Reaching the New Standard in Digital Expectations


Reaching the New Standard in Digital Expectations

By Peter Lavers and Rob Poratti – Product Marketing Manager for IBM Watson Commerce.

This blog is based on a Webinar we recently hosted for IBM on this subject. We believe that competitive advantage will be won by the companies that deliver distinctive and profitable customer experiences across all their channels of engagement, and that understanding and meeting customer expectations are fundamental to that success.

Changing Landscape and the “Amazon and Uber Effect”

The marketing and commerce landscape has changed dramatically in recent years, and is set to continue to do so. Sectors like the Auto industry are saying that there will be more change in the next 10 years than in the last 100! “So what”? You might say if you’re not in that sector, but we would assert that you can’t afford to ignore developments such as omnichannel, artificial intelligence and real-time personalization because:

  1. Expectations will only continue to rise – the experiences that customers enjoy in one sector will set their expectations for other sectors
  2. These expectations will increasingly be defined by “digital”. Unless you’re still bartering with sheep to buy and sell then your physical and telephonic interactions already have an element of and are being influenced by digital (e.g. contactless payments). There is already a shift happening in experience design, where leading companies are adopting a “digital first” approach

We would summarize this as the “Amazon and Uber effect”. These aren’t the only examples where this is happening, of course, and we’re not saying these are perfect companies or flawless business models, but they have undeniably disrupted their markets by ‘obsessing’ about customers and being very good at doing what they’ve promised to do.

This involves a deep understanding of customer needs and innovating to find new ways to meet those needs economically and reliably.

A New Standard in Expectations

Here are some direct consequences of how the landscape has changed:

  • Almost nothing is ever completely ‘out of stock’! If the preferred supplier doesn’t have what the customer is looking for then they will look elsewhere
  • Forget patience! Attention spans are shortening and tolerance of delays/waiting is deteriorating
  • It’s easier to look dumb! It’s now pretty transparent to customers if you have disconnected, out-of-date or inaccurate data. There’s never been a greater need for real-time personalization and connected experiences across channels
  • Choosing where to look for advice. It’s often NOT YOU!! This drives requirements for new modes of engagement like conversational commerce, voice shopping (Alexa), in-vehicle (yes autonomous cars are coming), wearables, etc.
  • Immediacy – the IOT means there’s no excuse for not being available to a customer when they need you

Thus, we can see that there are clear new standards being set in expectations for availability, speed, transparency, advice and immediacy. This is just touching on the subject – there are fantastic articles on the IBM website and in the blogs written by the IBM Futurist community – check out

Can Personalization Meet These Expectations?

“Personal” works – human communication – 2 brains interacting to reach a mutually agreeable conclusion.

“Personalization”, however, is much more difficult. We’ve been trying to do it for many years, but it has been hampered by our data and our real-time capabilities. Let’s face it we’ve flattered ourselves thinking that 50 slightly different treatments within a campaign based on 3 or 4 parameters and a simple lifecycle model is personalization.

Well, it’s better than nothing, but most of us recognize that we need to do a better job of engaging customers as individuals and that today’s model of personalization simply won’t scale the meet these expectations.  Each of us would need an army of analysts, graphic designers, copy writers, and web developers for ‘personalization’ to trend towards ‘personal’.

Data, Data and More Data!

I read on IBM’s website the other day that 87% of Marketers believe that data is their most underutilised asset (Forbes Teradata, 2015), and I’d agree!

In fact, I’d go further and say it’s going to be the key battleground from which winners and losers will emerge in coming years:

  • Having data isn’t the problem any more – we have access to all kinds of data.
  • We do have problems listening to and interpreting data – it’s just too noisy.
  • We need help making connections across seemingly unconnected data types and sources.

The big problem I believe is drawing insights from our data, with a secondary problem of communicating these insights properly – there has never been a greater need for data scientists to be excellent internal consultants.

Technology to the rescue?

There has been a lot of talk and hype about technology and AI…  But can it really help?

There are scare stories out there about millions of people losing their jobs to robots.

What are the ethics around customer data management? Who will customers trust?

Isn’t data protection / privacy legislation going to strangle everything?

These are all subjects of ongoing debate, and technology can be seen as both a blessing and a curse in each instance.

Customer Engagement with AI

Yes, there’s been a lot of hype about Artificial Intelligence technology, but there is indeed real substance to those claims. With IBM Watson we have seen first-hand how AI can transform the way that organizations work and engage with their customers.

With AI we now have the power to process and understand massive amounts of data in real time, see data that was once invisible, and draw connections between data from different sources, data types and formats.

This means your commerce practitioners no longer have to pour over spreadsheets or view multiple systems and dashboards to find the needle in the haystack and determine what action they should take next. IBM Watson is the digital marketer’s and online merchandiser’s cognitive assistant, delivering up to the minute insight in the context of your business so they can make better decisions faster that help improve customer engagement, deliver the one-to-one personalized experiences your customers expect and drive sales.

Instead of segmenting customers by demographics or past purchases Watson can look across all your data to understand customer intent and behaviour ‘in the moment’ and tailor content, pricing, promotions, recommendations for each customer in real time.

Scale is no longer a problem!

Build the Brand Experiences Your Customers Want

Although desktop and smartphone browsing and buying haven’t quite gone the way of the floppy disk, customer engagement and brand experiences have started to take a much different form.  Your customers want to voice shop with Alexa and Siri, they want personal online shopping assistants to help find what they’re looking for; they will soon want their car to pay for fuel or their washing machine to order detergent.

These new modes of engagement create challenges for retailers, but also offer opportunities for deeper customer engagement, to build loyalty and to differentiate themselves from competitors.

With IBM Watson your commerce system can understand the nuances of language, tone and context, both in written and verbal form to gauge customer intent and have conversations with shoppers.  Allowing you to build experiences that were once only possible in physical stores through interaction with trained and experienced sales associates.  Now you can rethink traditional online browsing and buying, and build digital experiences that interactively guide shoppers through the product selection process – making it easy for them to find what they’re looking for, when, where and how it’s most convenient for them.

Bridge the Omni-channel Divide

“Omni-channel isn’t just a retail strategy, it’s about survival.”

Bill Briggs – Internet Retailer senior editor

More than ever, meeting customer expectations for digital experiences hinges on your ability to execute omni-channel flawlessly.

The game has changed. Your customers want to see store inventory online, they want delivery promises before they place an order, they want instant status notifications of their orders and they want to return online orders to the store – One slip up like inaccurate inventory or a missed delivery promise and your customer is off to a competitor.

The only way to meet these expectations and execute flawlessly is with ecommerce solutions that were designed for omni-channel from the ground up.  And have the intelligence and horsepower to leverage the explosion of data points available to make the best sourcing decision for each and every order instantaneously.  Watson provides that intelligence and horsepower.

Omni-channel is no longer optional and execution is extremely difficult.  Being able to execute in an efficient and profitable way is critical to survive in a world that expects fast, free delivery.

Please click here to listen to the webinar.

About the Author

Peter LaversPeter is an expert in relationship marketing and customer experience management. He directs the Customer Management arm of WCL, helping clients to develop new and innovative ways to find, engage and satisfy customers.

Number of posts: 43
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