Humans of Commerce

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More and more, technology companies are focusing on automation across industries. There are obvious benefits, like speed and convenience. But is automation, and the removal of human workers, the best approach for every sector?

Amazon recently introduced its grocery stores where customers can pop in, grab what they need and leave without ever interacting with a person. For quick purchases like milk and eggs, this concept works well. Apply the human-free, checkout-free concept across all retail concepts, and things start to look downright depressing. Commerce, whether it be buying food, grabbing a quick coffee or getting the latest styles, is a big component of communities – and communities need human interaction to thrive.

In our series #HumansOfCommerce, we get to know the staff and owners behind the coffee shops and retail stores that play a small, but important role in our day to day lives.  Our first feature is Sameer, who owns a popular chain of coffee shops in downtown Toronto:

“I’ve been in the customer service business for over 15 years now and I can’t imagine doing anything else. Getting to know customers and developing a relationship with them is the best part of what I do. We just opened up this new location recently, but at our Adelaide location, we know 85% of our customers on a first-name basis. My wife asked me the other day how I feel about businesses becoming more automated. Well, the day when things like coffee making and selling stop having human interaction, it will be a sad sad day for our community. Where I’m originally from, business was done based on trust and a handshake and it brought people together. That intimacy and regular interaction that you can have with customers is incredible. Technology can’t replicate the small chit-chats and exchanges that leave people feeling happy about walking into their local coffee shop.”

Tech Trends on Campus

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In an effort to keep up with the technology preferences of their students, higher education institutions across North America are upgrading their services across the board to become more convenient and experience oriented.

 

Making Shopping More Convenient Shouldn’t Mean Removing Human Interaction

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Amazon’s recent unveiling of its cashier free stores has generated a lot of buzz. Their just walk out technology, as they’ve branded it, allows customers to walk into an Amazon Go store by tapping their app, grabbing their items and simply walking out. The convenience that this provides is definitely incredible, but does that have to come at the price of removing human interaction?

As more and more industries automate, the small exchanges and connections we form, even if just for seconds, with other people seems to be getting cut. We’re so accustomed to seeing cashiers and sales associates everywhere that we don’t notice the important role that they play in our day to day lives and how they add to our daily experiences. If every type of physical store followed the Amazon Go model, we would be completely changing our everyday experiences, and not necessarily for the better.

 

Ramona Pringle, a technology columnist with CBC:

“You know what would be truly innovative? If a tech company started caring about how their products shape the lives of those who use them.

The tech industry has always promised us better quality of life. But somewhere along the line they got off course, confusing the idea of making our lives more convenient with making our lives better.

New features and functionality used to be enough to sell gadgets and get people talking. But the world we find ourselves in now, counting down to 2017, isn’t the same world of a decade ago, where we once waited with bated breath to see what Apple had in store at their launch events. Gadgets were aspirational, and there was an excited hopefulness around the potential of social media to bring the world together — maybe even to make us better, smarter, kinder versions of ourselves.

But at this point, we don’t really need thinner phones, or more megapixels, or new bots to take our coffee orders. What we need from the tech industry now is accountability: to care about how their products affect the lives and livelihoods of the people who use them, for better and for worse. That would be innovative.”

 

The Drum’s Lisa Lacy:

“Seamless is more than checkout-less.

But checkout and payment are hardly the only potential subpar moments in the consumer shopping experience. And that, in turn, is likely why some brands – like Brita, Brotherand Whirlpool – are part of the Amazon Dash Replenishment Service, which allows connected devices to tap into Amazon’s retail platform to build automatic reordering experiences for frequently ordered products like water filters, ink and detergent.

Here, seamless shopping is more about helping consumers avoid the pain of realizing they have suddenly run out of something.

But a seemingly infinite variety of pain points remain.

And that is perhaps why Laura Moser, shopper marketing practice leader at Momentum, defined frictionless shopping as “a dedicated and ongoing effort to anticipate the needs and desires of customers and solving problems before they experience [them, which allows them to] go down the desired path so they don’t have to think about how to get there or what comes next.”

In other words, frictionless shopping is really the movement of physical retail stores to understand they have to think differently about how they connect and sell to people and, in turn, seeks to make an entire brand more seamless and effective, Moser said.

Think of digital keys from hotel brands like Hilton and Starwood, which allow consumers to access their rooms with their mobile devices.

