Keeping the customer experience simple in the digital age

Experts discuss the pressing challenges of keeping the customer journey seamless in a complex tech-driven marketplace

As big data, cloud-based platforms and wearables infiltrate the ecommerce space, the pressure is on retailers to focus on what really makes the customer experience simple, seamless and relevant.

Speaking at the Online Retailer and Ecommerce Expo in Sydney, three experts discussed the challenges facing the retail industry in a digital age, as well as what really drives a cohesive end-to-end customer journey.

“While brands are having a customer journey, at Salesforce we’re trying to integrate the same journeys as well,” Salesforce head of product marketing, Derek Laney, said. “It’s the intersection between these things that is really getting interesting with technologies.”

From a technology perspective, Melbourne IT Group chief sales officer, Cath Hogson-Croker, predicted migrating data and keeping that data flow for its customers would be one of the biggest challenges going forward. One of the biggest challenges, she said, is ensuring the customer experience is end-to-end.

“Integrating the data and customer view is one of our biggest challenges as a business,” she said. “We also see that with many of our customers who are moving in the online space, and are working in social in particular.”

Australia Post head of ecommerce business, Marc Gauci, claimed partnership is what really counts when it comes to keeping business seamless in the digital age.

“The key thing we’re finding is that merchants and retailers want to partner with us, as opposed to just buying our service,” he said. “This also highlights how selecting the right freight company from the side of the inventory value chain and the e-commerce chain is absolutely important. Having the knowledge of every stage is critical to gaining and keeping that customer.”

Creating a cohesive and seamless experience

In a recent study Salesforce study, The State of Marketing 2015, marketers were asked about how they created the customer journey and ways technology make the process easier.

“Respondents put the mobile application first and said that’s the one thing that is helping them create this cohesion across the physical and digital space,” Laney said. “The second thing was CRM, and the third was analytics. Investment in those three key areas is where we’re seeing our customers bridge that gap to create a cohesive customer journey.”

For Hogson-Croker, one of the elements getting the way of seamless and cohesive customer journeys is having too much choice.

“It’s becoming increasingly difficult to make the right choice,” she said. “So keeping it simple, and being very defined and focused from a customer perspective is the most important thing. It’s something that gets lost when you’re trying to do so much. You get caught in the day-to-day and then you lose focus on what you’re trying to achieve and how to keep focus in driving those relationships across those mediums.

“Just look at social and all the ways you can interact via all the different streams and channels,” she added. “You could easily spread yourself way too thin and be less successful.”

Gauci said having the right technology offering is about ensuring you provide a brilliant user experience that integrates seamlessly.

“It’s important you build your technology offerings and not de-compromise your user experience,” he said. “Just to keep their customer engaged throughout the whole journey.”

Keeping adaptable and agile

With the digital age being so curiosity driven, panellists agreed customers are no longer afraid to explore and test new thing.

“There are great new capabilities where you can use data to inform buying decisions across platforms,” Laney said. “You can take CRM data and test a whole bunch of acquisition campaigns – it is something you can do that’s cloud-based at an incremental cost, it’s not a massive six-month investment. And if it doesn’t work, you can move and try something else.”

Hogson-Croker said testing and failing is all part of keeping agile and innovative as a business moving forward.

“It all sounds like a scary concept but at the same time we’re in such a fabulous industry that is so innovative, and moving at such a rapid pace, that it’s OK to go test and then go change,” she said.

Integrating wearables into the customer journey

Thanks largely to the launch of Apple Watch, wearables are gaining more consumer traction and opening yet another channel for interaction with consumers. The challenge for retailers is how to integrate new technology with the customer experience without getting too caught up in the hype.

Gauci predicted the proliferation of big data and how to use it will be one of the biggest challenges when it comes to wearables.

“Wearables don’t just open up commerce opportunities but also the data we’re going to see,” he said. “The challenge is whether that can be harnessed to something quite useful from these technologies to then feed that back into the store.”

Salesforce is already partnering with vendors in the Internet of Things space and is looking to support those trying to build products. This could be partnering with the Apple Watch, or trying new retail enablement trying to do location identity in-store, Laney said.

“Identity and location are key promises for retail in terms of what you can do with the space,” he said. “At the moment, it is about getting hold of a platform that enables you to test. Then it’s looking at some of the players owning the identity piece – whether they be Facebook or Apple. “From there, it’s thinking of the next generation of loyalty programs and how you get the opt in, but also how you get something on the phone or app that is enabling you to have that conversation.”

Hogson-Croker warned brands not to forget to get the basics of the technology right.

“Some of us are still struggling as online businesses to get our mobile, relationships and one-to-one customer view right,” she said. “You can quickly get caught up in the shimmer of something interesting and fabulous, but if you don’t have the basics right as a technology driven business, then you’re going to be in trouble.”

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