deliver personalized recommendations and guidance. But do it in an entirely new way.

We can look at the digital opportunities across three areas Product, Place and Service with different experiences at different touch points.

Social Retailing Mirror enables you to ask your friends in real-time to get their opinion

Social Retailing Mirror enables you to ask your friends in real-time to get their opinion

Expanding beyond a focus of sourcing and merchandising selection to surrounding products with digital experiences. Different product categories require different types of solutions. They can be either subjective (requiring an opinion, being a reflection of taste or personal brand) like clothing or home design, objective (based on factual data) for electronics, home repairs or habitual (grocery).

Subjective product purchases need to be carefully considered since the customer’s style preference or personality is driving the decision-making. There are however some interesting examples where this is being done well.

  • Sephora Fragrance Finder is a personality quiz to match you with a fragrance. Read my blog entry Clever “Personalization” by Sephora.
  • The Social Retailing Mirror & Website we built for Nanette Lepore enables you to ask your friends what they think of your outfit while you are in the store trying it on. See the photos and read more here.
  • Cisco StyleMe solution which uses augmented reality to let’s you see what you look might look like in the outfit. See my blog entry “Cisco “StyleMe” for John Lewis
  • Gucci is selling watches and has a beautiful digital experience that tells the story of how they were made. See my blog entry “Gucci combines physical, mobile commerce via digital store-in=store”
  • We developed a Room Visualizer that will be announced soon that allows you to see products together in a room setting. In my early thinking about this (pictured here) I imagined something like this being executed in a “museum-like” setting that would naturally foster interaction and discussion as you are putting together your “masterpiece” of a room. It could also be used for large crowd presentations. Something you can’t do at home on your iPad.
  • Burberry opened a new flagship and the experience is supported with RFID that enables a number of experiential touch points that connect you emotionally to the brand
Life size renderings enable customers to imagine the possibilities in this room design concept

Life size renderings enable customers to imagine the possibilities in this room design concept

Objective product purchases are where the customer will look for specific features, facts, data or expert knowledge of how something works to see if it meets their needs. Usually associated with complex products or expensive decisions (electronics, cars, home mortgage) that are infrequent in nature and have significant differences among available choices. While there is an element of the subjective, these purchases require information readily available to help make the decision. Determine how to make it really simple to match the customer to the right product. In some cases it is best not to try to make this a digital solution but rather get the customer connected with the expert (see below under service)

  • They say you can narrow a wall of televisions to three options by asking two simple questions, how big a screen do you want and will you be watching sports?
  • Target in-aisle face cream finder enables you to enter information about your skin in order to match your needs to the correct skin care product
Concept of "touch" to talk to an expert for complex or high value areas

Concept of “touch” to talk to an expert for complex or high value areas

Consumer interactions with associates is often cited as a key differentiator. They are the ones to answer the questions and cultivate the up sell and cross sell – which ultimately creates the satisfied customer. With more customers researching and shopping online the digital locations are largely unmanned. Labor is usually locked in the physical location and needs to be reoptimize across the channels. Our customer’s are looking shift to better orchestrate to serve the customers – through the endpoint and in the way they want to interact through Remote Expert Solutions

  • Landsend had a video conference with an expert
  • Banks want to make sure there is always an expert there for you if you make it to the branch. See this video of Cisco’s implementation with the Bank of Montreal. 
  • Anthropologie will connect you to a “personal” stylist to help you select the right outfit
  • Best Buy has a help force on Twitter ready to respond immediately to your questions or complaints.
P&G enables customers to talk to a live expert from their vending machine in the mall

P&G enables customers to talk to a live expert from their vending machine in the mall

More and more commerce is happening outside your store. While the store is till the primary place of purchase it is not usually where customer’s research what to buy. Expand beyond the store as place for getting customer’s attention, erasing the walls to encompassing anywhere the customer is – provide places for your merchandising teams to meet them where they are…

  • Best Buy’s kiosks at airports are a huge success
  • P&G has a Beauty Bar pilot that is testing the impact of allowing shoppers to speak to a live expert through a kiosk. They give you advice on what to get and the order is dispensed from the machine
  • Shopping through window displays or by selecting items to be purchased on your phone is the next wave of exploration. I’ve put a few simple concepts below I think would be interesting for a retailer or manufacturer to explore – imagine the interaction being similar to this Adidas NEO interactive window powered with QR codes.