Or even Macy’s, which revamped the changing rooms in the swimsuit department of one location to include apps and swimwear delivery chutes to help make the dreaded experience of shopping for beachwear less awful and to encourage women to actually come to the store to try on bathing suits, which is something they cannot do online, Moser said.

And there are other as-of-yet unaddressed pain points in shopping for clothes, like, say, having to repeat your size even if you have purchased from a particular retailer previously, Goldberg noted.

“You need to remove friction from all versions of the experience,” he added.

And so before retailers leap to follow Amazon Go’s lead – the proverbial shiny object – they may be better off addressing their own existing UX issues and/or looking for alternate ways to improve the customer experience as it stands today as a means of coloring their own seamless shopping rainbows.”

 

 

The Power of Names

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Have you been going to the same cafe, restaurant, or bar and the person serving you still hasn’t caught on to your name? Well, how about when they do greet you with your name (yes, the right name!) – feels good, doesn’t it? The relationship you’ve built, based on daily “good mornings” and quick but frequent smile exchanges, is no longer just in your head. As a happy customer your day is made better, but your happiness is also good for business. In our last post we talked about how happy customers are also more profitable – there’s  power in greeting someone by name.

Asking someone for their name shows that you’re interested in forming a bond and customers definitely appreciate personalization – 74% of marketers say targeted personalization increases customer engagement. ( eConsultancy)

So, from a business perspective, if knowing the name of your customer improves their experience with your brand, increases retention and creates profit, then it’s definitely worth the trade-off. Here are a few tips for becoming a pro at the name game:

  1. Eliminate the awkwardness

We’ve all been at the receiving end of a Starbucks cup that says the wrong name. Whether it’s a name you haven’t heard before or it’s just loud around you, messing up on names is not fun. If you think you’ve got a name wrong or you’re having trouble saying, just ask. A quick “Am I saying this right?” or “Cool name! How do you spell that?” goes a long way.

  1. Once you get it, make use of it

There’s no use asking a customer for their name if you’re not going to use it. Once your customer has shared their name, make sure to address them with it for the rest of the encounter, without overdoing it of course. “So Alex, what can I get you today?” will automatically register the name with the face. This will help you keep the name in memory, creating a promising start to forming a loyal relationship. As they say: if you don’t use it, you lose it.

  1.  Outsmart your memory

Our memory tests us the hardest when we see someone unexpectedly – for some reason names become extremely hard to remember after a while. To make sure your memory doesn’t fail you, try to associate the name with another word or noun. For example, if the client’s name is Sandra and she’s always carrying a camera you can associate her as “Sandra the photographer”. Having a mental image will make it easier to store and retrieve the association from memory.

  1.    Get to know the person

It is much easier to remember someone that you had a genuine conversation with – customers will know if you’re trying too hard, and it’s a big turn off. The more you get to know someone, the easier you can form the kind of associations we’ve discussed. If you’ve noticed that Sandra always carries a camera, it may be worth your while to ask what kind of photographs she takes. When you become used to asking questions without being intrusive, getting to know the person behind the name, and transaction, will come naturally.

  1. Humanize Technology

There are lots of Customer Relationship Management tools that can help personalize your interaction with customers. 53% of marketers say that ongoing, personalized communication with existing customers results in moderate to significant revenue impact (DemandGen). Sometimes, remembering names in order to bond with customers is harder than it seems, so there’s no shame in applying humanizing technologies. This so happens to be one of our greatest strengths at Lucova – where we enable you to have customer names at hand in real-time, allowing you to focus on forming an authentic relationship with customers right from the start.

Quantifying the Value of Customer Experience

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The value of customer experience can be quantified – here are some results from a recent HBR.org study.

People recognize the value of a great customer experience when they receive it, but a business must be able to quantify the organizational benefits in order to justify the additional costs that accompany.

As consumers, brands that deliver exceptional experiences are the ones that we want to interact with, that we become loyal to, and that we recommend to our friends and family. However, for executives leading businesses, the value of delivering such an experience is often a lot less clear and harder to quantify. Rationales for focusing on customer experience tend to be driven by a gut belief that it’s just “the right thing to do.” The problem with this mindset is that often, the question of whether experience is a priority or not simply becomes a battle of opinions rather than facts.

When measuring the ROI and impact of the customer experience, it becomes clear how significant the effects are. To understand the extent of the impact, let’s consider the basics of a company’s bottom line – revenue vs. expenses. The best solutions will grow revenue and reduce expenses. Here’s how experience commerce plays a role with these functions:

 

Increase Revenue

Transaction Based Businesses (Ex. Retail/Restaurants)

Using two common elements that are relevant to all industries: customer feedback, and future spending by individual customers.

