Investing in experiences: An Isobar insight into retail innovation

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It is a real honour to have some of the leading figures in Asian retail confirmed to join us at the Retail Technology Show Asia. One of the speakers that I am particularly excited about is Sven Huberts, Regional Managing Director at Isobar APAC. I caught up with Sven ahead of the show to ask him a few questions about customer experience and technology investment in the retail sector:

What is at the heart of delivering a great customer experience for today’s retail consumer?

There’s been a lot of talk about how technology today enables great customer experiences to be delivered, and while that’s true, there much more than just technology at play. Great experiences start with a clear understanding of business and customer needs. What does your current experience look like? Where could it be improved? How do you measure success? How might those things change over time? What data could/should you collect? How will your experiences vary for different audience segments? Understanding the customer has always been important; but now when experiences are what differentiate, it’s about cutting back, and making sure there is personalized, relevant communication between you and the customer.

Strategically designing your experience from the outside in (customer-driven) will help you build a framework and roadmap of opportunities to address. It helps bring the business divisions together with a singular focus on improving the experience across the board. It’s about building a strong CRM solution. This goes from the simple eDMs that you send out, right down to how much knowledge your frontline staff has at the point of inspiration, not just purchase. It’s about understanding what experiences don’t matter to a customer so that you focus on offering the things that they do value – and understanding that those values are going to be different from a luxury retailer to a mass market department store.

Technology will continue to play a major part in enabling this communication. It’s increasingly important that brands spread their expertise in technology beyond the traditional IT set-up. Technology today enables brands to show empathy. To close the loop on understanding customers, their needs and what they value from you as a brand.

What are the major challenges in the way of operating as a true omnichannel (post-channel) business?

Every channel is an opportunity to serve customers in a better way. This also applies to the underlying hierarchy of business challenges in aligning which function goes where. Too often organisations work in siloes, so you will get departments fighting over a piece of inventory, for instance, on their mobile site or app. This approach never benefits the customer, as they will end up seeing things that are completely irrelevant to their context and/or situation. Omni-channel works well when each interaction, regardless of legacy has a very specific purpose to play in the larger customer experience.

Data is crucial – data collected at each point is stored, processed and used in subsequent moments to further improve the experience. So when customers interact with your brand, there should be a valuable exchange of information happening. You listen to their needs. The customer receives what they are after, and every interaction is treated as a bespoke “moment”. This is how people treat other people. This is how brands need to treat consumers.

How should retailers approach the implementation of in-store technology?

The key here is to invest in the overarching experience, and make sure that technology sits as an invisible enabler in the organization. It needs to make a real difference to customers, and offer a compelling experience which, hopefully not just builds loyalty but can help drive further spend. For instance, the work we did at Isobar for our UNIQLO client in Australia enabled consumers to have their brain waves read to determine their current mood and to then be recommended a suitable T-shirt to match their mood. Pairing up customer curiosity with value, and the feeling that, you as a customer received something unique, will contribute to a richer experience and ultimately drive business.

What individual technology do you and your team at Isobar see as having the greatest potential impact on the retail industry in 2016 and why?

  • CRM that’s taking physical into account. Merging online behaviour with offline, such as foot traffic, store visits and interactions with the brick and mortar environments will help shape a more powerful customer view.
  • Innovation in payment methods will drive a more seamless shopping experience. This goes both for online and offline purchases. Our current payment paradigm is still not quite right, and it’s disjointed across markets and cultures.
  • Machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) is interesting for pretty much any industry because it can help drive efficiency, predictive behaviour as well as data analysis that’s more automated.

To hear more from Sven and over 120 other speakers click here to register your pass today!

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