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Predictions For The Future Of Customer Experience

Jen Cohen Crompton

In the realm of customer experience, today’s consumers are more informed, more collaborative, future of customer experienceand have higher expectations for retailers and lower thresholds for dealing with impersonal, unresponsive companies. Thanks to the Internet and social networks, everyone’s voice, positive or negative, can be heard and companies have the opportunity to provide a more diversified approach to reach their audiences. Within the next few years, this space will continually innovate and things that we never thought possible will become completely possible…and even the norm.

Here are ways the customer experience will be transformed.

1.  What you want to buy will never be out of stock

Smarter supply chains that factor buying behavior and other conditions, such as the weather, into their algorithms will make forecasting easier and will help retailers plan with improved accuracy. Because of the convergence of data, sensors, and predictive analytics in supply chain management, customers won’t experience the disappointment that comes with unavailable products. Also, digital disruption will remove the need for traditional means of assembling user data and will replace it with innovations such as in-store applications that monitor movement, point of service, store traffic management, and in-store promotion. Thanks to these changes in technology, we may never be disappointed by our favorite product being out-of-stock and we can avoid that uncomfortable duel for the ‘last one on the shelf.’

2.  Everything will be exactly what you want

From shoes to shirts to electronics – everything will have the opportunity to be completely customized. At CES 2014, Whirpool showed off some of their new products. They had dishwashers and microwaves with customizable skins making the not-so-attractive appliances appear as personalized pieces of art. And in the fashion world, individualize looks and styles are taking over and retailers are embracing individuality with styles and offerings (leaving cookie-cutter companies that promote one look losing ground). And honestly, if you want something completely unique, like a figurine of your favorite pet, 3D printing makes it possible. With some 3D printing options, you can create just about anything to be exactly as you want. From the 3D scanning photo booth that can create a blueprint of your dog (and print a 3D version) to creating custom products online and sending the specs to a 3D printer, just about everything is in reach. As the cost of the printers decline, these options will become more mainstreamed.

3.  Online purchases are delivered in 30 minutes…faster than a pizza

Could you really get your online purchase in less time than it takes the local pizzeria to deliver your Friday night dinner? Sounds like a dream, right? With last year’s news about the potential of Amazon drones dropping packages at your front door within 30 minutes, we were excited about the speed and opportunities of this service…but then we were quickly schooled on the reality of these flying vehicles and how they could impact the world on a larger scale. On one hand, there is actually a lot of air traffic – just with airplanes, there are between 25,000 and 27,000 flights taking off and landing every day. And on the other hand, drones can serve more purposes than just delivering consumer products. Either way, the concept of drones for daily use may still need some work to operate within regulations, but this in-the-works concept is something that could be a reality sooner than later, and a flying vehicle might get you that last minute delivery before you’ve even closed your laptop.

4.  “Can I tweet your order?”

Want a pizza? Go tweet your order. Need a new shirt? Tweet your style and size. With customer service fully transformed into a multi-level approach forcing companies to power phone lines and tweets, the future is now, and when you want to order something, picking up the phone or heading to a website isn’t the only option. Businesses such as restaurants and hyperlocally-focused services are taking to Twitter and text messaging to manage and respond to customer requests. Companies are using the omnichannel approach to bring convenience into the palms of customers and changing the experience to be as seamless as possible.

5.  Companies use people like you for product design

There is beauty in crowdsourcing and companies embracing and implementing this strategy seem to be reaping the benefits. Tesco, one of the world’s largest retailers, has been championing crowdsourcing and,earlier this year, its online community helped invent the world’s first socially-created wine. The product was shortlisted and the crowd proposed the branding. In an article posted on SAP’s Business Innovation site, Deola Laniyan, account director at Tesco’s social and PR agency, is quoted as saying, “Consumers now have an expectation that their voices will be heard, they want to be more involved in the process and this campaign answers that beautifully.” Other companies who have jumped on the crowdsourcing train with success include Vitamin Water, Doritos, and NetFlix.

