Customer Experience: Building Trust And Excitement

Mohamed Amer

In talking to retailers, I often hear of a desire for deeper engagement with customers, a richer and more consistent experience, increased customer loyalty, and more ‘wow’ in-store and online.  All of these desires speak to what constitutes customer experience.

There is general sense of the need to deliver an inspiring experience along the customer journey.  I had two distinct customer experiences recently while traveling to Dallas, Texas to visit family.  Each had to do with the idea of customer experience and how companies from airlines to retail stores pursue it with variable success.

Excitement of the Wrong Kind

In order to visit my family, I first had to get from Los Angeles (LAX) to Dallas (DFW).   Although the flight portion of a journey is relatively short, much goes into the complete customer experience of getting there. You have to come up with the date and schedule, compare prices, select the airline and get your preferred seating.

Then there’s the logistics of getting to the airport and securing parking or livery (especially tricky during peak travel periods.) Then printing or downloading boarding passes, checking-in of luggage, and going through security. We’re not done yet, you still have to find your unoccupied assigned seat (hopefully) and room to stow your carry-on (remember, just two).

All this and the flight hasn’t taken off. Yet these are all part of the ‘customer experience’ and journey.  Surprises can lurk everywhere.  Weather at origin or destination can wreak havoc on the flight; as does airline overbooking policies, mechanical troubles, flight crew availability, baggage handlers, and so on.

You guessed correctly, I should not have been surprised (but I really was!) that a direct three-hour flight from LAX to DFW can turn into a 13-hour marathon.  It was full of cancelled flights, introduction of completely unanticipated airport transfers, surprise seating arrangements, plus a luggage-finding exercise (active RFID tag anyone?). The twists and turns were not just unexpected but also undesirable.  It was a distinctly unsatisfying customer experience.

The Right Kind of ExcitementCustomer Experience: Building Trust And Excitement

The second customer experience was at The Shops at Southlake (across from Southlake Town Square), a suburb of Dallas and Fort Worth.  Your culinary tastes will not be disappointed with numerous choices in cuisine and price points (high and higher).  You can find almost any specialty retailer here and many luxury brands are well represented.  High expectations become the norm in this retail environment.

But I’ve been accustomed to tone down these expectations whenever I venture into grocery stores.  These are not normally known as models of good customer experience.  Although overly generalized, supermarkets are for the most part undifferentiated in layout (perishables along the perimeter and dry goods in center store) with the same packaged goods brands found up and down the aisles, and discount price tags flying prominently on every shelf.

Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Wegmans, and Publix are immediate exceptions that come to mind in food retailing.  Each has differentiated the customer experience through multiple avenues.  These include unique product assortment and range, private label program, and inspiring layout and visuals while generating excitement and emotional connection in a sensory wanderlust.  Yes, these are retail stores engaging the aspirational culinary wants and needs of foodies and gourmet alike.

Enter: Central MarketCustomer Experience: Building Trust And Excitement

I had heard of H-E-B’s Central Market stores in Texas (total of nine as of 2012), and with one a stone’s throw from my sister’s house, I volunteered to help with the grocery shopping!

As soon as you enter and grab a shopping cart you notice a cheery person greeting you at the “Answers” desk (already gets you in right frame of mind).  A layout of the store hangs next to the desk, the store is divided into several rooms and areas like multiple markets catering to your daily needs.  Gone are the long center aisles replaced with intrigue around every corner. A promising start for a good customer experience.

Fruit and vegetables galore is the first “room” as you step through the threshold.  The colors are brilliant, attractive, and welcoming.  There was an amazing 26 types of apples on display, nine of which were organic!  Coming from California, the prices were very reasonable, but I got the sense that you could do better at some competing stores; but I doubt they can match the variety and freshness.

At Central Market the customer weighs and tags their own produce and fruit using the many available scales.  I saw one customer that was using her own re-usable bag and was sticking the labels on the outside of her bag for scanning at checkout.

Coming around the corner I found my day’s destination: the fish market.  From my list, I found Atlantic Salmon and Hawaiian Kona Kampachi fish.  The store associates were of course knowledgeable as to taste, texture, and cooking ideas.  They were also helpful in explaining about how the Kampachi was farmed (offshore in deeper waters, were not genetically modified, and without antibiotics or hormones).

And without even asking, they added some ice to keep the fish fresh until we finished shopping and the drive home.  I added exemplary customer service and knowledgeable employees to my list for a good customer experience.

Having made my ‘assigned’ purchase, I was primarily tagging along with other family members as I explored the store.  I found some handy “short-cuts” between rooms if you wanted to make a quick exit to the checkout counters.  So despite a room-type of layout, customers weren’t forced to navigate these if in a hurry.  I spent some time in the bulk nuts and candy area and was delighted that I can make my own fresh peanut or almond butter at the press of a button (and knowing that it’s 100% peanuts or almonds).

I found the bakery astounding in the variety and the hub bub of activity behind the counters late in the day.  The cheese department was another busy area with lots of choices.  I picked up some feta cheese, only to discover they carried not one but five different varieties.  The olive bar was extensive and the deli hot foods make for convenient and healthy alternative to cooking for time-starved shoppers.  I added unexpected excitement and choices to my list for memorable customer experience.

Many people would be surprised not to find a lot of “major” national brands on the shelves.  Instead you’ll notice lots of private label goods with smaller brands and some from overseas.  This was reminiscent of Trader Joe’s (carrying almost exclusively all private label goods) strategy or Wegmans.  With those two retailers, it’s about trusting the store brand for quality, taste, and value.  It’s also about trusting the skilled workers in the stores to know their products and to make timely and relevant suggestions.  So something similar must be happening at Central Market.  Trust made it into the customer experience bag.