From an organizational perspective all the touch points need to looked at from the perspective of the overall experience strategy: digital content for Product Place and Service are all coordinated in pursuit of Customer Experience excellence. Once the experience strategy is determined, organizations will then need to define a logical step-by-step process for how execution and integration will happen.

This is focused on digital installations but WIFI is becoming increasingly important and any experience should be extended to to support customer and employee mobile devices.

Create end-caps or virtual windows anywhere, here you can see a display in a subway

Create end-caps or virtual windows anywhere, here you can see a concept for a display in a subway

Another subway concept, catch and engage customers with the ability to "try things on"

Another subway concept, catch and engage customers with the ability to “try things on”


“Virtual” Toy Store

We continue to see retailers creating experiences outside the 4 walls of the store using QR codes to reach customers, enable engagement and make shopping easy. Read more here.

See my last year’s entry on the topic.

JCP Button Promotion: Another Step Closer

JCP launched a holiday promotion post black Friday where customers pick out a holiday pin at the store. When they get home go to the website and enter a code on the back to see if they’ve won a prize. In order to enter a code you have to first supply an email address. If you win (which I did) you then need to provide your entire mailing address (which I did). Clever way to bring back the abolished “coupons” for a period of time and enable the company to collect email and address information.

Box of Buttons

A bit of history helps to understand why this is really a very clever idea for JCP. JCP is working on building on a new brand experience. They are trying to change customer’s behaviors from looking for coupons and discounts to engage with them differently moving forward. They want to become a brand that brings enjoyment and value to their customer’s lives. They want to transform from being JCPenney to being JCP.

Ron Johnson (CEO of Apple and Target fame) wants JCP to be America’s favorite store by helping people live better through offering of brand name products and in store services like haircuts, dry cleaning and family photos. All of course delivered as a great experience that is simple and delightful. This sounds like a great strategy in a world where we’re inundated with content and information and where our lives are very busy. We enjoy shopping but we don’t want to think too hard about making the right purchase and we don’t want to work hard to figure out the “value” of an item.

One of the steps taken early on was to change the JCP pricing strategy to make it more simple. Rather than coupons and constant rounds of markdowns JCP would offer everyday low prices at a fair and square deal. However in doing there was an unintended consequence. Customer’s were used to a loyalty programs where they would earn $10 for every $100 spent and then combine that with coupons to get a great deal. While Ron explained to them in the brochures that they are getting things at the same price, it didn’t replace the feedback loop that kept them coming back. He took away the “game” for the customer – the great feeling of satisfaction they got that they were working the system and getting a deal. While this is impacting sales in the short run there is research to support that Ron is on the right track. It is a question of whether or not he will run out of time.

There is a lot of criticism around the JCP strategy. Let’s face it the old paradigm was only creating a race to the bottom and it doesn’t make sense to go back to it to get back sales in the short-term. JCP was seen as a place to bargain shop – not a brand that had an emotional connection for the customer. Not a brand that drove the kind of loyalty and sales seen at Apple. It was time to change the game: reinvent the brand and attract a new customer base. Additionally the old pricing strategy was creating a lot of work for JCP to manage making it very complex all around.

I totally believe in Ron Johnson and what he is trying to achieve. I applaud his courage to pursue a vision that is about something bigger. We shall see how the buttons work for them this holiday season. Hopefully customers will come back to the store to use them. I know I will.

Accenture Interactive Mobile Shopping Report

Report: For mobile shopping, personalization outweighs privacy concerns

Check out this report on Mobile shopping. Interesting data. I agree with the perspective of the Accenture Exec:
“The showrooming trend can pose a threat to retailers, given that nearly a third of our respondents make their final online purchases with other stores,” said Baiju Shah, managing director of strategy and innovation for Accenture Interactive. “But consumers don’t want to shop online exclusively and our work with retailers shows that physical stores don’t have to compete on price alone but rather focus on the whole experience. Retailers need to create a seamless, multi-channel experience that blends the digital and physical, and delivers convenience, price and relevance.”

