Navigating the modern customer journey? Here’s how not to get lost in orbit
If you’ve ever watched the movie ‘Interstellar’, you’d be familiar with Miller’s Planet – a place where every minute was equivalent to seven years on Earth.
But you’re probably wondering what the heck does that have to do with eCommerce or customer journeys?
Hang on a tick, because Ali Rezvan, Retail Industry Director at Microsoft explained more at our recent CX Circle event, sharing insights on the modern customer journey, what we’re up against, and what retail of the future looks like.
Customer journeys in the new normal
Many things about the pandemic times we’re living in have been unprecedented. COVID-19 changed everything about the way we do things and the situation continues to develop rapidly. One of the most rapid areas of change has certainly been companies doubling down on customer experience (CX).
According to KPMG, companies focusing on CX may stand the best chance of supporting their customers and protecting their business, while also laying the seeds for future growth.
“One of the things everyone talks about is the rapid pace of change. Things have moved so fast during COVID and we have seen new records being set,” says Ali.
“When first launched in 2018, Pokemon Go had the fastest speed to 50 million users, reached in 19 days. This year, Aarogya Setu, an Indian contact tracing mobile app, reached this number of users in just 13!”
We are at a point where infrastructure, technology, and platforms are no longer the barriers to reaching scale. “So for digital retailers, these shouldn’t be the barriers to providing a good customer experience either,” says Ali.
Going back to the Miller’s Planet reference, Ali (very obviously a massive fan of Interstellar!) asks: “What if at the back of our minds, we apply the one minute for every seven years rule to eCommerce too as we build our customer journey?”
To illustrate the point, Ali uses the example of purchasing a DSLR camera on Amazon. “First, you select location, then search for your product, filter preferences by several factors – but yet you are still overwhelmed by choice.” He explains that in physical retail, lots of choices can work, even making you buy more.
But online? “All it does is make a customer more anxious, sapping away at your time and releasing a tidal wave of choices which don’t give you the information you’re after. Several minutes have passed – and you are still none the wiser and nowhere near making a purchase decision”
Modern customer journeys are signaling for change
One of the hypotheses is that people in retail say they have more data than they know what to do with. “That’s where signals come in, the experience. How is that being a part of your journey? How is that creating better environments for your customers?”
Ali says that for a long time, much of the customer’s experience was dictated by brands. This then went through retailers and finally down to customers. “But what’s happened over the last 18 months is that customers are dictating the experiences and journey. No longer is it an outward-in dictation of the customer journey, it is inward-out.”
A growing trend in both retail and customer experiences is community. Ali cites Kaave Pour, the CEO of Space10, IKEA’s innovation lab, who said that future retail design is about community, is kinder, and more inclusive. “It’s about us and our tribes and learning who and what those tribes are. There is a misconception that consumers don’t want their data to be worked on. But the research shows that people are happy to trade something off if there is something to be gained.”
Research has shown more than 63% of consumers expect some form of personalization, that is relevant and recognizes them as individuals.
Want to watch the whole thing? Go to the CX Circle Recap page to watch Ali Razvan’s presentation!
Are brands keeping pace with customer expectations?
Ali says that we will continue to see brands shifting approaches and behaviors to embrace inclusivity and widen their communities.
“Luxury retailers such as Gucci, Balenciaga, and Louis Vuitton have eSports ambassadors now. They understand that within this community, there are customers with needs. If they are not talking or presenting to them, then an entire consumer base is missed out.”
But it’s not only about receiving signals for improving digital experiences. While eCommerce has seen exponential growth during the pandemic, it has not completely replaced traditional brick and mortar stores.
In fact, research has shown that despite being the more digitally savvy generation, Gen Z prefers to research online but shop in physical stores.
“Physical retail stores are certainly here to stay. Even completely digital brands such as Gymshark are making an appearance in stores now. So that’s why the focus should be on transforming those in-store experiences for customers.” Ali points out that with a new generation, comes new expectations. Understanding their shopping behaviors and social values matters when providing meaningful experiences.
Third Man Records, a retail store and music venue in the heart of London’s Carnaby Street is an instance of old-school meeting new in-store experiences.
“They’ve gone for experiential services within the store, customers can record music direct to vinyl, buy books from a ‘Literarium’ vending machine. Here is a young, independent label understanding what the research is telling us.”
Deeper customer insights are creating the future of retail
In Ali’s view, the value of understanding the modern customer journey lies in three broad areas: executing journeys, revenue upside, and stemming negative experiences.
“Retailers have struggled to achieve a single view of the customer, let alone a complete view of their journey. On average, there’d be 16 different systems with customer data with more than half unable to share information between systems. It’s so important to never miss a signal.”
Earlier this year at the National Retail Federation, Microsoft Cloud for Retail was announced. The vision for this product is to deliver seamless experiences across the entire shopper journey.
“At Microsoft, we are about enabling cool people to do cool things. Our whole ethos is about providing the power to do more with customer journeys through data and footprint, which allows us to build more inclusivity. For example, we designed an Xbox Adaptive Controller to meet the needs of gamers with limited mobility.”
Ali believes that retail will also have its place in the new Metaverse. “The future verse will be owned by you as consumers and different retailers. Our objective is to be the technology platform which enables that to happen.”
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