My Take AwayCentral-Market-3

The folks at Central Market found a way to make for a memorable customer experience out of buying groceries.  The layout, the products, the store personnel, the smells, the visuals were all fantastic.  I wouldn’t go there to fill up on my cleaning supplies and paper products necessarily, but for that unique meal that is sure to impress, Central Market hits the spot.  There wasn’t the usual push and shove of carts, but a more casual and friendly strolling for culinary ideas.  Customers chatted with each other and with the store associates.

Shopping wasn’t a painful event, these customers appeared to enjoy being at Central Market!  They turned customer experience into desired customer behavior (exuberant fans). So what happened here? What did Central Market do that was different? I think there are a few key themes that helped Central Market redefine the value for money formula in their market:

  • Simplify her life.  Reduce shopping complexity for your customers. Planning a meal can be a complex activity, especially for the hurried working couple or busy mom.  Store layout with meal ideas and associated items in same proximity make it easier to find what you need. Now couple that with knowledgeable store employees, and you’re ready to be chef for a day.
  • Trust and consistency. Central Market earned the trust of their customers by delivering consistently on value (quality, taste, price) using private label, unique products, and a store full of helpful employees. Central Market also shared that trust by letting customers weigh their own produce, bulk nuts, etc. Together these build a “shopping culture” of trust.
  • Excitement. There’s a genuine and contagious excitement about food in empowered store employees.  Everywhere you turn you can find evocative food visuals that invite you to try new foods, find answers, share opinions.  There’s a sense of energy as you move around the store.  It’s infectious!

To make this happen, design (really experience) how a customer engages with the company throughout her purchase journey.  Customers want their specific needs met, they desire convenience and a personalized experience.  This journey is not linear and for grocery, discovery and decision can happen very quickly. Your store employees have influence along the way.

This customer journey pushes and challenges how you traditionally plan and market as well as sell and service your customers.  It necessitates a fresh approach of design thinking that takes a customer perspective to all interactions and supporting processes.  It requires that the organization builds the right capabilities, trains and empowers their employees while investing in the right set of technologies to deliver on the design and the brand promise.  The customer experience is at the heart of it all and it is not limited to affluent customers only.

Do you know your customers’ experience with your brand?

Follow me on Twitter @Bizuser

A modified version of this post originally appeared on the SAP Community Network and has been republished here with permission.


Mohamed Amer

About Mohamed Amer

Mohamed Amer is the Global Head Strategic Communications, Global Consumer Industries, at SAP. He joined SAP in 2003 as owner of the grocery solution offering, and has since led teams in Retail Supply Chain and Field Services. After three years managing initiatives and programs involving BPX/SCN, User Groups, and Executive Councils for Trade Industries, is now in a Strategic Communications role in the Retail IBU.


awareness , CXO , Featured

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.


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.

How to Design a Flexible, Connected Workspace 

John Hack, Sam Yen, and Elana Varon

SAP_Digital_Workplace_BRIEF_image2400x1600_2The process of designing a new product starts with a question: what problem is the product supposed to solve? To get the right answer, designers prototype more than one solution and refine their ideas based on feedback.

Similarly, the spaces where people work and the tools they use are shaped by the tasks they have to accomplish to execute the business strategy. But when the business strategy and employees’ jobs change, the traditional workspace, with fixed walls and furniture, isn’t so easy to adapt. Companies today, under pressure to innovate quickly and create digital business models, need to develop a more flexible work environment, one in which office employees have the ability to choose how they work.

SAP_Digital_Emotion_BRIEF_image175pxWithin an office building, flexibility may constitute a variety of public and private spaces, geared for collaboration or concentration, explains Amanda Schneider, a consultant and workplace trends blogger. Or, she adds, companies may opt for customizable spaces, with moveable furniture, walls, and lighting that can be adjusted to suit the person using an unassigned desk for the day.

Flexibility may also encompass the amount of physical space the company maintains. Business leaders want to be able to set up operations quickly in new markets or in places where they can attract top talent, without investing heavily in real estate, says Sande Golgart, senior vice president of corporate accounts with Regus.

Thinking about the workspace like a designer elevates decisions about the office environment to a strategic level, Golgart says. “Real estate is beginning to be an integral part of the strategy, whether that strategy is for collaborating and innovating, driving efficiencies, attracting talent, maintaining higher levels of productivity, or just giving people more amenities to create a better, cohesive workplace,” he says. “You will see companies start to distance themselves from their competition because they figured out the role that real estate needs to play within the business strategy.”

The SAP Center for Business Insight program supports the discovery and development of  new research-­based thinking to address the challenges of business and technology executives.


Sam Yen

About Sam Yen

Sam Yen is the Chief Design Officer for SAP and the Managing Director of SAP Labs Silicon Valley. He is focused on driving a renewed commitment to design and user experience at SAP. Under his leadership, SAP further strengthens its mission of listening to customers´ needs leading to tangible results, including SAP Fiori, SAP Screen Personas and SAP´s UX design services.


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.


Sunny Popali

About Sunny Popali

Sunny Popali is SEO Director at 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.


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, 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.


Ralf Kern

About Ralf Kern

Ralf Kern owns the future direction and global go-to-market strategy for omnicommerce retail at SAP. An enthusiastic professional, analytical thinker and creative mind with more than 25 years of experience in IT and 20 years in retail. He holds a master’s degree in Computer Science and Business Administration from the Saarland University (Germany).