It’s the beginning of the year and there is no shortage of “Top Digital Trends” articles describing all the ways organizations need to be heads up to the next big thing in digital if they don’t want their expenses to increase and profits shrink. These articles are full of valuable information. Some of it may even be immediately actionable, but having read my fair share of these articles I can report there are no fewer than 100 digital trends an organization could start diverting resources to if they wanted to try and stay ahead of the curve. But what should you pay attention to? What’s real? Who has the answers? Ask your customers.
In March, I’m speaking at the annual SPECS, The Forefront of Physical Retail, conference in Dallas, Texas, and the topic of my discussion is titled “Trends that Keep Retailers Up at Night.” It’s meant to highlight all the digital trends retailers can start infusing into their physical presence. The problem is, I only have 50 minutes and I needed to decide what I thought were the most important “phygital” trends to discuss. The reality is it’s going to differ for every organization depending on their maturity and progress on their digital transformation continuum. However, there IS a simple methodology any organization can use to think about and prioritize cross-channel digital trends they deem actionable – talk to your customers.
Taking the time to speak to your customers will give you valuable insights on what they think is important and how you can garner their loyalty, but I’ve found a lot of brands short-change this type of direct interaction. Through years of customer research and 1:1 interviews, I continue to find customer feedback falls into one of five themes I call “The Five Customer Commandments.” Understanding these themes and organizing customer feedback into them can help an organization think about how to take action on trends across digital and physical channels.
The Five Customer Commandments
- You will not make me work hard to be a customer
- You will reward me for my loyalty
- You will listen to me and personalize my experience
- You will protect my personal information and my privacy
- You will practice good corporate social responsibility
Again, specific initiatives to address these commandments will look different in every organization, but by thinking about how these trends are reflected in both the digital and physical spaces of an organization, teams can start devising which trends are applicable to their customers and growth goals. Below are some examples of how trend-based initiatives addressing The Five Customer Commandments translate across digital and physical channels.
You will not make me work hard to be a customer
Good UX Means Good Business
In a world where technology is rapidly advancing and user expectations are rising, it’s no longer enough to have an average user experience; to delight your users and surpass your competition you must strive for the exceptional.
Digital Example: Easy to browse products, easy to search products, relevant search results, and ease and speed of online checkout.
Physical Example: A simple example is offering Apple Pay or Chase Pay at the register. More advanced thinking is rooted in customer goals when they visit a physical location. Sephora does a good job at this with a very low-tech approach, offering color-coded shopping baskets for shoppers to indicate to sales associates whether “I would like to be assisted!” or “I would like to shop on my own.”
You will reward me for my loyalty
Digital Example: Native apps with integrated loyalty programs or additional shopping or content features available only within the app.
Physical Example: Geo-fenced or location-specific perks or experiences when in a store. Madewell does a great job with this concept offering members of their “Insider” program free product monogramming on certain products while they wait, whether they purchased online or in store.
You will listen to me and personalize my experience
Digital Example: Live chat, chat bots, AI-driven product recommendations based on click stream and order history data.
Physical Example: Allowing customers to interact with a physical location while sitting on their couch. Lilly Pulitzer recently implemented a “Connect with a Stylist” feature that allows customers to select their store and launch a live conversation with a stylist in that store. This allows customers to get product recommendations, set up appointments, start a fitting room, or just get advice from a live person in that store and transact how they choose, the end result being a trusted personal connection to a store, a stylist, and a brand. (Disclosure, I was the VP of Digital Commerce at Lilly Pulitzer when this feature was launched.)
You will protect my personal information and my privacy
Digital Example: Increasing in importance with even the least tech-savvy customers, privacy-enabling features, usually within “My Account,” can give a customer the ability to see data collected about their interactions with a brand and self-service tools to export or delete that data.
Physical Example: Privacy by Design. This is a broad set of principles that is channel agnostic and organizations are starting to tackle how it applies to physical locations. Important considerations for brands include implementation and consent of in-store Wi-Fi services, data collection, and usage of any Bluetooth/beacon technologies, and video meant to capture customer traffic and behavior patterns. As concerns around consumer privacy and data usage rise, any organization should take a step back and understand where they sit in their Privacy by Design application and maturity.
You will practice good corporate social responsibility
Digital and Physical Examples:
There’s an adage that says something like, “If you have to claim you ARE something, you’re probably not.” This doesn’t apply to communicating about corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities within an organization. Customers want to hear how brands are contributing to their community and will reward them for it.
With 87% of consumers apt to purchase a product if the company supports something they care about, according to a recent Cone Communications survey, the recommendation is if you are participating in any CSR initiative, make it transparent. Online, offline, wherever – it’s important to your customers.
REI is a poster child for CSR storytelling, making their stance known during Black Friday across digital and physical channels. Companies like Everlane do a great job communicating CSR initiatives across channels, from clear language on their eCommerce product detail pages to language on their product hang tags that include the story around their policy of transparency.
Organization leaders are often focused on the day-to-day challenges that exist and are not able to see the proverbial forest for the trees. Using The Five Customer Commandments to assess and prioritize actions will not only allow companies to address trends head-on, but do it in a customer-centric way, which is the uber digital transformation trend.