C-Wonder executes on the Internet of Things, Cloud and Mobile POS!

cwonderstore C. Wonder came to us with a bold strategy of delivering exceptional customer service with unique and remarkable products and great value. Typically retailers deliver successfully in one or two areas, but C. Wonder wanted to aim higher and deliver it all. They said it’s what their customers would want. They believed a critical element of successful execution would be to leverage technology in new ways. We worked together to design a truly innovative experience…

The store has:
– Mobile POS without a POS system – they have integrated to their ERP backend. This allows them to analyze real-time sales data and give sourcing immediate feedback on what is selling and what is not.
– Fully RFID-enabled supply chain
– Video from store to the corporate offices.
– Smart Shelves reacting to RFID tags on products. Check out the images of the C-Wonder RFID “hotspots.”

This blog entry sums it up fairly well. Here is an excerpt.

“I remember in the good old days (well at least a couple of weeks ago..) when opening a new store required a large hardware investment and was a major store systems project.  Servers to be installed.  POS terminals to be installed.  Checkout Counters shipped. Network cabling run to the counters.  Electrical to the Counter.  Holes drilled in the counter for wiring and power. Make sure you have all the right connector cables…and enough electric outlets at the front end.   Install and mount the payment terminal,  pole displays. Connect the scanner. Hook up the printer. (Anyone see the printer cable?) Don’t forget to install an extra register to be used only on Black Friday and the week before Christmas. Load the software and test.  Train cashiers on the POS system.  Train them again.  Open the store.  You know the drill. We all do. That’s all changing.  What does the future look like? Imagine, if you will — no store servers in the back room, no fixed registers taking up valuable selling space.  (and get rid of all those connector cables!)The future is a retail world where cloud computing powers the store.  Web interfaces provide configuration and reporting.  Goodbye registers and hello mobile.

Tablets, iPads and iTouch’s for management and sales clerks.  Scanner and payment peripherals installed before shipment to the store. Software seamlessly distributed from the cloud to every device.  Management reports available on the tablets.  Intuitive mobile POS on the devices requiring limited to no training.  The retail systems for the store of the future will be as simple as sending the iPad’s and iTouch’s to the store, syncing with the cloud POS system, and opening the doors.Yes, I think I saw the future of retail store systems at C-Wonder and it is here now powered by VeriFone – leading the mobile retail revolution.

Burberry Flagship

The new Burberry Flagship store has some great real-life digital (the combination of digital/physical experiences). Much of what was deployed has similar elements we deployed for the Prada Store which is so great to see!

An Ironic Twist: Pure Play Moves to Bricks and Mortar

eBay_window_3There may come a day when online shopping will represent a larger portion of sales than those made in a physical location but for now it’s still a small percent of overall commerce. While many bricks and mortar are concerned by being overtaken by their online competition they should not forget about the power of the physical space. The physical location is still where most purchases are made. It’s also where you can make the greatest connection to your brand.

An now pure play retailers are looking to build stronger connections to their customers through physical locations.

Piperlime Store in Soho

According to Reuters, Amazon has open physical stores to put the Kindle products in front of more consumers. Given how quick it is to get pop-up stores up and running the company could still conceivably establish locations in the US before the holiday shopping season, now that the largest retailer Walmart has wiped its flagship product off its store shelves.

“Virtual Reality” Meetings

My sketch of a next-generation environment. Experience is the same whether you enter the physical room or from a device.

My sketch of a next-generation environment. It looks the same when you enter physically or digitaly from any device.

You might remember second life and shudder. However there were things about it that were compelling and the future is going to see a rise again of virtual reality settings. However like anything old that is new again they never quite come back in the same way (think bell bottoms).

The new virtual worlds will be streamlined for everyday use – assisting in conducting the remotely held boardroom meetings, brainstorming sessions or enabling perpetual “war” rooms. They are a metaphor that everyone can grasp immediately and begin to engage without much of a learning curve. Let’s call them Digital Environments rather than Virtual Reality.

While you can enter the room online you can also walk in to the Digital Environment when you enter a physical room (very Inception-like) seeing content posted by others in the “room” or real-time video of the other participants as they engage and interact. Use any device to engage with the displays.

You won’t need an “avatar” just the ability to see the walls of the room and engage with the frames on the wall. Dropping in content that can be viewed and edited by all… or everyone can do a brainstorm put up post-its from any location. Fun!

This will create a need to provide a context for a new wave of applications that enable people to perform tasks across different end points — but in fun and engaging ways like they are imagining at Innovation Games.

