Will Retail Brands Use More Immersion in 2016?

This blog is by Liz Parry, Strategic Account Director at Teleperformance UK.

Nesta, the National Endowment for Science, Technology, and the Arts, is an independent charity working to improve innovation in the UK. They recently published their view on how UK retail will evolve in 2016 and it contains some interesting insights.

The two key insights that Nesta talk of for the year ahead are the use of the omnichannel and brand immersion. Omnichannel is often talked about in terms of communication technologies and channels, brands supporting a multichannel environment, but the bigger picture is to create a consistently good experience with the brand across all channels.

Great examples of brands creating a fantastic in-store experience that can support their online offering include Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley, where diners can watch the activity of a Michlin-starred kitchen team, M&M World, John Lewis where the ‘Man on the Moon’ ad campaign is interactive in stores, and Burberry, where customers can try on clothes and see themselves live on a virtual catwalk.

But Nesta suggests that brands who think more deeply about how customers can be immersed into the products or brand values will find even more success and they believe there is a crossover with the arts – brands will need to consider how they can create a performance that relates to their products and places the customer at the heart of the performance.

The Punchdrunk theatre company created an immersive theatre experience called Silverpoint for Absolut vodka and the British events company Secret Cinema has combined custom-built sets with interactive performance and movie screenings.

I have not seen many analysts talking about this concept of brand immersion, but I can see exactly what Nesta is suggesting – brands that offer a fantastic online experience need to consider how they recreate this in person. A shop with products lined up on a shelf does not necessarily reflect how the brand wants to be seen.

What do you think of these predictions, especially the idea that retailers need to be more immersive? Leave a comment here or get in touch via my LinkedIn. 

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US Consumers Rejecting Home Broadband In Favour of Mobiles

An interesting survey of US broadband consumers in the USA showed some interesting results recently. The Pew Research centre found that 80% of US adults have access to the Internet now, which is increasing slowly because presumably most people in the US who want access already have it, however there is a decline in the people using home broadband.

This is interesting. Home broadband users in the USA declined in the last two years from 70% to 67%. During the same period of time the percentage of adults only using a phone for Internet access rose from 8% to 13%.

It’s not clear if these results are correlated, but it looks that way, however I believe there is a more complicated picture and what is playing out in the USA right now may be something to watch for in Europe in 2016.

Everyone knows that landlines are obsolete for many people now that mobile phones are ubiquitous. To many young people, the idea of calling a building is amusing and doesn’t connect to the idea of calling a person at all so it’s easy to understand why so many people no longer bother with a landline, but these new observations are a little more unusual.

It’s understandable that many people use their phone as their primary window on the Internet. It’s where social networks are updated, news is followed, and most of the general updates and interactions take place, but the home broadband line – whether it is cable or copper – has a different role.

Increasingly all home entertainment, security, and utility control is being routed over the Internet at home. Spotify for streaming music, Netflix for movies, TV services (that were previously routed via cable), CCTV cameras for when the homeowner is away, and as the Internet of Things becomes more common it will increasingly be normal to control many home functions – devices, lights, heating etc… – using the home broadband network.

Therefore the home broadband network is becoming much more of an essential utility, representing far more than just an Internet connection for a PC in the house. It’s becoming difficult to imagine a home in 2016 that is completely disconnected, unless there is no requirement for any kind of entertainment at all.

If Americans are rejecting the home broadband connection because they feel it is too expensive to maintain when they already have Internet on their phone then the networks need to ask questions about how their services are being utilised and how much they are charging. Are prices really too high or is it just that some consumers are not yet using the Internet for most of their entertainment requirements?

Whatever is taking place in the US, it is worth watching out for similar trends in the UK. As the networks have started competing much more on content and the value of having their service piped into the home, rather than just on technical aspects such as the network speed, attention needs to be focused on whether consumers agree with what the industry strategists believe should be happening?

What do you think of these US broadband trends? Leave a comment here or get in touch via my LinkedIn profile.

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Looking Ahead To The Customer Experience in 2016

So we are now just a couple of weeks from the New Year and so much has changed this year. It never fails to surprise me just how quickly customer expectations of service can develop. As each New Year begins I always try to think about what will be the important subjects we need to focus on for customers in the year ahead.

