The Need for Customer Experience is Based on Science Not Myth

The need for customer experience to improve is not a myth. In fact, here’s why. Noted psychology researcher and writer Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi observed in 1998 that people who perform seamless, sequence-based activities on a regular basis are happier than people who don’t[i]. He coined the term “flow” to describe this behavior. With the advent of CoIT, we’ve actually imposed a new set of demands on our customer’s brains. But instead of offering a series of smoothly sequential flows, websites and mobile applications are characterized by lag, downtime, and restarts. And at the same time customer’s flow-oriented brains simply aren’t wired to deal with poor digital experience interactions. Science has shown the business need for great customer experiences is a fact, not a myth.

And it can be tempting to label customers picky and impatient. But there’s a wealth of research on what happens to customers at a neurological level when they are forced to deal with slow or interrupted processes.[i] Their impatience is an indelible part of their human circuitry. Brands must recognize that customers’ hardwiring of the brain’s and their neurological desire for flow and easy of use as part of the cost of doing business. Companies must come to terms with the economic imperative of the customer experience or drive customers to their competitors because of their poor focus on customer experiences.

Fast websites and mobile experience create happier users. Those happier users are more likely to follow “calls to action” to register, download, subscribe, request information, or purchase. Unhappy users, which could include those who experience a mere two-second slowdown in how a web page loads, make almost two percent fewer queries, three point seven-five percent click less often, and report being significantly less satisfied with their overall experience[i]. Worse, they tell their friends about their negative experience. With the word-of-mouth social networks provide, brands need to heed the seriousness of differentiating their brand’s customer experience or be left in the dust.

Response Times have been consistent for 45 years. Based on neuroscience, the facts about human perception and response times have been consistent for more than forty-five years[i]. In fact, these numbers are hard-wired in human brains. And they are consistent regardless of the type of device, application, or connection a customer is using. In fact, that’s key to where customer expectations come from thus important to capitalize on. And what’s critical is determining where a brand’ web / mobile sites compare to customer expectations as well as benchmarking against CoIT applications or competitors or even non-competitors who have a great customer experience.

Response Time Has Not changed Much. In Robert B. Miller’s 1968 paper, “Response Time in Man-Computer Conversational Transactions[ii]“, found people have always been most comfortable, most efficient and most productive with response times of less than two seconds. Since 2006, what has changed slightly is the average online shopper expects pages to load in four seconds or less. Today, forty-nine percent expect page load times of two seconds or less, and eighteen percent expect pages to load instantly[iii]. And while optimizing every aspect of a brand’s digital assets to meet an “instant” expectation is a laudable goal, organizations simply may not have initially budgeted the resources to achieve these goals. Digital experience maturity, however, provides teams the ability to identify the interaction points in the digital customer journey most sensitive to improvement so they can maximize return on performance investment and include this in the budget and resource planning activities. Here’s the results of the Walmart study on page load times and conversion rates:

Screen Shot 2016-05-26 at 10.11.29 AM

Businesses can keep arguing that customer experience doesn’t matter, it’s a touchy-feely construct or get it directly affects the bottom-line and start by designing and measuring customer experience performance management. For more on this see my report, here.

@drnatalie petouhoff, VP and Principal Analyst

Covering Customer-Facing Applications

[i] http://www.webperformancetoday.com/2014/07/16/eight-tricks-improve-perceived-web-performance/

[ii]Robert B. Miller’s 1968 paper, “Response Time in Man-Computer Conversational Transactions, https://www.computer.org/csdl/proceedings/afips/1968/5072/00/50720267.pdf

[iii]http://insights.wired.com/profiles/blogs/47-of-consumers-expect-a-web-page-to-load-in-2-seconds-or-less#axzz498kHSokj

[i] http://www.webperformancetoday.com/2010/06/15/everything-you-wanted-to-know-about-web-performance/.

[i]Dual-task interference in simple tasks: Data and theory. Pashler, Harold Psychological Bulletin, Vol. 116(2), Sep 1994, 220-244. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0033-2909.116.2.220

[i] The Concept of Flow: Handbook of Positive Psychology, Nakamura, J. and Csikszentmihayi, M. 2002.

