The Customer Experience Genome – And What It Can Do For Retailers

Stephen Henly

For years, retailers have been trying to get inside the minds of customers in an effort to sell more products. While we can’t access someone’s actual thoughts (well not yet anyway), the latest innovations in new technology, such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, the Internet of Things, and a slew of other technologies, are giving retailers unprecedented insights into new levels of consumer influence and intention.

Ever since RFID gave real-world items a virtual life and omnichannel went mainstream, every single customer interaction can be collected, analyzed, and mapped across the omnichannel retail ecosystem. IDC has identified this as the customer experience genome. And it’s this integration between the customer experience genome and merchandise that is the next frontier for the retail industry.

If customer experience is king, then context and awareness are surely the crown jewels in this brave, new connected world. It’s only by understanding a consumer’s context – and using that context to deliver a meaningful experience – that retailers can provide the detailed levels of hyper micro-personalization that impact sales.

But consumers are on a fragmented journey rather than a linear path. As most of us know first hand, they want multiple options to satisfy their shopping needs. IDC’s European Consumer Survey found that 21% of store shoppers use their mobile devices to make a purchase in-store, while 36% look for information online and then complete their purchase in-store. It’s a mix and match patchwork of touch points that requires both innovation and a wider, collaborative digital ecosystem on the part of the retail industry – something I touched on in my last blog.

Retailers are now leveraging more than 20 different technologies with varying levels of adoption and business impact, giving them a more direct relationship with consumers. The industry, it seems, is spreading its digital wings, particularly across Europe. IoT in Germany, for example, is significantly above average, according to IDC, while the UK stands out for proximity marketing and sensor-based interactive digital signage, and France for its use of smart fitting rooms.

Machines can start to learn and understand a specific consumer’s patterns of movement around a store, and mobile clienteling gives retail associates real-time access to customer behavior and product information – all of which enhance the omni-experience.

Against this more sophisticated understanding of consumers, it’s clear to see that the days of traditional segmentation based on demographics and static target customer personas are well and truly dead. If this is still your standard means of targeting and segmenting consumers, you need to think again. Retailers must now approach every customer as an individual, understand their context and personal preferences, and respond with dynamic micro-personalization that’s capable of continuously adapting.

As human beings and as consumers, we are not static entities, so it’s somewhat ironic that it’s taken machines to identify us as individuals, reveal our consumer genetics, and join the dots around the customer experience genome for retailers. The expansion of direct-to-consumer sales channels, customer experience enhancements, and omnichannel business strategies are helping retailers successfully move to this new frontier – known as the third generation of e-commerce. (I’ll talk about this in more depth in my next blog.)

For now, if you’d like to know more about hyper-personalized engagements across channels and how you can put the customer experience genome to work as part of your own digital transformation, you can download IDC’s report, “Evolving the Digital Core.”