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After controlling for other factors that drive repeat purchases in the transaction-based business (for example, how often the customer needs the type of goods and services that the company sells), customers who had the best past experiences spend 140% more than to those who had the poorest past experiences.  The difference between a score of 9, which all businesses would celebrate, and 10 is 50%!

Subscription Based Businesses (Ex. Gym Memberships)

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On average, a member who gives the lowest score will likely only remain a member for a little over a year. Comparatively, the average member that gives the highest score is likely to remain a member for another six years.

 

Decrease Expenses

We often talk about great customer experience as a means to unlock revenue: you retain customers, realize more of their lifetime value, and mobilize an army of word-of-mouth marketers. However, there’s another significant benefit to the customer experience that is less talked about.

Could investing in great experiences actually end up costing you less over the long run? This might seem counterintuitive; a cost to eliminate costs. But over time, the costs that customer pain points create often exceed the cost of delivering a great experience.

Think about how much an unhappy customer (before they churn) costs you. They call your help lines. They file support tickets. They return products. Each of these instances is a touchpoint that represents a real cost to you. Depending on how you choose to resolve these instances (through refunds or discounts, for example), that cost could end up being quite high.

In the meantime, these same unhappy customers are likely to be telling others about their dissatisfaction. The White House Office of Consumer Affairs reports that unhappy customers will tell an average of 9 to 15 people about their experience — and 13% of those tell more than 20. As these unhappy customers ward off potential new customers, you may be forced to invest more in your marketing and advertising, which means less to invest in your customer experience and, therefore, more unhappy customers. It’s a vicious cycle that could end up costing you big time.

When you solve these pain points, you don’t just make customers happy — you end up reducing the cost to serve your customers, too.

 

Data Supports Experience Commerce

It’s time to stop the philosophical debate about whether investing in the experience of your customers is the right business decision. This isn’t a question of beliefs — it’s a question about the behaviour of your customers. Connect the right data and not only is it possible to quantify the impact of the difference between delivering a great experience and delivering a poor one, but it will also demonstrate to everyone in your organization just how big that impact can be.

 

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Sources:

HBR.Org

Medallia.com

 

 

Bluetooth Gets Another Boost With Indoor Location Services

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The use of Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) will become as common as our use of WiFi (read a previous blog post on this topic here), especially as we move towards personalized experiences and services. This seems more likely, now that BLE is enabling indoor location services effectively (Similar functions have long been around for the outdoors with GPS and Google Maps, but the time has finally come for the indoors.).

The catalysts according to a recent Tech Crunch post:

1. Changes in our smartphones

Apple recently introduced iBeacon and Google launched Eddystone, both of which make Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) a standard on virtually every smart device. This means that every smartphone is now “location aware,” allowing stores, hospitals, schools, corporations, museums and more to deliver highly personalized services to anyone who walks in their doors.”

2. Introduction of new wireless infrastructure

“The second biggest infrastructure challenge to BLE deployment has been location accuracy. To use BLE for strategic functions like step-by-step navigation, asset tracking and push notifications, indoor location accuracy needs to be close to the one-meter range. Advances in machine learning, coupled with rolling BLE into Wi-Fi systems, have recently made this possible.”

3. Motivation

“Mobile users expect to be delighted by personalized experiences everywhere they go — inside as well as out. And companies want to engage more closely with users on their premises to deliver amazing mobile experiences. Hotels want to automatically check-in guests the minute they walk in a front door and give them step-by-step directions to their room or a nearby restaurant. Hospitals want to help people easily find their way to the lab or the cafeteria while also easily locating valuable equipment such as wheelchairs and infusion pumps. Retail stores want to notify shoppers of sales within specific departments and make it easy to find available staff for assistance.”

At Lucova, our proprietary In-store Success Platform is built on BLE technology and over the last few years it has allowed us to employ some really innovative solutions for our retail and campus clients.

 

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The Importance of QA

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From eatable goods to mobile apps, the goal of quality assurance is to satisfy customers’ needs at every touchpoint. In today’s competitive market, whether you are a big corporation or a small startup, your products’ quality will set a reputation for your business. Here are some key points to keep in mind:

 

  1. Failure is expensive

Critical bugs can cost a company a lot of money, and a loss in customers and reputation.