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New Report: Neuroscience Proves Customer Experience (CX) Isn’t Just Fluff

What’s the Importance of CX? There’s a lot of talk about creating a great customer experience. Seems the world has gone from being concerned with CRM to customer experience. And every vendor is talking about it- whether its a marketing vendor, customer service vendor, mobile vendor…. What I wondered was what scientific data is there to help prove that customer experience wasn’t just a fluffy initiative that was the next fad. From being a customer myself (we all are) I found that intuitively I know that the type of customer experience I have and others have does make a difference in our opinion about a brand. It changes whether we want to interact with them again, whether we purchase from them, whether we become a loyal customer bringing repeat business and whether we make positive remarks to our friends and family as well as what we post in social media. Social media carries more weight that most realize because while most people won’t post a response, they will read it. That’s the 1-9-90 rule, where ~1% of the people post, ~9% respond to the person who posted and ~90% just read the post, but don’t respond. 90% of my 58,000 followers on Twitter is 52,200 people.  Even if not all of them see a post, it’s still a lot of people.

The Science of Flow That Makes Up Customer Experience. Noted psychology researcher and writer Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi observed in 1998 that people who perform seamless, sequence-based activities regularly are happier than people who do not. He coined the term “flow” to describe this behavior. However, instead of offering smoothly sequential flows, websites and mobile applications often experience lag, downtime, and restarts. At the same time, customers’ flow-oriented brains simply are not wired to deal with poor digital interactions. As a result, when the customer experience is poor, they leave the site and go to a competitor’s that has optimized both their IT and CX metrics so the experience does flow well. Science has shown the business need for great customer experiences is a fact, not a myth.

The Neuroscience of Customer Experience. It can be tempting to label customers picky and impatient, but there’s a wealth of research on what happens to customers on a neurological level when they are forced to deal with slow or interrupted processes. Impatience is an indelible part of human circuitry. Brands must recognize that the hardwiring of customers’ brains and their neurological desire for flow and ease of use are part of their expectations. Companies must come to terms with the economic imperative of the customer experience or risk losing customers to the competition.

Based on neuroscience, the facts about human perception and response times have been consistent for more than 45 years. They are hard-wired into the brain and are consistent regardless of the type of device, application, or connection a customer is using. That’s key to understanding where customer expectations come from. It is critical to determine how a brand’s web and mobile sites compare to customer expectations as well as to benchmark against CoIT applications, competitors or even non-competitors who have a great customer experience.

Customer Expectations Mean Business. In Robert B. Miller’s 1968 paper, “Response Time in Man-Computer Conversational Transactions,” he found that people have always been most comfortable, efficient and productive with response times of less than two seconds. Since 2006, what has changed slightly is that the average online shopper expects pages to load in four seconds or less. Today, 49 percent expect page load times of two seconds or less and 18 percent expect pages to load instantly. While optimizing every aspect of a brand’s digital assets to meet an “instant” expectation is a laudable goal, organizations simply may not have budgeted the resources to achieve this goal. Digital experience maturity, however, provides teams the ability to identify the interaction points in the digital customer journey most sensitive to improvement. As a result, they can maximize return on performance investment and include this in the budget and resource planning.

Fast websites create satisfied users who are more likely to follow “calls to action” to register, download, subscribe, request information, or purchase. On the other end, unsatisfied users, which could include those who experience a mere two-second slowdown in web page load time, make almost two percent fewer queries, nearly four percent fewer clicks, and report being significantly less satisfied with their overall experience. Worse, they tell friends about their negative experience. With the word-of- mouth that social media networks provide, brands need to heed the seriousness of positively differentiating the brand’s customer experience.

Want more information on this new report? You can find it here.

The neuroscience of customer experience @drnatalie petouhoff

@DrNatalie Petouhoff, VP and Principal Analyst, Constellation Research

Covering Customer-facing applications that make great customer experiences

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Dr. Natalie’s Research Agenda and Published Research

If you are wondering what I have been up to lately, I thought I would put all the research I have published  into one place. Here’s a list of Dr. Natalie’s completed and published research and soon to be published content! It ranges from IOT, Analytics, Big Data, Customer Experience, Leadership, Organizational Change Management, Storytelling, Collaboration, Digital Transformation, Social Selling, Social Media, the Cloud, Marketing, Sales, SaaS, IaaS, PaaS, DaaS, AI, Machine Learning, Innovation, Social Networks, Social Media Monitoring, Mobile, Customer Service and Customer Success Management….and a few things in-between…

IOT (The Internet of Things), Innovation, AI, Machine Learning, Analytics and the Cloud

• The Algorithm of You: How IoT Transforms and Differentiates Customer Experience: Using the Internet of Things to Boost Revenue and Deliver a Brand’s Personalized Promise

• Digital Disruption: The Blind Spot That Could Sink Your IoT and CX Initiatives

• The Internet of Things Improves Customer Experience in Retail Supply Chain

• The As-a-Service Economy: CX and IOT Mean You Have to Deliver Great Experiences- Upcoming

