I was visiting someone in the hospital the other day and, looking about the room, noticed an Amazon Echo installed on the wall opposite the hospital bed. There was a sign under the device telling patients that they could ask Alexa to call their nurse or make other requests. In speaking with the nurse I learned that Amazon is working with the hospital in a pilot to test the application of Alexa in the hospital environment. Beyond the hospital, Amazon is pushing Alexa into the hospitality industry, where a growing number of hotels are putting the digital assistant in rooms so guests can request services just by asking.
While this alone is fascinating, and it illustrates just how far and how fast voice-based technology is moving, it really opens up a larger discussion on customer touch points. Retailers today have a fast-growing number of ways to connect with a shopper, inside and outside the store. And, more than ever before, retailers need to be mindful of the human experience they are providing across those myriad touch points because in today’s digital world, user experience is everything.
Consider the many ways a retailer can touch a shopper: In the digital world, that includes the website, mobile, email, text, social media and more. A Deloitte study calls out that “more than 60% of customers interact through multiple channels and irrespective of time, place, device or medium, they expect consistency.” In the store, retailers can engage using kiosks, mobile, and the POS. We can’t forget about print, including the weekly ad and direct mail, along with TV, radio and other mass channels. And of course, just like in the hospital, voice will soon be everywhere.
A good exercise for retail marketers to go through is to create an inventory of all the touch points they currently use, and then alongside that create a list of other touch points that could be deployed or used. Once the list of existing touch points is created, work to understand which shoppers are using each and why. For example, do high-value shoppers regularly use your mobile app? Do more convenience shoppers gravitate to your website?
Don’t forget about your associates; often they are the only interaction the shopper has with your business. The Wall Street Journal had an article recently about how airlines are arming their flight attendants with extensive data on their flyers to facilitate service on board. As a very frequent flyer, I have experienced this firsthand: The attendant addressed me by name and asked if I would like my usual drink. Retailers have untapped potential to arm in-store associates with product and customer intelligence via smartphones to help them provide better service.
One of the largest challenges traditional retailers face is having disparate capabilities and an inability to provide the seamless digital experience across devices and touch points that today’s shoppers are expecting … and demanding. Another Deloitte study (Customer Ambitions Delivered) says, “Research shows 89% of market leaders expect to compete primarily on the basis of customer experience - a number that has jumped from 36% four years ago. As more companies realize the benefits of engaging with their customers along every touch point, customers are growing accustomed to top-of-the-line experiences. Modern customers expect a tailored experience—one with flexible purchasing options, painless technology integrations, and ample opportunities to provide feedback if they receive stellar or subpar products or services.”
Retailers can then extend the inventory of the touch points exercise, thinking through the “mission” of each touch point and its role in growing retailer brand awareness, shopper acquisition, growth and retention. Core to this is making every interaction across each touch point contextually relevant to the shopper. Again, the human experience is critically important.
Every customer engagement at every touch point provides an opportunity to learn more about the shopper and, for digital touch points, provide a more personalized experience. To do this requires identifying the shopper as quickly and easily as possible so that you respond with relevant offers and information. Increasingly, we are seeing digital displays and signage in the store incorporate cameras and other sensors able to provide additional analytics and insights to customer behavior.
- Create and maintain a list of customer touch points used. Consider grouping the touch points such as digital, print, in-store, etc., to better understand your capabilities.
- Create a "mission" for each touch point, which forces you to think through how it can be used to support shopper acquisition, growth and retention.
- Work to create a platform infrastructure that "feeds" each touchpoint to create the seamless—and relevant—experience shoppers want.
- Use every touch point and customer engagement to learn, improving the relevancy of the engagement and learning to make the touch point more valuable.
- Any digital touch points should be fed by real-time intelligence reflecting the latest interactions the shopper has had with you.
Gary Hawkins is the founder and CEO of the Center for Advancing Retail & Technology (CART). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more, join the CART team along with Kate Favrow, corporate marketing manager for AWG, and Roger Marin, CIO of Draeger’s, for the upcoming Customer Touchpoints webinar at 2 p.m. (ET) July 24.