Put Your Customers At The Heart Of Your Innovation To Drive Brand Loyalty

Michele Hackshall

When you think of ASICS, most likely the first thing that comes to mind are running shoes. The company, however, recognizes that customers are after much more – and arguably, it has done so since it first started trading.

“Our brand writes its story by itself. The story is amazing. The backbone is strong: how can we make people excited and enjoy life,” says Thomas Wasser, global CRM lead for ASICS. Perception is critical for brands. “As a brand you have a perception of what you’re delivering. We think we are providing the best products, but the consumer experience isn’t matching what we’re thinking.”

ASICS is striving to chip away at that gap to make it smaller. It is focusing more and more on the customer experience through programs that encourage engagement rather than product sales. This marks a shift for the company and demonstrates not only its understanding of a disrupted marketplace, but its acknowledgement of the disruptive economy.

“It’s not really about digital transformation. It’s a consumer-centric transformation,” Wasser says. Consumers switch brands more easily now and their expectations are constantly moving higher. As a result, the biggest threat isn’t coming from competitors, but from disruptors like Uber and AirBNB. These are the companies that set the benchmark for customers by highlighting  the benefits of a great online experience.

The challenge, therefore, is for ASICS to get conversations started and build connections with consumers. Wasser refers to this as not storytelling, but story doing. “We need to live the story and ensure it cascades.”

For example, they asked marathon runners what products they buy. Nearly half answered ASICS – good result, right? Further digging revealed that the purchase wasn’t driven by a love of the product, but because it was considered the best. There was nothing wrong with it, but the problem was simply that customers didn’t feel a connection to the brand. “If a competitor comes along with a parity perception that doesn’t even have the same quality, then the customer is gone,” Wasser explained.

ASICS is now working not just to stay in the consideration mindset of consumers but to build that bond. Achieving this starts with self reflection by the brand to be authentic and honest. Instead of asking, “What’s best for the company?”, they ask “What’s best for the customer?”.

Building connections starts with engagement. The idea is to identify a customer’s individual goals and then help them achieve these goals. By engaging customers and helping them find new goals, such as trying a new sport or achieving a faster marathon finish time, ASICS is helping customers, not just selling to them. This is accomplished through the creation of programs such as Pace Club, starting running crews and clinics, and the recent acquisition of Runkeeper.

To make this transformation successful, key strategies have been undertaken around the globe.

ASICS is providing training in very region to make sure everyone understands the intelligence the brand gathers and what it can provide. To do this successfully, they’ve acknowledged that a global approach can’t ignore the need for localization. This means that alignment across regions and clearly delineating the objectives and deliverables is critical.

“Sharing best practice sharing is much easier now,” says Wasser. “We can really start working together as regions, instead of competing.”

For more strategies that create brand advocates, see Bridging The Gap: Turning Potential Customers Into Brand Advocates.

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Michele Hackshall

About Michele Hackshall

Michele Hackshall is a writer who helps global brands hone their marketing communications. Over the past two decades she’s managed product launches, strategized campaigns and written everything from scripts and adverts through to annual reports and press releases. Since becoming a freelancer in 2013, she’s focused on project managing the case studies program for Twitter’s emerging markets, through digital marketing agency Wings4U.

Automotive: The Age Of The Mobility Ecosystem

Dean Afzal

Ask any automotive executive the following question: “Which part of your car generates the most power?” Their answer will likely influence your purchase decision significantly. If that person answers, “the engine” or “the powertrain,” you’ll know you are dealing with someone at least 10 years behind the times.

The part of a car that generates the most power is the smartphone. It is the centerpiece of everything that happens between the car, its owner, and its manufacturer. It is its intelligence, its security system, its entertainment, communications, and commerce hub. Increasingly, as car-hailing apps like Lyft and Uber have shown, it is also the device that gets cars and people together, in innovative and versatile ways.

This is a revolution for the automotive industry. It is an age unlike any that has come before. For the past 100 years, improvements have been made to all the physical components of a vehicle, from tires to roof, and from fuel economy to safety. But throughout all of this, a consumer’s vehicle has remained a mechanical possession, generally owned by one person at a time, remaining parked and idle for most of its life, and generating revenue for the manufacturer through sales, maintenance, and repair.

The advent of the smartphone, with its app for everything and its universal accessibility, has changed the relationship on all three sides of the consumer-vehicle-manufacturer triangle. This is now the “post-ownership future.” The commercial tenure of a vehicle has grown exponentially and has crossed borders into other areas of consumers’ lives. Automotive companies are recognizing this, but it remains to be seen just how well their reactions can keep pace.

