Three customer experience takeaways from eTail Europe

Customer experience leaders from Tesco, Forrester and Adobe discuss the biggest trends and challenges impacting CX today

Hundreds of retail professionals came together in London last week to discuss the latest industry developments, challenges and disruptors at eTail Europe. There were insightful presentations from leading brands such as John Lewis, Tesco, Forrester, HMV and Argos, alongside solution providers such as Adobe, Ogilvy and Pitney Bowes.

With a virtual reality gaming corner and a real life robot walking up to attendees during the networking sessions, the latest technology was front and centre at the conference. But what were the hottest topics discussed? We’ve rounded up the three biggest takeaways from the event.

Use AI and machine learning to drive actionable insights

For Tesco the ultimate goal is to have a frictionless shopping model, something they’ve done a lot of work on but haven’t fully achieved yet. They have mountains of data to help them with this, but they’re not yet making the most from it. Thomas Nielsen, chief digital officer at Tesco, called this “DRIP”, meaning data rich insights poor.

“Even I get offers for products I don’t need,” Nielsen explained. He said that while big data has been around a long time, it’s the newer technology developments such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning that will really help them achieve their data goals. Though he did warn that if you don’t know what the problem is you’re solving that it can’t help.

On their journey so far there have been three key learnings:

1) Don’t boil the ocean, meaning don’t try to modernise all your systems at once. Three years, for example, is an eternity and what you build today is obsolete by then. You can’t just build one new system and leave it alone, it needs to evolve.

2. Data is king. If you do nothing else stop collecting data and centralise. And how do you make sure your data is clean? You need to do it at the source. Spending 80 per cent of the time on finding data and just 20 per cent on actually doing something with it is the wrong model.

3. Focus on culture. Identify individuals that can really help you be front runners and build teams around them. If you don’t talk about the data culture from the start it’ll be very hard to build these functions.

The digital and physical divide is shrinking

Retail has long suffered from doom and gloom predictions such as the death of the high street and bricks and mortar stores as a result of the rise of ecommerce, but is one truly disappearing in favour of the other?

Not according to Martin Gill, VP research director – digital strategy and experience and Forrester. He explained: “In 2016 17 per cent of UK retail sales were online. Is that the dead of stores? No, because 83 per cent is still in store.” Rather than seeing them as two silo-ed channels you need to look at how they can work in sync to delight customers.

SEE ALSO: Forrester exclusive – Designing for emotion in customer experience

In his presentation he broke down the key elements of how customer behaviours are changing. He said that customers are willing to take more risks, prefer emotionally satisfying experiences, rely on multiple devices and navigate complex information, all of which is attributing to bridging the gap between physical and digital experiences.

Digital influence extending to offline was another takeaway from his session. Customer browsing in a shop might end up buying the product online, or vice versa. Gill said that by 2021 a majority of 54 per cent of all European retail sales will be digitally influenced. Note that these sales are influenced by digital rather than digital only, as there is still very much a place for physical stores in this prediction.

Gill concluded that to make the most of the changing landscape you need to bring digital influence into the store at your customer’s moment of truth, as this will help bridge that gap between digital and physical even further.

Marketing is about experience

In our upcoming Digital Marketing Trends 2017 report, a big focus is on customer experience driving marketing strategies – and Thomas Nielsen, chief digital officer at Tesco, highlighted the same trend in his opening keynote.

“The hardest job in retail these days is marketing,” he said. “The marketer’s world has turned upside down multiple times over the last few years.”

This was a sentiment echoed in the presentation by Michael Klein, director of industry strategy and marketing at Adobe, who said that the role of the marketer is no longer about emails every Tuesday, but about experiences, authenticity and life-time value.

In business, he explained, after the back office wave (owned by the CTO / CIO / CFO) came the front office wave (owned by the VP sales / CIO) and now we’ve come to the experience wave, owned by the customer itself. And this customer wants the brand to know and respect them, they want to hear a single voice, they want transparent tech and, most of all, they want to be delighted at every turn.

To help make the customer experience as relevant as possible to today’s demanding customers, retailers are turning to personalisation. “An experience starts with great content, powered by data,” Klein said. “And data and content together is what drives the personalisation.”