Customer Engagement - Born Digital - Blessing or Curse?

For those of you that spend a fair amount of your days trying to keep up with the latest thought leadership via daily blog postings and interesting articles published by the various pundits of our technology ecosystems, it will come as no surprise that the topics of “Customer Engagement” and “Customer Experience” are extremely popular topics lately. In the past 30 days, there have been 6,157 tweets about “Customer Engagement” alone. While these topics are not new by any means, using these filters to look at our online experiences and engagements allows the cross-pollination from what has been learned in brick and mortar retail establishments to our not so new online world incorporating web, mobile and social channels.

Following these trends, we’re going to add to the discussion by focusing this week on Customer Engagement. Customer engagement really can’t be viewed based on only one channel of communication anymore in our fast-paced, multi-channel world. As active consumers of product and information, we all seek multiple inputs to make our daily decisions. What used to be based on asking our neighbors for recommendations or assistance has now been enhanced by technology to, perhaps at times, giving us too much information and inducing an analysis-paralysis condition or in the Goldilocks tradition, just the right amount to help us get it right.Which Way to Customer Engagement?

I do believe in synchronicity and there was a fascinating study just published by the Oracle Retail Group entitled; “The Future of Retail: Through the Eyes of Digital Natives” (September 2011). The Press Release can be found here. The latest research, commissioned by Oracle, on the future of retail in 2025, according to the digital native generation born after 1980, reveals that the shopping experience of the future needs to be connected, fit-for-purpose, and always available. Results revealed that digital natives love to shop but they are discerning, wanting differentiated products, pricing, and services based on their preferences, to interact with retailers when and how it suits them, and for this experience to be seamless and connected whatever channel they choose.

The study notes that technology is the key to expediting the shopping experience, whether in-store to facilitate a sale, or using online channels to research and compare price, promotions, and choice, suggesting that retailers must optimize their operations in support of customer priorities and operate in a connected 24/7 environment. Oracle commissioned the survey in July 2011 to examine the views of digital natives to current shopping needs and their expectations of these needs in 2025 as they come of age, interviewing 1,514 young consumers between 19-23 years from the UK, Germany and France.

“This research presents a number of interesting findings for retailers outlining considerable opportunities,” said Mike Webster, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Oracle Retail. “To drive long-term growth, retailers need to provide superior experiences that consumers are demanding. The research supports the importance of creating a solutions platform that provides a connected multi-channel shopping experience.”

Conclusions of the study state that the Born Digital members of their study have the following requirements for their engagements and experiences:

  • Differentiated and personalized customer interactions
  • Differentiated products, pricing and services based on their preferences
  • Differentiated interactions based on how and when they want to interact
  • A seamless, connected experience where the retailer is aligned across all business operations and decisions

So let us set the stage for our discussion this week by painting a picture of what our digital ecosystem landscape looks like today based on some recent research. Growth and scale of these channels are an important consideration of the approach taken to address the engagement and experience challenges.

Web:

U.S. online sales are expected to rise by over $100 billion from 2010 to 2015.1 70 percent of all Internet users made at least one online purchase.2

Mobile:

48 percent of all U.S. consumers use their mobile devices to research and browse products and services.3 Two-third of consumers use mobile phones for purchasing.4

Tablet:

More than 7 percent in U.S. will own a tablet by the end of 20125 and is estimated to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 51 percent through 2015.6 Forrester expects consumers will adopt tablet commerce rapidly.6

Social Media:

More than half of frequent web shoppers turn to social networks such as Facebook and Twitter at least some of the time to gather ideas for shopping.7 28 percent of Facebook users have purchased something online via a Facebook link.8

Store:

43% of all US retail sales are influenced by the web.9 Consumers often start browsing and researching on their computers and mobile devices, and ultimately make purchases in the store or through a contact center representative.10

Call Center:

Over 90% of US consumers and over 77% of European consumers ranked click to call and click to chat as useful to extremely useful.  Click to call and click to chat were ranked second and third, respectively, out of five, behind only the option of a free phone call into the contact center.11

Sources:

1: eMarketer 2011 US Retail Ecommerce Forecast
2: comScore Q2 2011 U.S. Retail E-commerce Sales Estimate, August 8, 2011
3:  Oracle ATG Cross-Channel Commerce: A Consumer Research Study, 2009
4:  L.E.K. Consulting Consumer Study, 2011
5:  eMarketer
6: Forrester's US Consumer Tablet Forecast, January 2011
7: the e-tailing group, inc.  Study, 2011
8: Shop.org 2011 Social Commerce study
9: Forrester Research, Inc.
10: Oracle ATG Cross-Channel Commerce: A Consumer Research Study, 2009
11:  Oracle ATG Commerce Live Help: Global Consumer Views & Trends Study, March 2010

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