• Customer Experience IOT in the Automotive Industry-Upcoming

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Digital Transformation: Customer Engagement, CRM, Innovation, Customer Experience, Customer Service, The Cloud and Analytics

• ROI Of Customer Service & Customer Experience

• How to Measure Customer Experience: Performance Management Maturity-Upcoming

• Case Study: Elaine Turner® Brand and Oracle Commerce, Marketing and Customer Service-Upcoming

• The Need for Inspiring Leaders to Orchestrate Customer Experience Initiatives-Upcoming

• Experience Management: How to Deliver Integrated Customer Experiences

• How Rackspace Creates the Next-Generation Customer Experience

• The ROI Of Agile Customer Care: Reduce Training and Easy To Add Channels

• Digital Imperatives for Omni-Channel Retail Customer Experiences

• Nine Pillar Of Successful Self-Service for Digital Customer Engagement

• 6 Pillars of e-commerce Customer Engagement

• 9 C’s of Customer Engagement – Delivery and Communication Styles: Channels, Content and Cadence

• 9 C’s of Customer Engagement – People Centric Values: External & Internal Culture, Community, Credibility

• 9 C’s of Customer Engagement – Right Time Drivers: Context, Catalysts, Currency

• How Delta Uses Microsoft Dynamics and Avanade to Create Next-Generation Customer Experiences

• How Microsoft Dynamics CRM Improves Productivity at Trek Bicycle

• Delta Uses Microsoft to Transform Flight Operations and the Customer Experience

• New Belgium Brewing Creates Great Customer Experiences Using Microsoft Dynamics

• Beyond Journey Maps, Delivering Mass Personalization at Scale

• The State of Customer Service and Support Evolves 

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Social Media, Customer Service, CRM, Analytics, Innovation and the Cloud

• How General Motors Using Social Media To Listen To Customers and Sell Cars and Deliver Service

• The ROI of Online Communities: Online Communities Provide Value Beyond Call Deflection

• Why Top Marketers Create Branded Social Networks for Customer Engagement

• The State of Customer Service and Support Evolves 

• ROI of Social Customer Service- Upcoming

• The Customer Service Playbook for Integration of Traditional, Digital, Social and Mobile Customer Service Strategies and Technologies-Upcoming

• Mobile Customer Service-Upcoming

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Digital Marketing, Analytics, Innovation and the Cloud

• Should the Chief Marketing Officer Oversee the Whole Customer Experience?

• Data-Driven Marketing Campaign Optimization

• VentureBeat: Should the CMO Run the Whole Customer Experience?

• Executive Brief: Can Brands Keep Their Promise?

• Oracle Moves Its Focus from the CIO to the CMO

• How to Staff the Team for Effective Content Marketing

• The State of Marketing 

• Marketing Funnels Are Dead, What’s Next?

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Digital and Social Sales; Commerce, Innovation, Analytics and the Cloud

• How Sales Leaders and Sales Reps Can Create a Social Selling Organization: Convert Average Sales Teams into Top Performers Using Social Networks

• Five Approaches to Drive Customer Loyalty in a Digital World

• The Modern Sales Experience

• Continuity of Customer Experiences Drives the Future of Commerce

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Customer Success Management, Analytics, Innovation and the Cloud

• The State of Customer Success Management

• Gainsight: Customer Success Management for a Post-Sale, On-Demand, Attention Economy

• ServiceSource: Customer Success Management for a Post-Sale, On-Demand, Attention Economy

• Bluenose: Customer Success Management for a Post-Sale, On-Demand, Attention Economy

• Totango: Customer Success Management for a Post-Sale, On-Demand, Attention Economy

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If you are interested in learning about any of these reports or research, a speech or webinar on any of these or related topics, please reach out to me here!

@DrNatalie Petouhoff, VP and Principal Analyst, Constellation Research

Covering Innovative, Customer-Facing Applications that Create Great Customer Experiences

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I’m Judging the SuperNova Awards: Make Sure to Submit Your Case Study

I’m judging the 2016 Constellation SuperNova Awards! Every year the Constellation SuperNova Awards recognize individuals for their leadership in digital business. Nominate yourself or someone you know before August 8, 2016.

