Today’s interactive customer experience is morphing quickly into an emotional consumer experience — and while technology is obviously a necessary part it’s not the sole ingredient in crafting a strategic digital interaction between retailers and shoppers.
"It’s about people," Laura Davis-Taylor told attendees Wednesday during the ICX Association’s fall ICX symposium in Atlanta. Davis-Taylor, executive vice president, customer experience, and Ed King, vice president, strategy, at MaxMedia, presented the finale keynote session of the two-day event aimed at providing B2C brands actionable insights in applying effective tech-based customer engagement strategies.
Each event in the ICX Symposium series focuses on a single topic, and the Atlanta event, "Inflection Point: The Future Tech of Customer Experience," offered attendees practical steps for using emerging technologies to secure success for the future.
In their session, "Welcome to retail's emotional economy — analog, digital, sensory & sound. How it all comes together for emotional retail," Davis-Taylor and King provided a wide range of examples reflecting various approaches in emotional and compelling marketing efforts.
"It’s about providing the consumer with a delightful moment," said King, noting that "everyone sells Cheerios but consumers chose somewhere to buy them, and the goal is understanding why consumers chose to shop where they do."
Such a strategy is the nature of what King and Davis-Taylor call "Retail 3.0."
"It’s about the senses — taste, touch, sound, talk — and reaching the subconscious of the shopper and senses are the biggest influences to make that happen," said King. "Emotion is the trigger and it changes everything."
Alluding to how LP record stores were a big favorite for the Baby Boomer generation, Davis-Taylor asked attendees to answer one simple question: Why is your favorite store your favorite store?
"Our senses drive our experiences, and the sensory aspect can make or break the customer experience," she explained.
The two use the acronym "CENTER" to illustrate what’s needed for an emotional-focused customer experience: comfort (no threat aspect), easy, novel (something unique), tactile, engaging (shoppers remember the experience) and rewarding (loyalty programs to helping with something good for a community).
"Customers want to be part of the story with a brand. You want them to come in, linger and connect," said King, with Davis-Taylor noting how consumers want to be actively engaged in the shopping experience and like the "organic" ambiance that an emotion-focused experience can deliver.
In addition to engaging a consumer’s senses, King explained the effort also must create what’s viewed as a "bliss point" for the shopper.
"This is a chemically created, perfect experience," and it’s tied to developing "mood media," which is a state of mind created for the consumer, he said.
The two illustrated video-wall technology being used by retail clothing chain Hollister as an example. Another example is how non-food retailers are creating coffee house areas within the store to let shoppers relax and take a break while in the retail space.
"Shoppers are going in to buy an item or browse and then see this opportunity to sit and enjoy good coffee as part of the process," Davis-Taylor said. "That’s going the extra mile to create the emotion experience."
A prime example of such strategy is what retailer Pirch is doing with its stores, they said. The personal touches go as far as providing the CEO’s cell phone number as part of wall décor. And, yes, shared King, one customer has called the number to verify it was real.
"All our senses are tied to memory and even smell is part of that," said King as he played some sound bites and asked attendees to share what the sound triggered as a memory.
"We have to start thinking like orchestra directors," said Davis-Taylor, noting that senses and digital technologies are serving as the wide range of instruments found in an orchestra. "You serve as the orchestra leader of the entire experience."
One of the final examples the duo cited as a successful effort is the AT&T flagship store in Chicago that boasts 129 screens that support 4,000 pieces of content. Every 30 minutes the digital displays stop and go with a simple serene reflection that "captures a takeout moment." The 30-second "breath" resets the mood of the store and "celebrates that the customer is there."
Now is the time for stores and businesses "to put art and science together," Davis-Taylor said.
That’s why it can’t be just technology or just digital sense creativity. "You must go beyond technology for the sake of technology and pull in the human touch," King said. "The science of retail has been around forever. The emotional journey is the new frontier."
/ Judy Mottl is an experienced editor, reporter and blogger who has worked for top media including AOL, InformationWeek and InternetNews. She’s written everything from breaking news to in-depth trends. She loves a great pitch so email here, follow on Twitter and connect on LinkedIn.