Apple Customer Service Insights

Gizmodo got a hold of Apple’s Secret Training Manual. According to Gizmodo’s Sam Biddle, “We read Apple’s secret Genius training manual from cover to cover. It’s a penetrating look inside Apple: psychological mastery, banned words, roleplaying—you’ve never seen anything like it.”

It shows you that nothing at the Apple Store was taken for granted. It is not just about technical knowledge and training but about how to treat people. As much time is spent on communication as is spent on technical training.

Here is another interesting post on Apple’s 5 Steps of Service

Razorfish’s Annual Technology Report Explores the Future

To help CTOs and CMOs navigate this ever-changing landscape, Razorfish, one of the world’s fastest growing digital agencies, has launched volume three of the annual Razorfish 5. The report covers a mix of new technologies and techniques that can help organizations better support an evolving, overly-matrixed world.

“The first two editions of the Razorfish 5 focused on how cloud computing was impacting enterprises,” said Ray Velez, global chief technology officer at Razorfish. “Today, the cloud is no longer just about servers, it’s about removing barriers to innovation. Recognizing this progression, the report’s 2012 theme is about moving beyond the cloud; using Big Data-enabled targeted digital experiences with technology platforms and APIs to move businesses forward.”

The cornerstone of this year’s Razorfish 5 is an article on maximizing impact from company-controlled digital channels–commonly referred to as “site-side” and “owned” targeting. To help level set how a brand’s owned sites personalize user experiences, Razorfish and Adobe conducted the first ever Targeting Readiness Study based on conversations with more than 120 U.S. CEOs, CIOs, CTOs and CMOs with $500 million or more in annual revenue. Key findings include:

  • While 49% of survey respondents consider themselves strong at targeting experiences
  • to segmented groups of online audiences, only 12% have implemented the ability to target a recognized segment on their owned properties and measure the results.
  • Less than 50% were able to recognize a returning/loyal customer
  • versus a prospect on their owned properties.
  • Only 82% of respondents viewed .com as an owned channel. The number drops to 50% regarding mobile.
  • Only 24% of companies have implemented a process for creative development
  • so that content can be served dynamically and reused across segments.

All of the aforementioned findings point towards a significant lost opportunity for engagement, and consequently revenue. The article concludes with a plan of attack for companies to bring together technology platforms, analytics, data activation and experience design, in a way that is tangible for most marketers.

Another Social Retailing Mirror Emerges

Another example of the shopping approach we pioneered in 2007 called Social Retailing which combines the social networks with the physical stores to enable shoppers to connect with their friends in real-time. Read more about the solution developed by digital signage OmniMirror from Australian software company 5 Faces.

New Frontier: Measuring Brand Experience

It’s very difficult for companies to measure the success of your brand-building efforts and to know where to invest. Check out this work done by Landor on Measuring brand experience. They are builing off of the customer journey map to identify the driver touch points in the experience to determine what to measure and where to invest.

Landor's Chart: Five Stages of the Grocery Experience

Landor’s Chart: Five Stages of the Grocery Experience

I think this is a great piece of work but should include more up front thinking on the organizations goals, trends, competitive analysis to ensure there is a clear strategy underlying the brand promise. Border’s Books taught us that while you are focused on building a great experience you need to make sure to keep an eye on the changing business landscape.

Cisco “StyleMe” for John Lewis

StyleMe John Lewis 19 April Our IBSG team has built a version of an interactive mirror with a focus on the use of augmented reality to virtually try on the clothes. Check out the Bloomberg coverage.

Congratulations team!

Gucci combines physical, mobile commerce via digital store-in-store

Italian fashion house Gucci is working with Samsung Electronics to offer an immersive in-store experience devoted to the label’s timepieces and jewelry that combines physical and mobile commerce.

“Gucci is essentially providing the ability to learn more about its product line through multichannel approaches with a focus on visual storytelling,” said Dalia Strum, president of Dalia Inc., New York.

“The multiple points of entry to reach as well as educate their consumers establishes a content value across each platform and should result in a stronger return on investment for the brand,” she said.

1) Consumers can scan QR codes placed on Facebook, Google+ and a video on Gucci’s watches and jewelry microsite at to view mobile-optimized content about the new timepieces (see story).

2) The label will push its Bamboo and I-Gucci watch collections via an in-store display with Samsung’s new transparent viewing screens and offer browsing opportunities with a digital shop-in-shop section. Read more on Digital In Store.