About the SuperNova Awards
The SuperNova Awards honor leaders that demonstrate excellence in the application and adoption of new and emerging technologies. In its sixth year, the Constellation SuperNova Awards will recognize individuals who demonstrate leadership in nine categories:
•  Internet of Things – A network of smart objects enables smart services. (sensors, smart ‘things’, device to purchase, artificial intelligence)
•  Data to Decisions – Using data to make informed business decisions. (big data, predictive analytics)
•  Digital Marketing Transformation – Personalized, data-driven digital marketing.
•  Future of Work: Social Business – The technologies enabling teams to work together efficiently. (enterprise social networks, collaboration, digital assistants)
•  Future of Work: Human Capital Management – Enabling your organization to utilize your workforce as an asset.  (talent management, benefits, HR core)
•  Matrix Commerce – Commerce responds to changing realities from the supply chain to the storefront. (digital retail, supply chain, payments, ‘ubiquitous-channel’ retail)
•  Next Generation Customer Experience – Customers in the digital age demand seamless service throughout all lifecycle stages and across all channels.  (crm, customer experience)
•  Safety and Privacy – Strategies to secure sensitive data (blockchain, digital identity, authentication)
•  Technology Optimization & Innovation – Innovative methods to balance innovation and IT budgets. (innovation in the cloud, ENSW cost savings, cloud ERP, efficient app production)
The SuperNova Awards are seeking leaders and teams who have innovatively applied disruptive technolgies to their business models as a means of adapting to the rapidly-changing digital business environment. If you have what it takes to compete in the SuperNova Awards submit your application today: https://www.constellationr.com/events/supernova/2016
If you are doing something really interesting, make sure to send in your case study! It’s your time to be recognized for your hard work!
@DrNatalie Petouhoff, VP and Principal Analyst, Constellation Research
Covering Customer Facing Applications that Drive Awesome Customer Experience
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From The Field: Adobe Conference 2016: Data as a Disrupter Report

Data as a Disrupter: The Adobe Summit was fantastic. The opening keynotes gave us insight into some of the new products and innovations. What’s clear is that digital disruption means taking all the data that can be collected about customers, using that voice of the customer data and making better business decisions. The idea of “know me,” “respect me,” and “speak in one voice” all create the experience.

Disrupting the Enterprise Adobe Summit know and respect me speak in one voice

The keynotes were all about fearless and breaking what you thought you knew and to reconstruct the truth about your products and services by using data as a digital disputer. Data is a way to connect to your audience, experiment with new content, stop doing the things that don’t work, appreciate your segments and the changing set list, being able to do all of this yourself and working pretty darn close to real-time, if not real-time. Be FEARLESS. This is not something easy for corporate cultures. It takes guts and being fearless. And Adobe announced the ability to help you learn the skills (if you don’t have them yet) to be able to data to work for you.

Develop mad skills

data as a disruptor

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Adobe Platform offers businesses the ability to connect the front and back offices, so key to making the customer experience actually work.

Adobe Platform

connecting the front and back office adobe summit

How Is The Data Being Applied? We got to listen to several company’s stories of digital transformation. Mattel, REI, Delta, Cirque Du Soleil, Comedy Central and Dunkin’ Donuts to mention just a few.  Here’s some highlights:

Mattel realized the world of play was changing as digital has become part of play. As a result, they had the guts to look at how they were doing business and discern what was working and what was not. This is very brave and not the norm in most corporate cultures, but it is certainly the key to the future of success. My fear is most companies will become dinosaurs and become extinct before they realize this is the roadmap to future business success.

The conference showed how Adobe is helping brands differentiate by driving excellent customer experiences. This has never been more important than ever.

@DrNatalie Petouhoff, VP and Principal Analyst, Constellation Research

Covering Customer-Facing Applications that Drive Awesome Customer Experiences and Revenue

 

 

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SOASTA Ushers in New Era of Innovation in Digital Performance Management

SOASTA, a leader in performance analytics, announced the Winter 2016 release of its Digital Performance Management (DPM) Platform. The new release introduces a series of enhancements and services to help digital businesses meet the growing demand for the ultimate measure of performance – the customer experience.

“We’re in the era of Digital Performance Management, and it requires a new mind set, with new solutions designed to deliver great user experiences. Companies that fail to keep up with the demands of online consumers will deliver lousy customer experiences and, as a result, will not thrive,” warned SOASTA CEO Tom Lounibos. “Websites and mobile applications need to be improved and optimized constantly, and that requires modern-day DPM technologies and skills.”

This product announcement is part of a broader SOASTA strategy that to empowers digital businesses by giving them the contextual intelligence they need to maximize performance and revenue – in real time and at scale. Digital Performance Management is the evolutionary next step from traditional Application Performance Management (APM). Fueled by the DevOps philosophy and Agile methodology, DPM is a data-centric approach to performance management in which web and mobile applications are continuously measured, tested and optimized to deliver the best possible user experience and business outcome.