6.  There’s something it in for you if you let your favorite brands get to know you

As consumers, we are pretty much walking data generators. From our loyalty cards that we swipe at the supermarket to our online accounts at retailers – we are blatantly sharing information about our habits to retailers who are using the intelligence to tailor their offerings and marketing messages. As a result, retailers will continue to collect, store and use data, which will result in two things – more of what we want and less of what we don’t want. As we continue to consume and reap the benefits of retailer data collection, we as consumers, will have to decide what we really want and determine if we appreciate the relevant marketing or want to pay a price to keep our data private.

7.  The weather, demand, availability, and YOU can make prices fluctuate by the minute

We all know that as oil prices increase, our pockets eventually feel the pain at the pump as we get less for our dollars. But we often expect this price change and are willing to pay to power our vehicles. So what about companies changing the prices of shovels during a snowstorm? This isn’t just merely an Economics 101 case of supply and demand, but now, with the ubiquity of connectivity, vendors are suddenly able to use algorithms to change the pricing of their goods and services at a moment’s notice. This works well for retailers who can dictate their prices and change in an instant, and it can actually be beneficial for consumers who are willing to pay that perfect price for that perfect product or service. It’s a personal demonstration of price equilibrium and we need to remember that in a networked economy, consumers have all the power.

8.  Shop, buy, and return: Automation takes over retail stores

Ever hear of the cupcake ATM? Or have you ever purchase something from the Best Buy Express vending machines? These hyped-up vending machines are examples of automated retail and fall into the category of self-service shopping, which is a popular way to provide convenience at places such as airports, malls, and resorts…and even the street corner in NYC. There are also supermarkets and other retailers adding automation to their in-store experience, which is allowing customers to check out sans a cashier and complete other transactions on their own. As these machines and automated practices become more connected and intelligent, the full customer experience, from purchase to service, could be automated to deliver a superior, self-serve customer experience.

9.  Keeping your personal information private may cost you

With the understanding that we create data all day long and offer it up to ecommerce companies, brick and mortar stores, mobile devices, and wearables tracking our athletic performance, there are some companies capitalizing on the trend of being privacy-friendly. For example, Mozilla, a presumed underdog in the browser market, suggested that it would allow its users to disable third-party tracking software altogether. And search engine DuckDuckGo promotes the same advantage – no tracking. So with all this data floating around and all these companies jumping at the chance to capture some, consumers will begin gravitating toward companies that offer privacy, even if it’s for a premium.

10.  In-store shopping becomes as intelligent as online shopping

With e-commerce, consumer behavior data is as easy to track as web analytics, which let retailers know exactly where a customer is coming from, what he or she is doing when they are on the site, what that same shopper purchased in the past…and even where they go after they leave the site. Thanks to the information online shoppers “give away,” ecommerce sites create experiences that use algorithms to make suggestions (to upsell and cross-sell) for product purchases. This same experience can be duplicated by offline retailers as they strive to make stores more intelligent and understand consumer behavior within a physical space. Bonobos, a men’s retailer, is taking on that challenge with their showcase stores. These 1000-square-foot storefronts give a customer the ability to touch and feel the products while an associate guides him through the shopping process, creating a personalized and exceptional customer experience. During this process, the store captures customer behavior and, through human interaction, suggests products and converts the opportunity to a sale. And, with the blending of offline and online data via social check-ins and apps like Foursquare’s Swarm, the store associate can become that much more informed before the initial conversation.

Omni-channel retailing is not about replicating a single experience across channels. It’s about optimizing each unique experience through a variety of channels. Learn more in this new insights report from ARC.

Get involved in the conversations on the Future of Business and read, watch and learn about how the customer experience will be impacted by technology, consumer needs, and data, and continue to transform.

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About Jen Cohen Crompton

Jen Cohen Crompton is a SAP Blogging Correspondent reporting on big data, cloud computing, enterprise mobility, analytics, sports and tech, and anything else innovation-related. When she's not blogging, she can be caught marketing, using social media and/or presenting at conferences around the world. Disclosure: Jen is being compensated by SAP to produce a series of articles on the innovation topics covered on this site. The opinions reflected here are her own.

Why 3D Printed Food Just Transformed Your Supply Chain

Hans Thalbauer

Numerous sectors are experimenting with 3D printing, which has the potential to disrupt many markets. One that’s already making progress is the food industry.

