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8 Weak Signals of Change in Customer Experience

Scott Friedmann, Idea Couture’s chief innovation officer and EVP, recently spoke at Oracle OpenWorld 2013 in San Francisco, giving the audience a crash course on how to understand and act on the drivers and disruptors of customer expectations. 

Information technology and big data were supposed to help us deeply grasp customer preferences and habits. Instead, customers have taken control. They want instant and customized information, and if they can’t get it from you they will just do it all themselves. It’s become increasingly challenging for companies to manage, much less exceed, their customer’s evolving expectations. Here are eight weak signals that collectively provide a roadmap for how to approach experience design in the coming years.

1/ From Showrooming to Showstaging

Retailers have learned to turn showrooming into an opportunity to boost sales and conduct market research in retail spaces. The next generation of retail experiences should build on this foundation to create showstaging experiences, where stores are reimagined as stages, complete with actors, sets, and scenes. Burberry has done a tremendous job of showstaging, creating unique and innovative cross-channel experiences.

2/ New Packaging Paradigms

Packaging communicates a product’s personality and milieu. The next generation of packaging presents an opportunity to add new layers of meaning and interaction. Going beyond the actual product and considering the narratives across product lines and services from cradle to cradle can reveal emotional connections that create expectation and resolution.

3/ The Sharing Generation

Ownership isn’t what it used to be. We want to banish clutter and reduce waste, opting for austere, functional surroundings. The Internet, geo-positioning and mobile tech are converging to add capabilities to owned objectives, enabling them to have a life of their own. Share a boat, share a car – there’s a service for that. This isn’t a co-op. It’s reinventing collective ownership for the benefit of the individual. For the next generation, nothing will be more natural than sharing in place of ownership.

4/ Subscription Scripts – The New Loyalty Card

The shift from customers to subscribers connects subscribers to new product offerings in a relaxed social setting. Netflix and Spotify piloted an era enabling users to access new releases and predictive engines for personal recommendations, and other industries are following suit. Montreal clothing subscription service Frank & Oak is building predictive engines for fashion, and building a subscriber community, complete with exclusive events and product offerings, around the lifestyle their brand projects. It’s not big data – it’s built off of mapping the customer experience and beyond.

5/ Wearables and New Senses

Wearables tracking deeper environmental and personal metrics will immediately begin to drive new customer expectations. Mobile-sensing technology will provide people with a set of expanded senses against which they can measure your products and services. They may learn things about your products that you may not even know about. Anticipate customers with new senses, prepare experiences, and surprise and delight with every interaction.

6/ Gaining Super Powers

Great service design can deliver more than satisfaction; it can make customers feel super-empowered. Ask yourself, “Would Tony Stark use your service?” From Zipcar’s keyless card entry that, according to their how to video, “sends a signal to wizards”, to Morton’s The Steakhouse’s tuxedoed delivery to Newark airport for a regular who tweeted his request before arrival, companies are using information technology, big data, and keen service design to set a new standard of customer experience.

7/ Design Frontiers

Apple has shed its skeumorphic design in favor of an aesthetic more closely hewed to interactions between users and digital interfaces. Users no longer need signposts from the real world to inform their digital experience. The same is true in service and experience design. Find the right balance between digital and real-world interactions to provide familiarity for your customers. But take caution – tip too far on either side and you’ll risk frustrating or scaring them.

8/ Shocking Value Propositions

Tesla’s free solar-powered battery-recharge service redefines what it means to own a car and some customers with solar-powered homes have meters that run backward, resulting in a role-reversal with the utility company. These two concepts call into question their traditional relationship. We’re no longer consumers, but partners. Ask yourself, “What can never change about my business?” That is where you will be most vulnerable to change.

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