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Welcoming the next generation of customer experience

Welcoming the next generation of customer experience

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The digital consumer of the modern age expects to have everything; always and refuses to settle for anything less. Adrian Whitehouse, Alliances Director EMEA and APAC at Elastic Path, and Tjeerd Brenninkmeijer EVP of EMEA at Bloomreach, talk to us about elevating the customer experience to retain customer interest and interaction. 

Customer experience is the pulse of every business, with consumers today expecting relevant, convenient and responsive engagement across every interaction they have with a brand.

From mobile devices and apps to IoT, Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI), consumers are exposed to a vast array of technologies, which has caused this dramatic shift in customer expectations. We’re now seeing a new kind of modern buyer – someone who is constantly connected, app-native and well-aware of the potential and opportunities presented to them by technology.

Brands who acknowledge this and seek to use these technologies to innovate and provide seamless omni-channel experiences to its customers will be one step closer to success as a result of increased ROI and customer loyalty, compared to those who don’t.

At the same time, brands must also realise that a bad customer experience today is not just a grumpy cashier or unwelcoming receptionist. A bad customer experience is one where the customer is taken through a disconnected journey, where there is no cohesiveness between the various channels to deliver a unified customer experience.

For example, imagine shopping at your favourite online shop – you fill out your contact and payment information on their website to process the order. The next time you shop there, you do so via the mobile app but you must fill out all the information again. That is what a disconnected customer experience looks like.

An effective, connected customer experience on the other hand, is about providing all consumers with the freedom to select how and when they interact with a brand by giving them a variety of easy-to-use and intuitive self-service options where possible.

This remains true regardless of industry or sector. Whether it’s creating the ultimate sports fan experience or disrupting the holiday experience, all brands must ensure they’re building loyalty and establishing lifelong relationships with their customers across multiple touchpoints.

Disrupting the holiday experience with Carnival Corporation

One of the world’s largest leisure travel companies, Carnival Corporation, has created the ultimate holiday experience for guests on board its ships through its innovative OceanMedallion technology, available on select ships from its Princess Cruises brand.

It converges the physical and digital worlds into one frictionless experience by incorporating high-speed Internet and diverse features such as keyless cabin entry, a virtual concierge service and a family-tracking navigation system in one small wearable token.

Each medallion is connected to a specific guest and cleverly interacts with 7,000 sensors and smart devices on the ship’s decks, tracking where they are, what they’re doing and what they might want to do next. The medallions are connected to an ecosystem on board the ship via the Ocean guest experience platform – an experience Internet of Things (xIoT). The network of thousands of sensors and smart devices work to provide personalised recommendations and a plethora of exceptional opportunities.

As well as this, it can be worn as a pendant on a wristband in a clip or simply placed in a pocket to deliver enhanced services and personalised experiences without guests having to push a button or take any action.

In addition to the ease and simplicity of the wearable device, it also creates special moments that surprise and delight guests which are highly personalised and elevate the entire holiday experience. Examples of some of the never-before-possible service innovations include:

  • Easy Payment enables guests to conveniently and securely make payment for experiences using their device. Guests can associate any number of credit cards, reward cards, gift cards and advanced payment services with Medallion Pay
  • Personalised Dining facilitates ordering, menu exploration and delivery of food and beverage services. Guests can even place orders and view the whereabouts of their food and drink as well as place future orders and have them delivered wherever they plan to be at a designated time
  • Seamless Navigation enables point-to-point wayfinding across the ship thanks to an intelligent navigation assistant – similar to a car or phone GPS app

Princess Cruises and its OceanMedallion technology has completely transformed customer experience, not only for the cruise industry but for the broader tourist industry. Ultimately, Carnival is helping to provide exactly what every holiday-goer wants: everything, always.

FC Bayern Munich creates the ultimate sports fan experience

Also leading by example and committed to delivering distinctive digital experiences to its international fanbase is German football club, FC Bayern Munich.

Despite competing with far smaller budgets compared to the larger English and Spanish football clubs, this German side has the largest online fan base in the world. With 50 million fans on Facebook, 15 million on Instagram and millions more on Twitter, FC Bayern Munich can count on a huge online interest from football enthusiasts all around the world.

This is because the sports club always remains one step ahead and is constantly finding new ways to innovate its fan experiences to reach its international fan base.

It recently organised an international hackathon with the Munich University of Technology, bringing together technology and football enthusiasts from 42 countries to design and create new digital fan experiences.

One group developed an app for Adidas (one of FC Bayern Munich’s sponsors) that allowed consumers to earn a discount on products, tickets to matches or other goodies through football-related challenges.

Another group used voice recognition to detect which fan songs were sung by the hardcore supporters and then projected the lyrics onto the screens in the stadium so other fans could sing along. They also developed a ‘cheer-o-meter’ that encouraged different fan blocks inside the stadium to compete against each other on who has the loudest cheer.

A separate team connected fans inside the stadium with those watching at home through Augmented Reality. While another used beacons and smart screens to connect fans on public transport as they made their way to the stadium to watch a game.

These are all innovative examples of how FC Bayern Munich is leveraging different touchpoints and technologies to engage guests and create that personalised fan experience.

Connected customer experience is universal

It’s clear that businesses across different industries and verticals, like travel and sport, are making a conscious effort to improve their overall customer experience.

Carnival Corporation and FC Bayern Munich are great examples of businesses that have implemented a connected holistic approach to engage their customers and exceed the expectations they develop about their respective brands.

This is because, just like any football team, brands need fans too. Loyal and established relationships are vital and in the age of the modern buyer and digitisation, this means interacting continuously across different touchpoints.

These two use cases also prove that every company today (willingly or unwillingly) is a technology company. Whether you’re a travel business or a sports club, your investment in technology can be the difference between success and failure.

The key to creating customer delight lies in adopting a modern architecture, based on microservices that enable a truly connected experience. The combination of an AI-driven digital experience platform with an agnostic, API-led digital commerce platform allows businesses to embed commerce into new touchpoints as the adoption of consumer technologies continues to accelerate. With the majority of power now in the hands of the consumer, we are all in the business of figuring out what they need and delivering it as quickly and efficiently as possible.

This approach should also inspire UK retailers, especially at a time when the UK high street is suffering. There has been a serious decline in footfall figures of late, causing high street retailers including House of Fraser, New Look, M&S, Next and Debenhams to axe multiple brick-and-mortar shops across the country. However, there is an opportunity here for them to innovate and embrace what’s possible with technology like Virtual Assistants, digital signage, in-store contextual selling, chatbots, conversational commerce, Facebook commerce, connected cars and more. It’s possible to create incredible experiences and conveniences from one centralised platform and consumers want it now.

Besides, they aren’t only comparing your brand experience with your competitors but they’re comparing it with every digital experience they’ve had. So as a company, it’s important that your digital customer experience stands out.

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