Tips for aligning digital tech to the retail customer journey

Tips for aligning digital tech to the retail customer journey

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By Julie Smith and Kristen Lenci, Point B

Facial recognition, gesture-based computing, voice-controlled homes, personalized digital surfaces — even driverless cars. What seemed futuristic just a few years ago are now part of our daily lives in the form of Facebook, iPhone X, Xbox, Amazon Echo, Google Home — and yes, even self-driving cars.

These digital technologies come together in physical spaces to form the 'digital ecosystem.' More than just a mobile phone, the digital ecosystem includes screens, projections and interactive in-store, drive-thru technologies, communication tools, and sensors that communicate relevant content to drive awareness, understanding, education and action.

The retail industry is poised to take full advantage of this digital ecosystem in the coming years. Consider:
•    By 2023, the digital signage market will grow to $32.8 billion, from $19.6 billion in 2016 (7.4 percent CAGR), and nearly everywhere one turns in any public place, they'll likely encounter a digital sign.
•    By 2030, 'immediate and individualized' offers will be suggested to customers leveraging technologies like phone RFID, customer wearables, and biometrics (finger and palm scanners).
•    Store-front real estate will become interactive virtual stores, curating different content based on time of day, customer behavior, and nearby smart phone data.
•    Traditional POS touch points will be removed, allowing for frictionless shopping experience for the customer and robust data collection for the retailer, and stores will have a blended 'in-store and entertainment experiences'(mix of galleries, café, music, and bars) tapping into customer's desires to build brand trust and loyalty.

As the sci-fi aspect of digital technology slowly becomes reality, consumers accept and expect more personalized technology.

Personalization is not a new concept — with a majority of consumers willing to switch brands if they do not receive one. What is new is the willingness of customers to share deeply personal information — from finger prints to facial 'prints' — in exchange for value.

In fact, a recent Oracle consumer study revealed 49 percent of restaurant customers and 62 percent of hotel guests approve of the use of facial recognition technology, with 70 percent stating that suggesting items based on past experiences would improve their experience or would like to have this option.

At the same time, technology trends are bringing together physical and digital experiences, combining entertainment with utility, engaging consumers and making traditional friction points frictionless. A few examples include:
•    Chili's and Red Robin are providing tabletop screens for ordering, payment and games, reframing 'wait time' through entertainment.
•    Pizza Hut's eye tracking and Coca-Cola's use of Google beacons to track user behavior and detect customer preferences and latent needs.
•    iPhone X's iPay facial recognition is allowing consumers to literally pay with their faces.
•    Adidas' endless aisle and Ikea's virtual rug display, which are improving access to decision making information and products.

Leading brands are already successfully incorporating a digital ecosystem to provide enhanced customer value. McDonalds is planning to roll out its 'Experience of the Future' concept in all U.S. locations by 2020, which will leverage enhanced digital capabilities and technology to dramatically elevate the customer experience; and Dunkin Donuts' testing of 30 'Stores of the Future' concepts, featuring new and innovative technologies and design elements including the first drive-thru exclusively for mobile ordering.

What this tells us is the digital ecosystem is more than just 'whiz-bang' technology. It holds the power to increase the value of your customer experiences and amplify your competitive advantage.

However, most retailers focus on their ability to implement these technologies before first asking: does digital technology even make sense for the business? How will it help solve some of my key customer or business challenges?

Here's what you should consider before deciding whether the latest digital technologies make sense for your business.
•    What do you want to achieve with digital technology? Sometimes the latest bright shiny objects aren't always best for your customer or business. Your digital ecosystem should support your existing customers, their needs, and your core strategy and your brand. Start by understanding your current customers and their journey.
•    Create your vision and develop your digital strategy. Determine how the technology fits into the bigger picture, drill down and determine what's driving the desire for the technology and what kind of ROI you'll realize.
•    Test and be willing to try new things. With all the different technologies available, be sure you're not throwing away money — test out tools that map to your goals.

Ultimately, your digital ecosystem needs to make sense to your customers and fit your overarching strategy. Be sure you are implementing technology with your business goals in mind, and whatever tools you select will enhance your customer experience and unique value proposition to avoid the'whiz-bang' technology for technology's sake pitfalls.


Topics: Consumer Behavior, Customer Experience, Customer Service, Digital Merchandising, Digital Signage, Display Technology, Technology

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