The mobility ecosystem

In the post-ownership future, consumers, dealers, and manufacturers alike are learning how to exist in a mobility ecosystem. Those are powerful words. Mobility connotes far more than mere car ownership. It includes ride sharing, car sharing, usage by the hour, and using alternate forms of transport as needed. It can also include not moving at all, but arriving virtually through tools like Skype and Facetime from the front seat of your parked vehicle.

“Ecosystem” brings to mind a remarkably connected and symbiotic existence, where a driver’s music or podcast collection hands off effortlessly to the onboard entertainment system, where turn-by-turn directions and real-time parking space information arrives just when it is needed, where car and owner communicate via smartphone, and where car and manufacturer communicate via the house WiFi.

The mobility ecosystem demands an experience

The 20th century model of ownership is fading away in all areas of commerce, not just automotive. Consumers are now looking for experiences. They expect to rent and consume products based on their preferences. They arrive well prepared and turn to their smartphone for reviews, comparative data, and options. This means automotive companies, as well as all other types of vendors, must evolve from product sellers to purveyors of value and experience.

This transition towards experience extends beyond the smartphone, of course, but still orbits around it. While the customer uses her smartphone to learn and decide, so, too, the vendor can use the same medium to contact individual consumers, build a direct, personalized relationship, and collect vital data along the way. Some examples of this new automotive marketplace include:

  • Ford’s spin-off company, Ford Smart Mobility, dedicated to including innovations like advance booking of parking spaces in cities and at airports. This provides an added service to the car usage experience, while allowing Ford to expand into and monetize hitherto untapped aftermarkets, in this case, the $7 billion/year parking industry.
  • GM and Toyota, which each are offering car-sharing programs based on the Zipcar model.
  • Ford, which is testing an Airbnb-style car sharing program, leasing a single vehicle to a group of people rather than to one person.
  • Cadillac, offering a $1,500 per month subscription service, giving members access to a variety of models to fit their daily needs. They have seen just how big a bite ride sharing has taken out of the market, and they want it back.

This transition is the reason why dealerships are being retooled to become the face of the brand experience. Since shoppers can now go online to do all the research they need about models and warranties, they are cutting back on dealership visits substantially, turning instead to online brokers, many of whom represent more than one brand. This demands more tailored relationships, proactive customer service, and improved financing options to win back trust and convert visits to sales.

In the mobility ecosystem, automotive manufacturers may not ever have to provide every service themselves, rather they will be the proactive hub where industry partners, distributors, and consumers mingle and coexist. Manufacturers must move to the front lines, rather than residing as the anchor at the back. They can and must deliver the immediacy and interactivity demanded by their customers. By doing so, they will own and control the customer data and the end-to-end customer experience, which in turn will fuel their future prosperity.

Own your automotive marketplace

In the automotive industry, a vehicle is becoming just one part of a new marketplace for mobility – one that focuses on service, personalized shopping experiences, and real-time communication.

With the help of technology solutions, automotive companies can:

  • Interact directly with customers and own the experience
  • Harness customer data
  • Fulfill orders through channel partners, avoiding channel conflict
  • Meet customer expectations for B2C-style experiences

Want to learn more about selling directly and creating a bigger value pie for all? Check out the latest Forrester Custom Technology Adoption Profile, commissioned by Mirakl and SAP Hybris.

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Why Customers Love Online Shopping And How You Can Take Advantage Of It

Andre Smith

It’s no secret that consumers are flocking to online stores in droves. The retail industry is struggling and projected to continue doing so, as online shopping continues to grow. It’s essential for retail leadership teams to understand this trend in order to take advantage of it.

Customers love being able to shop online for a number of reasons:

  • It’s more convenient
  • There is more selection
  • They can compare products/prices more easily
  • Prices are often better
  • It allows for discreet purchasing

Successful e-commerce platforms are based on an understanding of the reasons online shopping has become so popular.

Consult the best resource: your own experience

You likely have done a lot of online shopping yourself. One of the simplest ways to figure out what works and what doesn’t is to reflect on your experiences as a customer. What online stores have you bought from that impressed you? What impressed you about them? Take note of what you like and try and integrate those points into your own online e-commerce platform.

Pay attention to how other online stores (good and bad) handle the following:

  • What are the return and exchange policies?
  • Was the site easy to navigate?
  • Was the customer service personable and of good quality?
  • What unique features, products, or services do they offer that appear to be popular?
  • How is their selection?
  • How is their pricing?

Facilitate impulse buying without looking like you’re doing it

One important thing to remember is that many customers say they prefer to shop online because it often costs less and, most importantly, decreases impulse buying. Retail leadership can respect their wishes while still encouraging impulse buys with several strategies, including:

  • Display similar products when a customer views an item or goes to checkout.
  • Suggest other products that pair well with the product they are buying – for example, a case to go with a camera.
  • Offer free shipping when spending a certain amount of money, which encourages people to buy additional items to meet that threshold.