The U.S. Army hopes to use 3D printers to customize food for each soldier. NASA is exploring 3D printing of food in space. The technology could eventually even end hunger around the world.

What does that have to do with your supply chain? Quite a bit — because 3D printing does more than just revolutionize the production process. It also requires a complete realignment of the supply chain.

And the way 3D printing transforms the supply chain holds lessons for how organizations must reinvent themselves in the new era of the extended supply chain.

Supply chain spaghetti junction

The extended supply chain replaces the old linear chain with not just a network, but a network of networks. The need for this network of networks is being driven by four key factors: individualized products, the sharing economy, resource scarcity, and customer-centricity.

To understand these forces, imagine you operate a large restaurant chain, and you’re struggling to differentiate yourself against tough competition. You’ve decided you can stand out by delivering customized entrees. In fact, you’re going to leverage 3D printing to offer personalized pasta.

With 3D printing technology, you can make one-off pasta dishes on the fly. You can give customers a choice of ingredients (gluten-free!), flavors (salted caramel!), and shapes (Leaning Towers of Pisa!). You can offer the personalized pasta in your restaurants, in supermarkets, and on your ecommerce website.

You may think this initiative simply requires you to transform production. But that’s just the beginning. You also need to re-architect research and development, demand signals, asset management, logistics, partner management, and more.

First, you need to develop the matrix of ingredients, flavors, and shapes you’ll offer. As part of that effort, you’ll have to consider health and safety regulations.

Then, you need to shift some of your manufacturing directly into your kitchens. That will also affect packaging requirements. Logistics will change as well, because instead of full truckloads, you’ll be delivering more frequently, with more variety, and in smaller quantities.

Next, you need to perfect demand signals to anticipate which pasta variations in which quantities will come through which channels. You need to manage supply signals source more kinds of raw materials in closer to real time.

Last, the source of your signals will change. Some will continue to come from point of sale. But others, such as supplies replenishment and asset maintenance, can come direct from your 3D printers.

Four key ingredients of the extended supply chain

As with our pasta scenario, the drivers of the extended supply chain require transformation across business models and business processes. First, growing demand for individualized products calls for the same shifts in R&D, asset management, logistics, and more that 3D printed pasta requires.

Second, as with the personalized entrees, the sharing economy integrates a network of partners, from suppliers to equipment makers to outsourced manufacturing, all electronically and transparently interconnected, in real time and all the time.

Third, resource scarcity involves pressures not just on raw materials but also on full-time and contingent labor, with the necessary skills and flexibility to support new business models and processes.

And finally, for personalized pasta sellers and for your own business, it all comes down to customer-centricity. To compete in today’s business environment and to meet current and future customer expectations, all your operations must increasingly revolve around rapidly comprehending and responding to customer demand.

Want to learn more? Check out my recent video on digitalizing the extended supply chain.

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Hans Thalbauer

About Hans Thalbauer

Hans Thalbauer is the Senior Vice President, Extended Supply Chain, at SAP. He is responsible for the strategic direction and the Go-To-Market of solutions for Supply Chain, Logistics, Engineering/R&D, Manufacturing, Asset Management and Sustainability at SAP.

The Internet of Things and Digital Transformation: A Tale of Four Industries

Kai Goerlich

The Internet of Things (IoT) is poised for rapid growth across a wide variety of industries that are connecting physical assets. Companies are ramping up their IoT investments rapidly, which can be seen in seven major industries with high levels of physical products or assets. And overall, market research indicates that IoT spending will increase 19% on average through 2018.

According to analysts, there are no sign of IoT adoption slowing down anytime soon. In fact, approximately 30% of all industry leaders will be disrupted by digitally enabled competitors by 2018. Meanwhile, a little more than half (58%) of organizations worldwide see the IoT as strategic to their business – and another 24% of organizations view the IoT as a transformational business opportunity.

While some industries, such as discrete manufacturing, have already invested significantly, others, such as healthcare, have spent less to date but are expected to expand quickly in the future.

In this white paper, IDC takes a closer look at four industries – retail, consumer products, discrete manufacturing, and healthcare – and how their IoT maturity is impacting how they operate and serve their customers now and plan for the future.

