“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

PRODUCT:
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

PEOPLE
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

PLACE
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”