This is my list of subjects or trends that I think will shape 2016:

  • There has been some consolidation and some strategic reversals, like Serco refocusing on the public sector. I expect a few more deals to take place next year.
  • Companies are still struggling to get a single view of the customer even though it has been on their priority list for a long time now. Terms like omnichannel and Big Data appear to be less favoured and RPA is clearly the next big thing. The robots are coming.
  • Security and Fraud are big areas of focus now. Companies can face an existential threat if they lose customer data, so all eyes are on how to protect important information.
  • Suppliers of outsourced services are talking much more about the total cost of ownership now, rather than the lowest unit rate. It’s clear that companies are focusing on partnership with sustainable value and innovation.
  • Several industries have quite specific problems. The utilities are struggling with volume and a seamless customer experience. Financial services are still regaining the confidence of customers after years of scandal and regulatory pressures. Retailers are finding the customer journey expected by mobile and online customers very hard to deliver. Telcos are moving into content, but their own infrastructure often causes delivery problems.

With all this is mind there is an exciting 2016 ahead. The relationship between companies that work on customer experience solutions is changing and innovation often arises from partnership now. I believe that many of the challenges faced by companies with a customer journey or experience issue are going to be resolved in 2016 because the importance of building a business around the customer experience has now been acknowledged.

What do you think will be important for the customer experience in 2016? Leave a comment here or get in touch via my LinkedIn profile.
Future city

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Omnichannel Truths for 2016

One of the most important developments around customer experience in 2015 was the importance of omnichannel service. Originally this developed from a need to respond to the various new channels customers were using. This multichannel environment spawned the omnichannel once companies realised that these services need to be interconnected.

But this original need to just keep answering customer requests on new channels has grown into a complete customer experience strategy that can increase revenue. You no longer need to design an omnichannel strategy just to keep up with the customers; you can do it now because it makes good business sense. Walmart is a great retail example, where they have shown that customers shopping across various channels are worth nearly twice as much to them as those who only ever shop in-store.

Regardless of your industry, this change in approach speaks to a fact we sometimes forget – customers don’t care about your omnichannel strategy, they just want a simple and enjoyable experience.

The internal complexities of your organisation are immaterial. Customers expect to be treated consistently well across all the supported channels. Sometimes those of us who are focused on the customer experience get too wrapped up in specific channel conditions and service design, but the bottom line is that so long as your service team is available, has knowledgeable people, and can meet the needs of the customer in a polite and efficient manner then that is all the customer requires.

Let’s think in more detail about this in 2016. The omnichannel is becoming more important, but it is far more than just adding channels to the customer service function. In many cases, going for a true omnichannel solution where you can consistently work across any channel requires a complete rethink of how you interact with customers.

What do you think will happen to the omnichannel in 2016? Leave a comment here or get in touch via my LinkedIn profile.

Walmart Customer Selects a Fabric Reintroduced to Product Mix

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Fintech will get serious in 2016

I have written in the past about how the financial services industry is changing in the UK, in particular how customer loyalty is being affected by the proliferation of price comparison engines and new start-ups offering services that are better and cheaper than the big banks. But will there be a tipping point in 2016 where traditional banks find that the market has shifted so much that they can no longer control how the average customer uses banking services?

A new bank called Tandem recently received their full banking licence from the Bank of England, the fifth new bank in the UK in 2015 and the 21st since 2012. New banks like Tandem and Atom are both hoping that customers comfortable with technology will be happy to buy into their app-only (plus voice support if needed) business model.

They might not have the brand identity of the big established banks, but they believe that they can offer better deals to the customer by offer the same type of services without the need to maintain a national branch network.

It’s a view that many in the banking industry echo. Many industry insiders fear that the Financial Technology (fintech) explosion will see new firms eat at least half of all the traditional banking business. KPMG just published their fintech 100 list for 2015 and they believe that 2016 really is going to be the year that banking changes forever.

Fintech investment was £12bn globally in 2014. This year it was over $20bn and this is growing fast with over 10,000 small companies around the world competing to offer new services. KPMG believes that the big difference in 2016 is that this is when the big banking groups will wake up to the threat and invest hundreds of billions of dollars into making this technology work for them – invest next year will probably top $30bn.