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Kai Goerlich

About Kai Goerlich

Kai Goerlich is the Idea Director of Thought Leadership at SAP. His specialties include Competitive Intelligence, Market Intelligence, Corporate Foresight, Trends, Futuring and ideation.

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Amazing Digital Marketing Trends And Tips To Expand Your Business In 2015

Sunny Popali

Amazing Digital Marketing Trends & Tips To Expand Your Business In 2015The fast-paced world of digital marketing is changing too quickly for most companies to adapt. But staying up to date with the latest industry trends is imperative for anyone involved with expanding a business.

Here are five trends that have shaped the industry this year and that will become more important as we move forward:

  1. Email marketing will need to become smarter

Whether you like it or not, email is the most ubiquitous tool online. Everyone has it, and utilizing it properly can push your marketing ahead of your rivals. Because business use of email is still very widespread, you need to get smarter about email marketing in order to fully realize your business’s marketing strategy. Luckily, there are a number of tools that can help you market more effectively, such as Mailchimp.

  1. Content marketing will become integrated and more valuable

Content is king, and it seems to be getting more important every day. Google and other search engines are focusing more on the content you create as the potential of the online world as marketing tool becomes apparent. Now there seems to be a push for current, relevant content that you can use for your services and promote your business.

Staying fresh with the content you provide is almost as important as ensuring high-quality content. Customers will pay more attention if your content is relevant and timely.

  1. Mobile assets and paid social media are more important than ever

It’s no secret that mobile is key to your marketing efforts. More mobile devices are sold and more people are reading content on mobile screens than ever before, so it is crucial to your overall strategy to have mobile marketing expertise on your team. London-based Abacus Marketing agrees that mobile marketing could overtake desktop website marketing in just a few years.

  1. Big Data for personalization plays a key role

Marketers are increasingly using Big Data to get their brand message out to the public in a more personalized format. One obvious example is Google Trend analysis, a highly useful tool that marketing experts use to obtain the latest on what is trending around the world. You can — and should — use it in your business marketing efforts. Big Data will also let you offer specific content to buyers who are more likely to look for certain items, for example, and offer personalized deals to specific groups of within your customer base. Other tools, which until recently were the stuff of science fiction, are also available that let you do things like use predictive analysis to score leads.

  1. Visual media matters

A picture really is worth a thousand words, as the saying goes, and nobody can deny the effectiveness of a well-designed infographic. In fact, some studies suggest that Millennials are particularly attracted to content with great visuals. Animated gifs and colorful bar graphs have even found their way into heavy-duty financial reports, so why not give them a try in your business marketing efforts?

A few more tips:

  • Always keep your content relevant and current to attract the attention of your target audience.
  • Always keep all your social media and public accounts fresh. Don’t use old content or outdated pictures in any public forum.
  • Your reviews are a proxy for your online reputation, so pay careful attention to them.
  • Much online content is being consumed on mobile now, so focus specifically on the design and usability of your mobile apps.
  • Online marketing is essentially geared towards getting more traffic onto your site. The more people visit, the better your chances of increasing sales.

Want more insight on how digital marketing is evolving? See Shutterstock Report: The Face Of Marketing Is Changing — And It Doesn’t Include Vince Vaughn.

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About Sunny Popali

Sunny Popali is SEO Director at www.tempocreative.com. Tempo Creative is a Phoenix inbound marketing company that has served over 700 clients since 2001. Tempos team specializes in digital and internet marketing services including web design, SEO, social media and strategy.

Compelling Shopping Moments: 4 Creative Ways Stores Connect With Their Customers

Ralf Kern

compelling shopping momentsOn a recent morning, as I was going through my usual routine, my coffeemaker broke. I cannot live without coffee in the morning, so I immediately looked up my coffeemaker on Amazon and had it shipped Prime in one day. My problem was solved within minutes. My Amazon app, and my loyalty account with that company, was there for me when I needed it most.

It was in this moment that I realized the importance of digital presence for retailers. There is a chance that the store 10 minutes from my house carries this very same coffeemaker; I could have had it in one hour, instead of one day. But the need for immediate access to information pushed me to the online store. My local retailer was not able to be there for me digitally like Amazon.