The SOASTA DPM platform enables continuous measurement and improvement of digital performance – starting with an understanding of real users and combining that with the ability to predict and prevent performance and functionality issues before they occur. SOASTA’s DPM platform is designed to offer monitoring, testing and optimization capabilities to ensure continuous delivery of peak performance.

“We are significantly enhancing the SOASTA DPM platform, extending the capabilities of the number one cloud testing platform in the world with this release,” said Lounibos. “It perfectly illustrates our ‘monitor-test-optimize’ approach to continuous performance management and maximizing digital performance and, accordingly, revenue.”

The SOASTA platform consists of five key technologies – mPulse, CloudTest, TouchTest, Digital Operations Center (DOC) and Data Science Workbench – working in concert to provide continuous performance delivery. Enhancements to two of these technologies, mPulse and CloudTest, are the highlights of the Winter 2016 release.

mPulse real user monitoring (RUM) collects and analyzes 100% of the front-end performance data from every web and mobile user and correlates this data with critical business metrics – all in real time. As a result, the site owner always has a clear view of what’s working, what isn’t, and what to do next.

CloudTest provides a powerful, flexible and affordable platform for continuous load testing – including real-time analytics, a visual test creation environment, dynamic test- grid provisioning and the ability to pause and restart tests in production.

“With this new release, we are delivering better DevOps, improved agility and optimal business performance,” Lounibos explained, “with a greater emphasis on ease of onboarding, implementation and use.”

The new SOASTA mPulse enhancements make Big Data insights easy to visualize, access and share. mPulse democratizes insights about aggregated end user experiences, making performance analytics available to all. Instead of siloing information within groups, SOASTA mPulse with embedded Data Science Workbench reports help enterprises isolate issues, triage performance problems, and make decisions based on a better understanding of the customer.

The most notable benefits of the Winter 2016 release are DevOps productivity enhancements, with unlimited alerts to easy “exception management,” fully integrated with popular tools such as PagerDuty and Slack. This enables DevOps teams to better manage workflows and respond to and resolve incidents faster, while dramatically improving productivity.

The SOASTA CloudTest load and performance testing technology now extends its support of continuous performance testing with SOASTA’s patented cloud provisioning system, accessible from continuous integration environments. The release delivers several significant new capabilities, including:

• Native service level agreement (SLA) support for comparing results against baseline quality requirements
• Faster provisioning and support for SOASTA partners, including AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google and Rackspace
• Integration with popular Continuous Integration (CI) automation tools such as Jenkins, Atlassian Bamboo and Microsoft Visual Studio • • • Online and the ability to script starting and stopping load generators in the SOASTA cloud for “hands-off” performance testing

“SOASTA’s approach to DPM allows us to continuously measure and improve our digital experience. The integration between these tools helps us see how our real users are doing and take action before issues arise,” said James Erb, UI consultant and Sephora mobile technology director. “We have found ways to improve client-side performance time by over 20% as a result of having SOASTA’s solution in place.”

“Effective analytics across mobile, web and other environments are essential to optimizing performance and enabling successful DevOps execution,” said Melinda Ballou, program director for IDC’s Application Lifecycle Management & Executive Strategies Service. “Automation and insight across a broad portfolio such as SOASTA’s – coupled with appropriate process and organizational strategies – are key to visibility and support for digital transformation with quality software delivery.

SOASTA DPM Platform is available immediately with offerings that include SOASTA CloudTest™ for integrated load testing, SOASTA mPulse™ for real user monitoring, SOASTA TouchTest™ for mobile performance and functional test automation, SOASTA Data Science Workbench for advanced performance analytics, SOASTA DOC™ for unified presentation of all aspects of digital performance, and installation and consulting services. For more information about the SOASTA DPM Platform, please visit: http://www.soasta.com/performance-platform

@drnatalie petouhoff
covering customer experience and performance management

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Honorees Announced for the 2016 Marketing Hall of Femme!

Direct Marketing News is honored to announce the 2016 Honorees to the Marketing Hall of Femme! These incredible women have storied careers, take risks, and push the industry and their companies forward with their edgy marketing strategies. On April 8, 2016, we’re celebrating all of their outstanding achievements and more.

New this year, the event features a Leadership Summit in addition to the Awards Luncheon. Attendees will meet the 2016 Leading Ladies, hear the first-person narratives behind their success stories, and attend educational sessions that explore the challenging yet rewarding roles of female leaders in the marketing industry today.

