Since organisations have embarked on their digital transformation journey, what defines a customer’s experience with a brand has changed significantly. Today, just about everyone understands that digital and online channels can be used to build better customer relationships, but there can be huge variation in how effectively companies use these channels.
Last year, research from Forrester highlighted that software – including mobile apps, connected products, websites and more – is increasingly changing how consumers interact with brands and that, if software fails, the brand suffers.
With digital transformation continuing its rapid acceleration across almost every area of business, the need to anticipate customer expectations and get these experiences right is paramount. In this environment, innovation is key to generating competitive advantage, and fashion is one area which has emerged as a standard-bearer for how consumer brands can use digital techniques to engage and excite customers.
Fashion moves fast these days. Buying decisions are being influenced from anywhere (tube station, airport, home, store, magazines etc.) and technology is playing a key role in driving brand relationships. Close relationships with customers and a good understanding of what they like can be the difference between the latest season’s range being a success or a failure.
It is an industry that is not only highly competitive but also one that is heavily influenced by external trends, such as the media, celebrities or rival fashion brands. In such an environment, having customers who are engaged and loyal is the Holy Grail. By coupling the latest fashions with innovative, exciting digital experiences, fashion brands have a new way to achieve this goal – and their tactics can provide inspiration for other consumer brands.
There are numerous examples of fashion companies using advanced digital customer experiences – much more than just using Facebook or Twitter – to great effect. At the latest Fashion Week events in New York, London, Milan and Paris, high-end fashion houses including Valentino and Stella McCartney used Snapchat to give their fans and followers exclusive behind-the-scenes access, offering early glimpses at new designs and giving a flavour of life on the catwalk.
Burberry's London flagship store uses RFID technology to show customers useful information on screens about clothes and accessories they are trying on, and also help track and manage inventories, while TopMan has launched a digital personal shopping service in partnership with Google+ for a more tailored online shopping experience. And, as new technologies emerge, fashion brands aren’t far behind. DKNY and Marc Jacobs have been among the first to use the live streaming app Periscope to broadcast live video to their followers.
For customers, these experiences help them feel closer to the brand and that they are getting a personalised, intimate experience and level of service they cannot get elsewhere. The brands themselves, meanwhile, build enhanced customer relationships and obtain a wealth of digital data to help inform their decision making: From the items at a fashion preview show generating the most interest, to how customers move through a store.
However, many organisations not just in the fashion industry but also the broader retail sector have not yet fully explored the potential of innovative digital experiences and the customer insight they can provide.
A recent survey on digital customer experiences we carried out in Europe found that most businesses believe that analysis of digitally derived customer data is key to their company’s innovation efforts, but crucially there is little confidence in the quality of their digital offerings. Only a third of businesses believe a customer’s current digital experience could qualify as 'high quality' and only 3% believe that it is 'excellent'.
As a result, they are missing out on the huge opportunities presented by Code Halos – the digital data that surrounds almost everything their customers do. This data, everything from an individual’s Facebook ‘likes’ and social media posts to the way they browse your website, can provide customer insight unlike anything that has come before and which retailers can use to tailor their products and service to increase customer loyalty and differentiate the experience.
In order to realise the value, organisations need the ability to analyse data from digital interactions and, right now that is proving to be a challenge. Our research found that less than a quarter of companies claim to be effective at collecting and using this data, and fewer than four in ten respondents have made adjustments to their business model to pursue customer strategies driven by digital information. In my opinion, these businesses need to catch up fast.
Customers who grow accustomed to high quality digital experiences from their rivals may well get dissatisfied with a lesser service elsewhere, while the lack of insight into customer behaviour will soon leave them behind more innovative competitors.
Of course, not every new digital service or social network will be right for every brand, but the fashion industry has shown why it pays to react fast to new trends and tastes and to be experimental when it comes to providing a compelling digital experience.
Companies who have yet to make strides in the digital world must learn from innovative fashion brands and work to expand, personalise and tailor the digital experiences they provide. For many, there is still a long way to go, but the inability to address how best to collect, analyse and distil meaning from digital data will have ramifications for the future success of their business.
Sourced from Ron Curry, VP & Head (UK&I) Retail, Consumer Goods, Travel and Hospitality, Cognizant