Customer Experience Technology Retools Brand Strategy

As the role of technology in everyday life evolves, so do the expectations of consumers and how it should play in both the brick-and-mortar and online shopping experience. Trends indicate that shoppers prefer self-service over personalized attention, prompting retailers to deliver do-it-yourself customer experiences across all brand touchpoints. To stay ahead of the curve, brands need to develop a comprehensive marketing strategy that leverages multichannel technologies at the storefront and across screen-driven devices to satisfy consumers’ need to control their interaction from web browsing to in-store purchase. Here are some tips:

Marry the CMO to the CTO.  The next-generation retail store requires the meeting of the minds between the CMO and CTO. Successful business growth is not led by gratuitous marketing attempts. Transformative marketing strategies will drive sales, create efficiencies, and cement long-term customer loyalty. Investing in customer experience technology as a roadmap for brand marketing goals will enable long-term growth. Done right, cross-platform technology can create an experience that increases market share, drives customer loyalty, and adapts. Innovative systems should evolve and grow with retail’s changing needs and be able to scale without being cost prohibitive.

Hire an employee who never sleeps. Natural language, intelligent virtual agent (IVA) technology enables companies to have conversations that are highly personalized and offer a high degree of understanding between the IVA and the customer, similar to that of a human being. With IVAs retailers can market and serve their online customers in unique and innovative ways, such as providing product assistance, making recommendations, running sales promotions, or providing important customer notifications (e.g., low inventory). Furthermore, they can offer consistent service through web, mobile, and social channels to thousands of customers at the same time.

Additionally, customized virtual agents activated from a kiosk or customized app can cost effectively extend in-store teams during high traffic seasons, allowing each customer to interact with the brand while browsing at the point of saleBy simply accessing a customer’s data profile, virtual agents become brand ambassadors able to bridge in-store and online worlds to assist the customer, reduce overheads, and help garner loyalty. Intelligent virtual agents leveraged in-store is akin to a personal shopper that upholds self-service marketing strategy by giving shoppers detailed product information, recommendations, and customer reviews. Online they need to have the ability to flawlessly deliver company information in an easy, natural way—critical for maintaining customer loyalty.

Be part of your customer’s lifestyle.  In our always-on, screen-driven world, social and mobile platforms have become a lifestyle. Customers expect in-the-moment mobile service literally at their fingertips when looking at an item. Recent studies show that more than 80 percent of smartphone users who use banking apps want a solution that enables them to easily and directly contact a customer service representative, without having to dial. Retailers need to mimic this demand at the point of sale and duplicate it online to provide an experience that gives customers choices.

Adequately connecting with consumers will require brands to employ versatile IVAs accessible simultaneously on any popular devices to support the in-store experience, including product purchase. Let’s face it; standing in a long checkout line waiting to be ushered to a cashier is an experience that many prefer to avoid and is being successfully done by Apple and other cutting-edge brands in a way that prevents theft, saves time, and keeps customers happy.   

Make it personal.  Personalizing the customer experience from purchase history or digital footprint provides relevant, up-to-date information and increases sales. Customers want to be known, and get responses to questions relevant to their own personal profiles, which for retailers becomes actionable in building customer service and sales strategies. Real-time data capture collects shopping preferences from cell phones and past online shopping profiles to guide customers toward preferences, promotional items or complimentary products. Additional analytics can provide insights into customer interests based on questions they’re asking or buying decisions they make, which retailers can use proactively to optimize their programs and meet business goals.

Socialize your customers: Having access to a brand in real time from a variety of touch oints is no longer a nice-to-have; it’s a must-have to stay competitive. Multichannel (web, social, mobile) solutions are enabling companies to be everywhere, all the time to meet customer demand. Meeting your customers on today’s popular social media channels with a customized IVA makes brands competitive, reduces customer support costs, and measures customer interaction. Customer convenience is the name of the game, and if customers have question, problem, or concern, or want to review your product, it needs to be available 24/7.

Create brand consistency.   Brand loyalty is accelerated when companies deliver a homogeneous experience, on the web, through mobile applications, tablets, social sites, and even call centers supporting retail brands. It’s essential for companies to offer a seamless customer experience via consistently managed product information and to deploy a multichannel messaging strategy using virtual assistant technology from a single platform. This strategy, unlocks organizational information silos to access, share, and match profile data to product information based in shopping behavior. This is a marketing formula that harnesses technology to optimize the customer support experience.

Chris Ezekiel is CEO of Creative Virtual.

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