Retail is still about reading the minds of your customers in order to know what they need and create a flawless experience. But the days of the unconnected shopper in a monochannel world are over. I am not alone in my digital-first mindset; according to a recent MasterCard report, 80% of consumers use technology during the shopping process. I, and consumers like me, use mobile devices as a guide to the physical world.

We don’t need to have an academic discussion about multichannel, omnichannel, and omnicommerce and their meanings, because what it really comes down to for your consumers, or fans, is shopping. And shopping has everything to do with moments in your customers’ lives: celebration moments, in-a-hurry moments, I-want-to-be-entertained moments, and more. Most companies only look for and measure very few moments along the shopping journey, like the moment of coupon download or the moment of sales.

Anticipating these moments was easier when mom and pop stores knew their customers by name. They knew how to be there for their shoppers when, where, and how they wanted it. And shoppers didn’t have any other options. Now it is crucial for companies to understand all of these moments and even anticipate or trigger the right moments for their customers.

In today’s digital economy the way to achieve customer connection is with simple, enjoyable, and personalized front ends that are supported by sophisticated, digital back ends. Then you can use that system to support your customer outreach.

Companies around the world are using creative and innovative methods to find their customers in various moments. Being there for customers comes in many different shapes and forms. Consider these examples:

Chilli Beans

A Brazilian maker of fashion sunglasses, glasses, and watches, Chilli Beans has a loyal following online and at over 700 locations around the world. Chilli Beans keeps its customers engaged by releasing 10 limited-edition styles each week. If customers like what they see, they have to buy fast or risk missing out.

Bonobos

Online men’s fashion retailer Bonobos reaches its customers with its Guide Shops. While they look like traditional retail outlets, the shops don’t actually sell any clothes. Customers come in for one-on-one appointments with the staff, and if they like anything that they try on, the staff member orders it for them online and it is shipped to their house. The 20 Guide Shops currently open have proven very successful for the company.

Peak Performance

Peak Performance, a European maker of outdoor clothing, has added a little magic to its customer experience. It has created virtual pop-up shops that customers can track on their smartphones through CatchMagicHour.com, and they are only available at sunrise and sunset at exact GPS locations. Customers who go to the location, be it at a lighthouse or on top of a mountain, are rewarded with the ability to select free clothing from the virtual shop that they have unlocked on their phones.

Shoes of Prey

The customer experience is completely custom at Shoes of Prey, a website where women can design custom shoes. From fabric to color, the customer picks every element, and then her custom creation is sent directly to her house. Shoes of Prey has even shifted its business model based on customer feedback. Its customers wanted to get inspiration and advice in a physical store. So Shoes of Prey made the move from online-only to omnicommerce and has started to open stores around the world.

While the customer experience for each of these connections is relatively simple – a website, a smartphone, an online design studio – the back end that powers them has to be powerful and nimble at the same time. These sophisticated back ends – powering simple, enjoyable, and personalized front ends – will completely change the game in retail. They will allow companies to engage their customers in ways we can’t even begin to imagine.

Technology will help you be there in the shopping moment. The best technology won’t annoy your customers with irrelevant promotions or pop-up messages. Instead, like a good friend, it will know how to engage with customers and when to leave them alone – how to truly connect with customers instead of manage them. Consequently, customer relationship management as we know it is an outdated technology in the economy of today – and tomorrow. Technologies that go beyond CRM will help retailers to differentiate. Aligning your organization and those technologies will be the Holy Grail to creating true and sustainable customer loyalty.

Learn more ways that business will never be the same again. Learn 99 Mind-Blowing Ways The Digital Economy Is Changing The Future Of Business.

Find out how SAP can help you go beyond CRM and support your retail business.

Ralf Kern is Global Vice President Retail for SAP and a retail ambassador for SAP. Interested in your feedback. You can also get in touch on Twitter or LinkedIn

This blog also appeared on SAP Customer Network.

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Ralf Kern

About Ralf Kern

Ralf Kern is the Global Vice President, Business Unit Retail, at SAP, responsible for the future direction of SAP’s solution and global Go-to-Market strategy for Omnicommerce Retail, leading them into today’s digital reality.