These strategies net more business while making customers feel like you have helped supplement their purchase or provided them a good deal.

Gather data

When customers shop online, both at your store and elsewhere, they leave behind a virtual treasure trove of data about their habits you can use to your advantage. It might even be worth hiring a data analyst or having a dedicated member of your marketing team constantly monitoring this data. After all, the Internet changes fast, and your customers’ habits and wants are likely to change over time. When something in the data changes, particularly if it is part of a trend, you need to make changes to accommodate it.

Display tour trustworthiness

Except for a handful of online retailers that nearly everyone knows and trusts, it’s not always apparent to customers whether an online store is trustworthy or an item they are considering purchasing is genuine. It can be especially hard to establish yourself when your business is new.

There are some measures you can take, such as being part of professional associations and having a website and storefront that look exceedingly professional, to demonstrate your integrity. For example, if you sell gemstones, certificates of diamond authenticity can reassure a customer and make them feel comfortable buying from you.

Online shopping is how products are sold now and will be into the future. All businesses that offer products must, at the very least, seriously consider opening up a digital storefront. As a leader, it’s important to understand what customers are looking for (and what they aren’t) when they go shopping online, then not only give them what they want, but use the medium to your company’s advantage.

To learn more about customer behavior, interactions, and habits, read the Digitalist Magazine Executive Research, Primed: Prompting Customers to Buy.

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Andre Smith

About Andre Smith

An Internet, Marketing and E-Commerce specialist with several years of experience in the industry. He has watched as the world of online business has grown and adapted to new technologies, and he has made it his mission to help keep businesses informed and up to date.

Diving Deep Into Digital Experiences

Kai Goerlich

 

Google Cardboard VR goggles cost US$8
By 2019, immersive solutions
will be adopted in 20% of enterprise businesses
By 2025, the market for immersive hardware and software technology could be $182 billion
In 2017, Lowe’s launched
Holoroom How To VR DIY clinics

From Dipping a Toe to Fully Immersed

The first wave of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) is here,

using smartphones, glasses, and goggles to place us in the middle of 360-degree digital environments or overlay digital artifacts on the physical world. Prototypes, pilot projects, and first movers have already emerged:

  • Guiding warehouse pickers, cargo loaders, and truck drivers with AR
  • Overlaying constantly updated blueprints, measurements, and other construction data on building sites in real time with AR
  • Building 3D machine prototypes in VR for virtual testing and maintenance planning
  • Exhibiting new appliances and fixtures in a VR mockup of the customer’s home
  • Teaching medicine with AR tools that overlay diagnostics and instructions on patients’ bodies

A Vast Sea of Possibilities

Immersive technologies leapt forward in spring 2017 with the introduction of three new products:

  • Nvidia’s Project Holodeck, which generates shared photorealistic VR environments
  • A cloud-based platform for industrial AR from Lenovo New Vision AR and Wikitude
  • A workspace and headset from Meta that lets users use their hands to interact with AR artifacts

The Truly Digital Workplace

New immersive experiences won’t simply be new tools for existing tasks. They promise to create entirely new ways of working.

VR avatars that look and sound like their owners will soon be able to meet in realistic virtual meeting spaces without requiring users to leave their desks or even their homes. With enough computing power and a smart-enough AI, we could soon let VR avatars act as our proxies while we’re doing other things—and (theoretically) do it well enough that no one can tell the difference.

We’ll need a way to signal when an avatar is being human driven in real time, when it’s on autopilot, and when it’s owned by a bot.


What Is Immersion?

A completely immersive experience that’s indistinguishable from real life is impossible given the current constraints on power, throughput, and battery life.

To make current digital experiences more convincing, we’ll need interactive sensors in objects and materials, more powerful infrastructure to create realistic images, and smarter interfaces to interpret and interact with data.

When everything around us is intelligent and interactive, every environment could have an AR overlay or VR presence, with use cases ranging from gaming to firefighting.

We could see a backlash touting the superiority of the unmediated physical world—but multisensory immersive experiences that we can navigate in 360-degree space will change what we consider “real.”


Download the executive brief Diving Deep Into Digital Experiences.


Read the full article Swimming in the Immersive Digital Experience.

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Kai Goerlich

About Kai Goerlich

Kai Goerlich is the Chief Futurist at SAP Innovation Center network His specialties include Competitive Intelligence, Market Intelligence, Corporate Foresight, Trends, Futuring and ideation. Share your thoughts with Kai on Twitter @KaiGoe.heif Futu

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Jenny Dearborn: Soft Skills Will Be Essential for Future Careers

Jenny Dearborn

The Japanese culture has always shown a special reverence for its elderly. That’s why, in 1963, the government began a tradition of giving a silver dish, called a sakazuki, to each citizen who reached the age of 100 by Keiro no Hi (Respect for the Elders Day), which is celebrated on the third Monday of each September.

