Retail is changing fast. Customers are embracing digital and behaving in more complex and challenging ways. They are shopping everywhere and at any time. They research and compare. They want to make their own versions of the product. They want to know how things are made.
Companies need to start tailoring their retail experiences.
At Futurice, we can help retailers tailor their business and create a continuous dialogue across different channels. The aim is to improve services to keep customers engaged and satisfied, as well as amaze them whenever possible.
Customers can shop however and wherever they want and they are increasingly looking for the best product and service experiences. Customers love to tell others about things they’ve enjoyed and want to leave their mark on their favorite brand’s products and services through sharing their experience, recommendations, feedback and contributing to the service creation or product personalisation.
Retailers must create services that not only meet their customers’ needs and help retailers understand them, but make them a part of an amazing experience as well. What should these services look like? Are digital experiences the right thing to invest in? How can retailers get it right?
Many of the questions that retailers might have on how to improve their services and products will be answered by simply getting customers more involved in the design process and gathering information about their needs and expectations. Further questions are answered by creating services that enable a continuous and more meaningful dialogue with customers.
One of our previous posts highlighted how important it is for designers to get out of the building and engage with customers. The only way to do it and learn more about your customers is to talk to them directly. Customers provide the best insights for the service creation and help you justify many of your design decisions. They will tell retailers exactly what to improve in existing services and what they expect from new ones. They’ll provide key insights and inspire ideas for how to exceed their own expectations.
Studies have shown that, in addition to the product itself, Millennials are interested in the materials and the manufacturing process. They make ethically-minded and conscious decisions. Brands are putting more and more effort into crafting their brands by adopting a storytelling approach and talking about their heritage. Above all, brands are giving the customer a peek behind the curtain by shedding light on the manufacturing process.
From store to story with successful companies telling controlled brand stories.
Companies such as Dior or Shinola have successfully highlighted the craftsmanship behind their products. Ikea and Nike have allowed people to use predefined building blocks to create their own versions of their products.
Bird's eye view of Shinola Tribeca (image source)
The customer journey doesn’t start or stop with the in-store experience and the digital experience is clearly more than a screen presence at the store. Customers can anticipate their buying process via smart lists, online stores, etc. They can explore products in-store, search for better prices and competitive products, locate products, look for more information about the product, and much more. Digital enriches and expands the customer journey and the physical experience.
Shops and stores are no longer confined to their physical location. Retail is no longer confined to brick-and-mortar experiences. The shopping experience is spilling onto the sidewalks and popping up on the streets. It’s coming to the on-the-move customer, always hungry for experiences, who shops regardless of store opening times.
Pop-up stores and pop-up restaurants are here to stay. They are the right type of prototype for this environment.
Take Boxpark or the pop-up restaurant round the corner. These places create a real buzz and are essentially timeboxed experiences and resemble an event, in that people want to attend, are happy to share their experiences and don’t want to miss out. Successful retail concepts have become increasingly contextual and more experimentation with new concepts is necessary. This adds complexity to designing the right experiences and fostering companies to partner up with, as recent projects, like ACE Hotel London have successfully demonstrated.
Boxpark (image source)
Digital enables new ways of doing, involving customers and expanding customer journeys. It’s important to design the whole chain. Customers can plan their future purchases by adding to their favorites and making wishlists. They share their purchased products on Facebook. They get social proof for products and services by checking what their friends liked. They look for a complete and integrated experience, an omni-channel that provides a seamless shopping experience across multiple platforms, including online and in-store. They look for more engaging and personalised loyalty programs.
Thinking about the kind of metrics you want to monitor and measure, as well as setting them up in a way that can be traced later is important when creating a digital service. Technology allows us to collect meaningful data that can be transformed into personalised and seamless actions.
When the service launches, you have access to important information about its impact and, as people use the service, about aspects that should be improved. Creating and implementing tools that help customers advocate for your service and give feedback is vital, too. An ongoing dialogue is essential for measuring the service’s true impact.
Go mobile. Customers use mobile applications with growing confidence. Retailers should explore mobile capabilities as payments and sharing experiences in greater detail.
According to Deloitte, by 2015 65% of the global population will have a mobile phone and 83% of internet use will be via handheld devices. On a global level, 30% of commercial transactions will take place online and 53% of these transactions will be via smartphone.
Facebook and Twitter added buy-it-now buttons in 2014. Apple Pay with fingerprint recognition was launched in late 2014 and in its first month the cash-free system accounted for 50% of all tap-to-pay transactions in McDonald’s in the US.
Friends are sales; if they liked it, you might like it, too. When the same experience goes mobile, it’s even more engaging. And you can always call or message your friend to double check that it’s really good.
Go wearables. Customers are expecting digital and personalised experiences that go beyond the screen and reflect their identity. Wearables will make it possible for retailers to collect data like location, personal information, social network, previous experiences and more. By knowing the customer better, retailers can shape more meaningful and personalized experiences - both physical and digital.
According to a new survey from Magid Advisors, most consumers have heard of wearable technology by now. More than a quarter of the 2,500 mobile consumers surveyed said they planned to buy a wearable device in 2016.
Use digital tools for personalisation. Customers are becoming creators and the best design is one that allows for customer creation. Digital can help retailers give users the power to create, produce and reinvent what they consume. In the near future, consumers will care less about what they have or buy and more about what they can do or create.
Add the second screen. As companies like Apple, Google and Amazon get into TV-like services, they can offer brands and companies the possibility to sell products inside a TV show rather than around it. Android has an open TV platform where consumers can personalise their experience. All these companies are bringing new advertising models and customer experiences to television.
Remember digital as an expansion and enrichment of the customer journey. Buying becomes a natural, integral and shoppable part of the story experience and the moment of purchase. Services are consumer-oriented instead of consumption-oriented and consumers are buying the best experience.
Companies are telling stories and teaching people how to use their products and services. They want users to have the best experience with them. Let’s call it “edu-commerce”. Digital tools can also provide indoor navigation to help customer to find their way in-store as well as locate the products they need.
The digital experience should be seen as an expansion of the physical, adding to it all kinds of interesting interactions that add value to the customer journey. The digital customer journey can explore a greater number of steps in the customer engagement cycle than the physical:
Awareness > Expectation > Inception > Introduction > Evaluation > Engagement > Motivation > Conversion Fulfillment > Transition > Advocation.
There is no ready solution. What’s needed is a combination of good practices and partnerships that help retailers develop, improve and create better services that their customers remember and love. At Futurice we’re are ready to create and fight for a new generation of more seamless and engaging retail services.
Jane Vita & Maria Kulse
We will host the Service Design Drinks on Tuesday, 14th April at 17:45 (Helsinki/GMT+3).