It was my first time to attend OmniShopper Conference and I was fortunate to present with Tara Colalillo and Nikki Smathers on Disrupting the Habitual Consumer Decision Journey. There were many great learnings from the conference, but I'd like to share my top six here: from omnichannel customer experience to the future of eCommerce:

1. Don't just milk the cow, butter it up

Innovation guru Soon Yu challenged us to rethink the direction of innovation. Instead of constantly chasing the uncertain shiny stars by milking the cash cow, we should focus on what makes our brand iconic, protect and sustain the Iconic Advantage - the one that gives us a point of differentiation. Staying iconic doesn’t mean staying put. It requires constant change and trade-offs to stay relevant. Brands need to protect their signature elements while evolve their story and heritage, and innovate its benefits and design.

What is your signature? Perhaps the more practical question is how to create and sustain your signature. There are four steps to take. It starts with mapping your customer journey, followed by finding and innovating around the pivotal moments in your customer journey. We need to continuously educate, advocate and challenge our brand’s signature to stay relevant and iconic.

omnichannel customer experience

2. Personalization, seamless channel experiences, and longer-term shopper engagement

These three are critical to the future of retail. A great panel discussion on the future of retail was moderated by Peter Horst, former CMO of Hershey. Personalization is not a new concept but data and analytics now enable it at scale. Brad Klingenberg from Stitch Fix shared the importance of feedback loops to unlock personalization. To me, it is not easy for brands to create and incentivize such feedback loops without direct to consumer access. Therefore, it begs the question of the relevance of a Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) strategy.

For many, grocery shopping is a chore. Lynn Martinez from Dr. Pepper Snapple Group raised the question “How can we make grocery shopping from a chore to an experience?” I believe it requires moving from an one-off transaction to a longer-term engagement with shoppers.In transforming customer experience, Kate Kompelien from Best Buy emphasized that employee is also a critical source to understand as well as address customer experience gaps. By listening to customer service calls and conducting ride-alongs, we can develop a deeper empathy for shopper needs and employee challenges. A customer experience transformation won’t be successful without empowering employees.

3. Where is the continued growth of eCommerce coming from?

Sara Austin from Unilever and Scott Johnston shared very interesting analysis based on InfoScout data. With almost 80% US households already shopping online, the growth will mostly come from converting existing online shoppers to buy more categories online. The implication for brands is to disrupt and insert into existing online shoppers' baskets rather than driving more shoppers online.

future of ecommerceInterestingly, there has been a product category evolution for eCommerce as shoppers convert more and more categories online.

future of ecommerce

4. End of demographics & rise of individualism

Edwin Wong from BuzzFeed shared the notion of the “power of one” as millennials are much more fluid in behaviors, cultures and even ethnic identifies. The circle of fringe and fluid is a lot bigger than last generation (as shown below). Rigid demographics such as gender, sexuality and race on longer define and resonate because they fall on a spectrum for many. It may sound counter-intuitive but by creating content that focuses on a niche group of person or a fringe, others will relate and empathize as people appreciate being individuals.future of ecommerce

5. Retail is not dead. Mediocre retail experiences are dead.

The keynote by Bridget Brennan from The Female Factor brought this point to life. A great in-store experience is the ultimate disruptor because most consumers choose human over digital when seeking advice and services. Shopping in marketplaces is still something human enjoy as we discover, connect and entertain in marketplaces. Bridget summarized 5 reasons that people still enjoy physical retailing. To me, the most interesting one is sensory engagement. It is almost impossible for digital pure-play to compete on this front. Now the question is how many senses you are engaging with shoppers.

omnichannel customer experience

6. Make the unfamiliar familiar: Wrap innovative ideas with a familiar concept

Adam Grant gave a keynote presentation on being originals. One of the most practical ideas for me is to make the unfamiliar familiar. Truly innovative ideas can be very uncomfortable and risky for many of us because we have never tried. Over-communicate rarely helps. When Lion King was pitched, Disney executives didn’t get it. But everyone got it when it was framed as Hamlet with lions. By wrapping an unfamiliar idea with a familiar concept (think it as a Trojan horse), it is much easier to get others onboard. It is why many startups are introducing themselves as “Uber for X”. Next time when we present our new ideas to internal stakeholders or clients, we need to think about what our “Uber for X” or Trojan horse is.

stay innovative

So what resonates most with you? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Below is the presentation we did on disrupting the habitual consumer decision journey and best practices in activating journey insights to design customer experience.

Are you still relying on outdated, pre-omnichannel customer journey assumptions?

Alex Zhu

Written by Alex Zhu

Alex Zhu leads SKIM’s Customer and Decision Journey Mapping practice and is based in the Hoboken, NJ office. He has extensive experience in advising clients globally to tackle the challenges of mapping and activating customer decision journeys across industries including consumer goods, B2B, technology, telecommunications, pharmaceutical, and healthcare.

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