Introducing 2016’s most influential women in marketing:

marketing2 marketing marketing3

Learn more about the inspirational event that is the Marketing Hall of Femme:
Click here to read about previous years’ honorees and keynote speakers, view video interviews, and more.


My POV: Of course it would be to say that we need more women in technology. That’s it. I will keep it simple. And to congratulation all the amazing women named here and that work in the world of technology every day! You are my heros.

@DrNatalie Petouhoff, VP and Principal Analyst, Constellation Research
Covering Cloud and IoT That Drive Better Business Results and Awesome Customer Experiences
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Adobe and Google Partner to Create a Better Mobile Experience

What is the mission of Adobe?  To change the world through digital experiences.  The pace of change in how consumers engage with content is accelerating. So their mission is more relevant than it has ever been before. Consumers expect to connect with content immediately no matter where they are or what they are doing. In the personal, always-connected mobile world we now live in, the inability to deliver the right experience to the right person at the right time directly impacts engagement and the consumer relationship.

Why Did Adobe Partner with Google? Adobe has partnered with Google, alongside many others in the technology and publishing industries to support the Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) Project and help solve the problems that are adversely affecting the mobile web experience –  namely the slow speed at which content loads and understanding audience engagement with mobile content. AMP will enable content to load instantaneously and provide a better mobile web experience for all.

What will Adobe Analytics Be Able to Measure? It will be able to measure the reach and impact of AMP experiences for publishers, while providing blazing fast speed for mobile web user experiences. For publishers, Adobe Analytics has become a fundamental part of understanding audiences, creating loyal viewers, and monetizing content, and Adobe is committed to making sure that publishers have access to the best data possible. A better mobile user experience means more browsing and content discovery for users, and quality revenue streams for publishers.  Additionally, Adobe Analytics will enable publishers to link up AMPs with their existing web data for deeper cross-channel audience understanding, and integrate this insight directly with the rest of Adobe Marketing Cloud for content and advertising optimization.

Adobe Analytics customers interested in getting started, you can download their How to Guide now: Adobe Analytics for Accelerated Mobile Pages Project

@Drnatalie petouhoff, VP and Analyst, Constellation Research Covering Customer-Facing Application

 

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The Year of On-demand, Personalized Shopping: The Cloud and IOT Abound

What’s Happening in the World of Shopping and Customer Experiences? At the National Retail Federation Annual Convention in New York City, Microsoft made announcements with GameStop, Hardee’s, TGI Fridays, Panasonic, HP and FreedomPay, and NCR on efforts to modernize shopping experiences.

How Does IoT, The Cloud and Customer Experience Come Together? Microsoft believes this will be the year when modern shopping experiences come to life. Where retailers create instant, personalized experiences for shoppers on their smartphone, online and in stores. It will be the year that customers return to stores because technology is engaging them in new ways, making them want to buy more and come back. Microsoft shared for the first time several retail innovations using its technology, including a smart shelf and a tablet-enabled shopping cart, and showed how retailers can gather better store analytics. Microsoft also announced how Pandora and Ashley Furniture are working with technology to create more engaging experiences for employees, helping them be more collaborative and support faster product innovation.

Engaging Customers During the Shopping Experience is Essential for Today’s Retailers. GameStop announced it is working with Microsoft to create an interactive, informative and entertaining shopping experience in an immersive environment. In the near future, when customers walk into one of the GameStop pilot stores, they will be connected to the services enabled by the Microsoft Cloud, allowing them to browse product choices, share their shopping cart with salesperson’s tablet running an assisted selling application, and even browse products interactively on a big screen Ultra High Definition TV where they can view video game trailers with pristine clarity. When a customer downloads and opts into the GameStop app on their smartphone, they will be able to interact in a whole new way with GameStop marketplace through the use of Azure. Ultimately, the customer and the salesperson can push the desired products to the point of sale (POS) system for order processing and payment.

What’s Another Great Example of How Microsoft is Working With Retailers to Improve Customer Engagement and Customer Experience? One example is Hardee’s new way to make ordering a meal fast and fun. Hardee’s is currently deploying self-ordering kiosks for ordering meals, using Windows 8 devices. These in-store kiosks are being tested currently in 30 restaurants with plans to extend that test to additional restaurants soon. Each kiosk allows customers to review the menu and order food and lets managers run sales and shift reports, while dramatically reducing wait times. Check out the video and read more here.

