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Ascent B2B IT Forum – CX in the Age of Innovation: The Convergence of Digital & Physical

Ascent B2B IT Forum – CX in the Age of Innovation: The Convergence of Digital & Physical

It’s hard to dispute that we’re living in an increasingly digitally-driven world, proven by the fact that Americans log more than 10 hours of screen time per day presenting a huge, new market opportunity. Retail is no exception – ecommerce is expected to grow 8 to 12 percent in 2017 to over $400 Billion. But even so, 87 percent of shoppers still travel to a store to make a purchase. Combine this with the criticality of the need for great customer experience (CX), and it’s clear that all retailers must find a way to fuse online and offline experiences for success. This is no passing trend.

Last week, we hosted our 10th B2B IT Forum where we explored customer experience in the age of innovation. Our moderator, ZeroDegrees’ Colin Hynes kicked off the conversation with a look at how our panel views CX and its drivers. We were joined by panelists from Promoboxx, TimeTrade, C-Space and Vee24 – and their responses varied. Priya Iyer, CEO of Vee24, emphasized that CX has always been important but with exciting new technology like artificial intelligence, chatbots and augmented/virtual reality, the space has never been more exciting to explore. Gary Ambrosino, CEO of TimeTrade, attributes the CX boom to the strong desire for human interaction despite the online surge which has essentially dehumanized the shopping experience and the market is begging for innovative ways to better account for how people want to shop today.

The importance of integrating human emotion into the shopping experience was a common theme throughout the night. Ben Carcio, CEO of Promoboxx, emphasized that no matter the channel, making a purchase is an emotional decision, and brands must ensure they are aware of and meeting customers’ emotional drivers. But when a customer is shopping online versus in a store, logic sometimes trumps emotion, and details, such as price, take priority. With this, it stands to reason that brands should consider how to address human emotion within the digital experience equation. It’s our opinion that this is done by getting to know your customer in order to identify what drives them, and then enabling them to follow a path to purchase that best suits them – be it online, in store, or a combination.

This was echoed by Melanie Seaborn, SVP at C-Space, who stressed the importance of having a clear and deep sense of who your customers are as people. Retailers can then develop experiences customized for them at every point during the customer journey. Ambrosino drove this point home, mentioning “the problem with software today is that it cannot understand humans.” While artificial intelligence promises to learn from behavior, without a human brain to contribute to the emotional nuances of human behavior, insights will prove lackluster (and one reason why humans won’t lose jobs to automation any time soon).

This raises the question about what role modern day technologies, such as virtual reality (VR),  play in CX. When asked if they thought VR would prove beneficial to CX, the panelists all had different views. Iyer believes that there may not be a place for VR in retail, but it will be beneficial to other industries like healthcare and insurance. And getting back to the customer and emotion, Carcio predicts that VR will play a role in CX if it can play into emotion, and Seaborn stated “if you know your customer and how it’s relevant, there is a time and a place for VR.” As we learned from our December forum, the future for VR and AR in retail is still being fleshed out though some retailers are forging ahead already – Lowe’s is experimenting with VR by allowing shoppers to design the room of their dreams. Impact on revenue is still TBD but we’ll be keeping an eye on this as early days turn into end-results.

So, how can businesses embrace this digital transformation and surge in CX importance? The panelists agreed that in order to succeed, companies must break down silos, align departments and revisit their CX strategies often given the pace of change in the market today. Companies also need to implement ways to collect real customer feedback. As the landscape continues to evolve and the convergence of digital and physical worlds unfolds, these aspects will continue to prove invaluable for companies looking to remain competitive and successful in today’s CX-driven world.   

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