That first year, there were 153 recipients, according to The Japan Times. By 2016, the number had swelled to more than 65,000, and the dishes cost the already cash-strapped government more than US$2 million, Business Insider reports. Despite the country’s continued devotion to its seniors, the article continues, the government felt obliged to downgrade the finish of the dishes to silver plating to save money.

What tends to get lost in discussions about automation taking over jobs and Millennials taking over the workplace is the impact of increased longevity. In the future, people will need to be in the workforce much longer than they are today. Half of the people born in Japan today, for example, are predicted to live to 107, making their ancestors seem fragile, according to Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott, professors at the London Business School and authors of The 100-Year Life: Living and Working in an Age of Longevity.

The End of the Three-Stage Career

Assuming that advances in healthcare continue, future generations in wealthier societies could be looking at careers lasting 65 or more years, rather than at the roughly 40 years for today’s 70-year-olds, write Gratton and Scott. The three-stage model of employment that dominates the global economy today—education, work, and retirement—will be blown out of the water.

It will be replaced by a new model in which people continually learn new skills and shed old ones. Consider that today’s most in-demand occupations and specialties did not exist 10 years ago, according to The Future of Jobs, a report from the World Economic Forum.

And the pace of change is only going to accelerate. Sixty-five percent of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in jobs that don’t yet exist, the report notes.

Our current educational systems are not equipped to cope with this degree of change. For example, roughly half of the subject knowledge acquired during the first year of a four-year technical degree, such as computer science, is outdated by the time students graduate, the report continues.

Skills That Transcend the Job Market

Instead of treating post-secondary education as a jumping-off point for a specific career path, we may see a switch to a shorter school career that focuses more on skills that transcend a constantly shifting job market. Today, some of these skills, such as complex problem solving and critical thinking, are taught mostly in the context of broader disciplines, such as math or the humanities.

Other competencies that will become critically important in the future are currently treated as if they come naturally or over time with maturity or experience. We receive little, if any, formal training, for example, in creativity and innovation, empathy, emotional intelligence, cross-cultural awareness, persuasion, active listening, and acceptance of change. (No wonder the self-help marketplace continues to thrive!)

The three-stage model of employment that dominates the global economy today—education, work, and retirement—will be blown out of the water.

These skills, which today are heaped together under the dismissive “soft” rubric, are going to harden up to become indispensable. They will become more important, thanks to artificial intelligence and machine learning, which will usher in an era of infinite information, rendering the concept of an expert in most of today’s job disciplines a quaint relic. As our ability to know more than those around us decreases, our need to be able to collaborate well (with both humans and machines) will help define our success in the future.

Individuals and organizations alike will have to learn how to become more flexible and ready to give up set-in-stone ideas about how businesses and careers are supposed to operate. Given the rapid advances in knowledge and attendant skills that the future will bring, we must be willing to say, repeatedly, that whatever we’ve learned to that point doesn’t apply anymore.

Careers will become more like life itself: a series of unpredictable, fluid experiences rather than a tightly scripted narrative. We need to think about the way forward and be more willing to accept change at the individual and organizational levels.

Rethink Employee Training

One way that organizations can help employees manage this shift is by rethinking training. Today, overworked and overwhelmed employees devote just 1% of their workweek to learning, according to a study by consultancy Bersin by Deloitte. Meanwhile, top business leaders such as Bill Gates and Nike founder Phil Knight spend about five hours a week reading, thinking, and experimenting, according to an article in Inc. magazine.

If organizations are to avoid high turnover costs in a world where the need for new skills is shifting constantly, they must give employees more time for learning and make training courses more relevant to the future needs of organizations and individuals, not just to their current needs.

The amount of learning required will vary by role. That’s why at SAP we’re creating learning personas for specific roles in the company and determining how many hours will be required for each. We’re also dividing up training hours into distinct topics:

  • Law: 10%. This is training required by law, such as training to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.

  • Company: 20%. Company training includes internal policies and systems.

  • Business: 30%. Employees learn skills required for their current roles in their business units.

  • Future: 40%. This is internal, external, and employee-driven training to close critical skill gaps for jobs of the future.

In the future, we will always need to learn, grow, read, seek out knowledge and truth, and better ourselves with new skills. With the support of employers and educators, we will transform our hardwired fear of change into excitement for change.

We must be able to say to ourselves, “I’m excited to learn something new that I never thought I could do or that never seemed possible before.” D!

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