Another Example is TGI Fridays Who Has Plans to Transform the Way People Order Food by Equipping Servers with 8-inch Tablets Armed with Payment Sleeves. With the Fridays’ Service Style technology the customer’s order is processed right at the table, the device also helps manage the waiting list and queue. The solution helps ensure orders are correct, reduces training time, and streamlines waitlists.

Modern Points of Sale Connect Retailers and Customers in New Ways.  As the shopping experience becomes more modern, so does the POS. Modern POS devices are allowing retailers to better understand their customers, provide more customized service, and help them achieve compliance with new security measures being implemented in 2015.  In partnership with Panasonic, HP and FreedomPay Microsoft is demonstrating how the modern POS can create personalized retail experiences, in real-time, through smart and secure devices. With new security regulations on the horizon, retailers need to upgrade their POS devices, not only to ensure their customer data is safe, but to also be able to provide a more personalized and seamless experience at check-out. Read more about modern POS devices here.

Innovation that helps retailers understand buying behavior and customers make informed decisions.  One of the challenges in retail is to create an in-store experience that engages customers in unique ways, entices them to come in to stores, and keep them coming back. Creating those connections creates better experiences and ultimately increases sales. With the help of a Kinect sensor, AVAretail’s SmartShelf technology allows every interaction of a shelf in a store to be monitored and recorded in real-time, providing insight into which products are most selected and picked up by customers. Another form of technology, Path Tracker, gives retailers real-time detection and analysis of a customer’s shopping path.  This provides counts of people in the store, areas visited, dwell time and shopping path, acting as a heat map of where customers are spending the most time in the store.

The NEC Biometric interface with Kinect Camera System Provides Demographic and Face Recognition Services to a Kinectically Enabled Application. Retailers can use this information for analysis and for providing the customer with a more personal selling experience. MediaCart will change the shopping cart as we know it. Adding a location-aware tablet to the cart allows a retailer to present a personal and relevant shopping experience to its customer.  This allows context sensitive ads and promotions when in front of various products along with a barcode scanning capability for price lookups and basket totals.

Retailers Are Predicting Consumer Behavior With Machine Learning. As technology advances, consumers have more tools at their disposal during the buying process. This trend seems to be growing exponentially, especially as the Internet of Things (IoT) matures. This is both an opportunity and a challenge for retailers looking to capitalize on a whole new base of consumers. Competitive pressure, combined with ubiquitous connectivity, smart devices and an intelligent cloud platform is causing a shift to a new retail reality. Food delivery company JJ Food Service uses machine learning to make product recommendations as customers are shopping for food. This provides insights, saves on costs, and ensures their customers have the food they need, when they need it.

Customer Behavior Can Be Predicted. Auckland, New Zealand-based VMob runs a mobile engagement platform on Microsoft Azure which predicts likely customer behavior based on historic and live data streams. The platform currently delivers personalized content to millions of consumers around the world, including customers of McDonald’s across several European markets. The VMob platform collects real time data from multiple sources including mobile devices, wearables, location temperature sensors, WiFi transmitters, beacons, digital signage, and POS systems to personalize engagement with the customer. The VMob platform uses Azure Machine Learning to harness the Internet of Things to predict future customer behavior – transforming live and historical data streams into actionable insights McDonald’s can employ to individualize its marketing efforts. See more information about VMob’s work here.

You Want to Reach Your Customers Where They Are. For retailers to succeed, they need to reach their customers where they are.  Because of this, we are pleased to be announcing Sitecore Commerce, powered by Microsoft Dynamics. This solution integrates the experience management capabilities of the Sitecore Experience Platform with the omni-channel commerce capabilities of Microsoft Dynamics AX for Retail. The result is a product that allows enterprises to bridge the gap between in-store and digital experiences. We are also announcing a combined effort with Toshiba to form the Toshiba Global Commerce Solutions with Microsoft Dynamics to help retailers deliver leading customer experiences through true omni-channel customer engagements. This effort includes Toshiba delivering software and implementation services on the Dynamics platform as well as plans for the global availability of a combined solution – TCxGravity powered by Microsoft Dynamics – specifically tailored to deliver omni-channel transformation on the customer’s terms, helping it provide seamless brand experiences to build lasting loyalty.

What’s The Future of Retail? Retailers are changing the game through connected stores, empowered employees, digital engagement and ambient intelligence all geared toward delighting the modern shopper. By gathering and ingesting insight from myriad data sources, retailers can create a comprehensive understanding of each customer, its store’s inventory and the capabilities of its business to seamlessly match people with the products and services they desire.

