At the end of last year, I was invited to share my customer experience predictions for 2016 with MarketForce, a sponsor-funded European Union event production company. The only guideline was to focus on what could/should happen in 2016. With the retail industry fresh on my mind as I prepared for the NRF Big Show, I responded with this prediction:
“On the digital side, the emphasis on predictive analytics will expand beyond what helps the business operate more profitably to what creates more value for customers.”
Yes, we will see better recommendation engines. We’ll also see more tech aimed at helping customers purchase smarter. For example, if you’re shopping for a red cashmere sweater and you already purchased one in the last 18 months, you might feel delighted if the shopping tech reminds you that you already have one. (You may also see new items it could mix and match with.)
Showing customer that you are ready to serve them before you sell to them is something people in the retail industry have known for over 100 years. Now, technology is letting us put humans first once again.
After 75+ conversations at NRF with various vendors, retailers, consultants, and technologists, I feel even more strongly that this prediction is on the mark. Especially from the technology vendors, I heard the same basic thinking “Buy our product, it will help you sell more.” When I steered the same conversation to my conversation partner’s own personal desires for a better customer experience, I heard the same basic thinking “I don’t like being interrupted so much and I don’t want to feel like I’m being sold.”
The last 10-ish years have shown that customers are in control and that, in the end, their needs are always met. It’s especially true now that mobile devices have become their weapon of choice.
If you’re in retail (or any person-to-person service-based business), consider ways you can use the capabilities of your business, your brand, and your people to serve before you sell. Move this concept from idea into practice and you’ll move your customers which, in turn, will move your bottom line.
You can read others’ customer experience predictions for 2016 on the marketforce site.