The big traditional banks have hundreds of years of heritage and trust. Those brands still really mean something, so if they are finally going to start investing in making fintech work for their own customers then this is going to be an exciting year ahead.

What do you think about the fintech boom? Leave a comment here or get in touch via my LinkedIn profile.

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‘Connected’ Broadband: The Trojan Horse that could prove key in securing and retaining subscribers?

I have blogged regularly about how broadband/network provision are the basic ‘table stakes’ that consumers expect. There is no longer a wow factor about speed – consumers expect the network to be fast, reliable, and allow them to do what they want. The last criteria is the key for me and will dictate who wins in this space.

It is fairly clear that we are moving more and more into the ‘connected world’ – whether you like it or not – we are going to be interacting more with our homes, cars, the environment more and more to undertake our daily lives. We have seen Amazon introduce Alexa and the ability to repeat order directly from a widget on your fridge.

We have seen TV’s become ‘smarter’ allowing you to talk to friends, order food, and stream content. All of this requires the best possible broadband/network speed and it is why I see it as the Trojan Horse that can secure and retain consumers. It can be a key weapon for providers in the fight for subscribers.

Provider A and B can both provide lightning fast broadband speeds but it won’t be long before providers start to differentiate through targeting the connected home/office space. Cloud technology will allow providers to develop and deploy new services at rapid speed – all of which can have the combined objective of making it as easier as possible for Consumers to communicate in their home/office as possible.

Swisscom’s ‘Internet Box’ seems to be an early example of this and I can see a not too distant future where Consumers select a Broadband provider based on the fact that their router comes with software that allows them to very quickly ‘plug-and-play’ and configure what devices they want to talk to and in what way. Who knows, we may enter a future of ‘connected-profiles’ where a consumer’s software token is downloaded to a provider’s router to allow for rapid deployment of personalised ‘connected’ options.

It is impossible to predict the future but the world is coming ‘alive’ around us – and providers of broadband are well aware of the opportunities this could bring.

Please leave a comment or get in touch with me directly via my LinkedIn profile here.

Horse. Possibly Trojan!

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Retail in 2016 will be about Mobile and Millennials

This blog is by Liz Parry, Strategic Account Director at Teleperformance UK.

The effect of the millennials, or Generation Y (those born after 1980), is less pronounced in the UK than the USA, but it is becoming a significant factor in how retailers plan their customer experience strategy. In India, half of all working adults are millennials and in the USA millennials became the majority of working adults this year, whereas in the UK it is estimated that by 2020, 16.3% of the total population will be millennials.

With markets like the USA experiencing a bigger push from Millennial customers, what can the UK learn from these markets about what is important to this group of shoppers? A recent study by Blackhawk in the US identified these key findings: 

  • Millennials rank gift cards as the safest method of making online purchases. 
  • 89 percent use smart phones to connect to the Internet on a daily basis.
  • 55 percent rely on social media as their primary source for shopping news and information, easily out distancing television, which ranked sixth.
  • 95 percent have the same or greater sensitivity to price as last year.

I’m not sure the gift card observation applies so much to the UK market, but what generally leaps out at me from these stats is mobile, mobile, and mobile. Just look at how much value millenials give to TV and TV advertising. Now TV is in sixth place for information about what to buy, which is such an incredible change in the past few years. How many of us now watch TV by our planner, fast forwarding the TV ads?

Nine out of ten millennials are using the mobile Internet on a daily basis, getting recommendations about what to buy from their social friends, and so we are in an environment where these customers research products, are checking prices, and purchasing, all from their phones. Even if they visit a store, many will still make the actual purchase by phone or in store digital kiosk, using the store visit to see the product (if in stock) and using it as a chance to kick the tyres of whatever it was they were thinking about purchasing. A truly converged multichannel experience, with the benefit of not having to carry the product home!

Though the UK has fewer millennials than the US as a proportion of the total national population, how this demographic group behaves is important as they define future demands in the marketplace. From this data I can see that retailers need to be on top of their mobile strategy in 2016 because that’s where the customer journey starts and ends for so many customers today.

Nederland beweegt

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