The end result of these technologies and services, and of Microsoft’s work with retailers, is an increased focus on solutions that help grow sales and profits, increase customer satisfaction and loyalty, bring products to market faster, and create a more effective business.

If you want more information, visit the Retail NewsroomThe Windows for Your Business Blog, and The Dynamics Blog.

MyPOV: I Love to shop and I love technology. So this is gonna be a great year! I can’t wait to see how cloud computing, IoT and customer experience emerge as the top competitive advantage to lead conversion rates, higher revenues and awesome customer experiences!

@DrNatalie Petouhoff, VP and Principal Analyst, Constellation Research
Covering Cloud and IoT That Drive Better Business Results and Awesome Customer Experiences in Retail Environments
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Cloud-Based Customer Service and Customer Experience: Verint’s Acquisition of Contact Solutions

Cloud-Based Customer Service and Customer Experience. Verint® Systems Inc. announced its acquisition of Contact Solutions, a leading provider of real-time, contextual customer care solutions. The combination of Contact Solutions advances the Verint Customer Engagement Optimization portfolio with the addition of cloud-based solutions that enhance voice and mobile self-service through automation and analytics-driven personalization. By joining Contact Solutions’ strong self-service capabilities with its advanced customer analytics, engagement management and workforce optimization solutions, Verint is extending omnichannel engagement across the enterprise. With this acquisition, Verint is furthering its mission of being the world’s leading Actionable Intelligence® platform that enables organizations toprovide crucial insights that empower decision makers to anticipate, respond and take action.

Cloud-base Voice and Mobile Self-Service. The combination of Contact Solutions and Verint will increase the value proposition that customers of both companies receive. Verint customers will be able to extend their investments in omnichannel customer engagement with expanded cloud-based voice and mobile self-service options. Contact Solutions’ dynamic customer base—including many public sector and commercial organizations—will have access to new world-class actionable intelligence with the ability to leverage leading customer engagement optimization solutions to help transform their end-to-end customer engagement.  

Personalization Engine: Providing Intelligent One to One Service. Today’s forward-thinking organizations understand the value of delivering personalized and contextually relevant interactions that enhance the customer experience and heighten loyalty. Backed by a robust set of analytics, Contact Solutions’ personalization engine analyzes and adapts call flow and the pace of interactions based on caller behavior. For example, if a caller most frequently selects “account balance” from a set of menu options, the personalization engine can detect this behavior and dynamically rearrange the menu so “account balance” is always the first option presented to that caller. This reduces both time and effort, resulting in better experiences for customers, and decreasing interaction costs for the enterprise through higher automation rates and shorter calls.

Cloud-based Solutions Extends Engagement Optimization Across Smartphones, Tablets and Personal Computers. The rise of “digital-first” approaches to customer engagement has opened the door for consumer engagement at any point in the customer journey. Thanks to the widespread adoption of smartphones, mobile self-service is on the rise and growing in popularity. To address customer demand and market dynamics, Contact Solutions delivers My:Time™ (its patented digital engagement platform.) This cloud-based solution extends engagement optimization across smartphones, tablets and personal computers. With advanced, cross-channel messaging functionality, it enables customers to start a digital interaction on one device and continue it on another, allowing continuity and continued personalization of interactions. Leveraging My:Time’s App2Agent™ functionality takes mobile customer service another step forward by enabling a seamless transition from self-service to live service within a mobile app, mobile web or web application. This will advancing mobile self-service and engagement.

Privacy and Security: Combating Contact Center Fraud. The combination with Contact Solutions also will add functionality to Verint’s solution set focused on mitigating risk, identifying fraud and reducing loss. For instance, Contact Solutions’ capabilities complement Verint Identity Authentication and Fraud Detection, the innovative technology that delivers passive voice biometrics to profile and recognize the voiceprints of fraudulent callers—while makingcaller authentication faster, easier and more secure. Backed by advanced analytics, Contact Solutions brings advanced “upstream fraud detection” functionality that can identify suspicious caller behavior within voice self-service interactions. As potentially threatening interactions surface, red flag detection alerts users to problems and tailors appropriate responses.

MY POV: Businesses need to decide the evolution into the cloud, especially when it comes to customer engagement, customer service and especially mobile and self-service. As customers become more and more attached to their phone, and their expectations for customer engagement higher than ever, it’s really time businesses decide on their digital transformation strategy and start now. Tomorrow is too late!

@DrNatalie Petouhoff, VP and Principal Analyst, Constellation Research
Covering Cloud and IoT That Drive Better Business Results and Awesome Customer Experiences

 

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