Apple maps was intended to directly compete with Google Maps, but Apple released an unfinished product of poor quality. Maps were very inaccurate, buildings and constructions appeared in different places, directions took users the wrong way, towns were hidden behind clouds and bridges and cars seemed to have melted onto the roads.

Tesla developed an automatic pilot for some of their cars, but lack of data ended with several car crashes and one deadly accident where the car drove full speed under a truck because the car’s sensors system failed to distinguish the large vehicle crossing the road.

Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 is another example of lack of quality assurance. Samsung had to recall its devices because of many incidents when their battery exploded. These mistakes not only had a financial loss, but also a dent in their reputation.

 

  1. Focus on prevention

As Benjamin Franklin once said “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Having a quality control and quality assurance team focusing only on finding issues in products before they are released can save the company from more than a big hit to the wallet. Investing in a good QA team is like having insurance, where you know that your products come with a protection coverage.

 

  1. Set standards

Big names have a reputation, and the reason is the continuous delivery of high quality products. If an app takes a while to load or crashes a user’s phone, users will drop the product faster than a followed fix. High quality products give users a sense of security that they can rely on. The worst that could happen when aiming to deliver the best quality possible is to end up delivering just a good quality product.

 

At the end of the day, no one is perfect, regardless of the size of the QA team and resources your company can provide, mistakes will happen and customers will complain. But, by setting high quality standards across your organization, your products will be successful. And most of all, your customers will be happy.

 

What the US Elections Have Taught Companies About Data

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Many experts, media and data analysts were utterly shocked by the results of the US election. They learned that data can convey one thing, but people can behave in a completely different way in reality. Data can’t detect feelings and emotions. That’s a face to face, human to human job.

 

“In tech, we need scale, so we look at the world through the lens of aggregate metrics like page views, active users and even revenue,” Danielle Morrill, the chief executive of a start-up called Mattermark, wrote in an email. “But that doesn’t mean we understand the people on the other side of the screen as individuals. That’s the danger, and the opportunity.”

 

The above quote is taken from a New York Times article and perfectly captures the ‘danger and opportunity’ of not regarding people as individuals, but rather as target segments for whatever product, service or idea we want to push. It’s not an effective strategy. Whether in politics or business, the key to success is to get to know people and their unique characteristics, and serve them accordingly.

 

Read the full article on New York Times: Silicon Valley Reels After Trump’s Election

Customer Experience Lessons We Can All Learn From Hotel Doormen

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The New York Times recently featured the day to day life of a Chicago hotel doorman which details the lengths he goes to, in order to deliver memorable experiences that keep hotel guests coming back. Here are a few of the measures he takes, which all brands can bring into their customer experience philosophies:

Surprise and Delight 

“Then there is the problem of intelligence gathering. Mr. Sykes and his colleagues are constantly alert to chatter that a new arrival has lost a piece of luggage or is celebrating an anniversary, so that a complimentary cosmetic bag or bottle of champagne can be arranged. They are often the first to detect a whiff of discontent from a V.I.P., like cast members of the network television shows who bed down there during filming.”

Know Their Name

“There are certain tricks in the repertoire of any good doorman, and Mr. Sykes is an enthusiastic practitioner. Trick No. 1: Go out of your way to cultivate children, who tend to have outsize sway over their parents’ lodging decisions. Trick No. 2: Always sneak a look at the baggage label of an arriving guest so you can refer to the guest by name. (Trick No. 2.5: Make sure it’s an up-to-date, airline-issued label to avoid unforced errors.)”

Understand Their Individual Preferences

“In effect, Mr. Sykes’s method is to develop a profile of each person he encounters — which he is constantly updating — and calibrate accordingly. To the pair of middle-aged women on their way to Gibson’s Steakhouse, he was the vicarious wingman. “Have the Turtle Pie with ice cream,” he counseled. “It is very fattening but delicious.” (“We will, Gary. We’ll be thinking of you when we do it,” they replied.)”

What’s a Point of Experience (POE) System?

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You’re familiar with a Point of Sale (POS), the system that allows merchants to process and capture transactions, but who’s the new kid, a Point of Experience (POE), in town?

A POE does everything that a POS does – process payments, manage inventory, track sales etc., but there’s a key differentiator. Rather than focus on the transaction, the POE compels brands to focus on the person behind the transaction. Every checkout experience begins with the face and name of the customer standing in front of the terminal. It also contains relevant details about the customer’s likes/dislikes and unique interests, so that their interactions with brands become more meaningful and seamless.

Here’s how we’ve built our POE FIIT:

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