They are considered the big tech disruptors of the last decade - Netflix, Uber and Amazon, companies that have changed the face of video streaming, transport and shopping respectively.
While the technology underpinning each of those companies is impressive, leveraging the best of big data mobility and the cloud, those companies didn’t necessarily reinvent their industries using technology.
Instead, says Catherine Brands, Microsoft’s global industry marketing director for retail & consumer products, they reinvented the customer experience, triggering the disruption that saw them become industry leaders.
Brands should know. She grew up in Masterton but made her way to Microsoft via an international career in marketing for the likes of Lion Nathan, Westfield, Coca-Cola and Amazon, where she spent five years before joining Microsoft in October.
As Brands told the Marketing Association’s CX Conference 2019 in Auckland last month, consumers now live in a world where they can move from “inspiration to acquisition instantly”.
"The old shopper journey was see it, like it, buy it – usually in a retail format. Now it’s come to the point where it’s like, ‘I didn’t realise I needed it, now I can’t live without it and I need it right now’ and it gets delivered to your door,” she told the audience.
For many shoppers, particularly millennials, FOMO (fear of missing out) was the new PROMO.
Amazon, with its clever recommendation engine and vast ecommerce capability, has been hugely successful at putting products in front of the right people – and tapping into their FOMO. But it was customer experience that was front of mind when Brands was working on Amazon Go, the grocery store with no checkout machines or operators.
The impetus for the move into retail came directly from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who went to the supermarket for the first time in 20 years only to find himself frustrated at having to stand in a queue at the checkout, waiting to pay for his groceries.
He asked his team, including Brands, to find a better way. Amazon Go was the result, a streamlined way of shopping in brick and mortar stores where an Amazon user can scan the app on their phone and everything they choose to buy in the store is automatically detected by cameras and sensors and paid for via their Amazon account. Dozens of the stores are already open in New York, San Francisco and Seattle, with Amazon planning to expand its retail stores across the US.
Technology is crucial to doing away with conventional check-out machines. But Brands sees Amazon Go as a prime example of what she calls P2P or people to people marketing.
“At the end of the day, they’re people we’re marketing to and Microsoft has a lot to learn from that – we need to act more like consumer marketeers, we need to connect with businesses on a more personal level, we’re trying to enable business transformation in this really difficult journey, which is digital transformation,” she told the CX conference.
Most companies are on that journey and we heard from a few of them at CX 2019.
Overcoming existing customer pain points was a key motivator behind overhauling the customer experience to make it more relevant and personal.
Susanne Stevenson, CX strategy manager at insurance provider IAG NZ, explained that with so much background information just a web search away for potential customers, the customer experience was the key differentiator. Instead of looking at how its competitors were meeting the challenge, IAG was instead drawing lessons from Netflix and other CX-obsessed companies.
“Brand is the promise we make, CX is the promise we keep,” she said.
IAG had embraced ‘design thinking’, a methodology that seeks to create a deep understanding of the needs of the user of a product or service. In addressing key customer pain points, IAG was evaluating itself against the Forrester CX Maturity Model, pursuing personalisation in its approach to the customer experience and removing friction through an omni-channel approach that prioritised great user experience design.
Foodstuffs outlined how in a bid to get closer to its customers, it leveraged loyalty card data to identify eight key customer personas which it validated through customer research.
“You cannot walk in people’s shoes without asking them,” said Foodstuffs’ head of digital experience and personalisation, David Brem.
Based on feedback, Foodstuffs established a list of priorities and helped its team address them by printing massive wall-sized maps so everyone could understand the customer journey and the pain points they were attempting to address.
Learning to love the problem, rather than the solution was key to the CX transformation at Foodstuffs. The same goes for Toyota New Zealand, which with its ‘Drive Happy Project’ wanted to create seamless integration between online and offline in the buying experience for its customers.
As Toyota’s technology partner on the CX project, we know just how committed Toyota was to putting its customers at the heart of everything to address pain points, such as the nervousness many customers felt when haggling over the price of a vehicle with a dealer.
Toyota’s Morgan Dilks and Shaun Crooks told CX conference 2019 how the project had led to significantly boosted customer satisfaction. Toyota car buyers are literally driving off the dealer’s yard happier as a result of the company’s efforts to better address their needs. You can get a taste of how Morgan, Shaun and the Toyota team tackled the problem in this Q&A and accompanying video.
The CX Conference 2019 brought home to me that every company is grappling with a subset of the same issues. It was heartening to see organisations big and small embracing the concept of design thinking and building capability to put their customers at the centre of everything.
As CX Conference 2019 wrapped up, I flicked back to the page in my notebook outlining Catherine Brand’s opening keynote, seven concise points for a CX transformation that we can all strive to adopt:
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