In September 2017, SMARTASSISTANT and Guided Selling.org welcomed representatives from the world of e-commerce and beyond at the 3rd edition of Digital Advice Live! – an annual conference designed to offer attendees a glimpse into how Digital Advice is shaping the way companies interact with consumers.
The conference’s theme “Become your customer’s trusted advisor” reflected the importance for businesses to refine their value proposition and change from a product-centric to a consumer-centric mindset. This is and will be one of the biggest challenges for companies that aim to set themselves apart and compete in increasingly competitive markets, without necessarily having to lower prices.
In fact, at the conference, we were told that
Within a decade around 40% of the companies trading today will be obsolete. Many will go bust as a consequence of not putting the needs of customers first.
Several large organizations from the retail, brand and telco sectors explained their motivations for incorporating Digital Advice and talked attendees through their experiences and results they had seen so far.
Here’s what we found out:
1. A New Competitive Battleground Is Emerging
During his keynote talk, First We Do Things Differently…Then We Do Different Things, Global Futures and Foresight CEO David A. Smith offered attendees a captivating and thought-provoking look into the future. He highlighted emerging technologies – such as Artificial Intelligence, wearables, and virtual reality – that will have a significant impact on business-consumer relationships. Smith revealed that by 2020, 51% of consumers will expect companies to anticipate their needs and make relevant suggestions. Customers are also increasingly demanding self-service options so that issues can be handled “on-demand” at their convenience.
Smith warned that if organizations failed to meet the new experience-based expectations of consumers by adapting to change, they would be among the companies heading towards oblivion.
Following a similar line of thought in his opening remarks, SMARTASSISTANT CEO Markus Linder stressed that cheaper prices and greater choice are “losing their edge” in the eyes of consumers and becoming commoditized. These factors will no longer be legitimate points of differentiation.
Instead, there is a new battleground emerging for organizations – becoming the customer’s trusted advisor.
Consumers want convenience. They want their needs to be understood. Retailers and brands that are able to achieve the required level of understanding and offer proactive support during all stages of the customer lifecycle have the greatest chance of thriving in the future.
“Companies need to stop thinking in sessions and transactions and need to start thinking in customer lifetime,” Linder told delegates.
Only organizations that put themselves in the shoes of the customer, remove customer pain points and relentlessly work on adding value will survive.
Linder argued further that businesses need to be available whenever and however their customers expect them to. Businesses should take heed of emerging technologies such as voice-enabled assistants, which are likely to change what great service means and may replace current engagement formats.
He illustrated his point by providing the first-ever live demonstration of Digital Advice via Amazon’s Alexa. It showed attendees how consumers can use their voice-enabled assistants in the near future to receive personal, interactive product advice for purchasing the ideal dog food.
2. Customers Want Experiences, Not Things
According to Peter Francis, T-Mobile USA’s Vice President of Digital Growth & Acquisition, retailers and brands need to “find what customers value and amplify it”. Francis explained that while devices and connectivity were “crucial”, consumers were becoming more concerned about how brands and retailers made them feel.
During his keynote talk, How The Un-Carrier Is Disrupting Norms With Digital Advice, he told attendees that
Today’s consumers are living “bite-sized lives”, want “bite-sized interactions”, but still value conversations with a human touch.
He said customers respond well to digital advisors because of the conversation-like, “back-and-forth” interactions used to ascertain their needs, flexibly and in real-time.
Francis explained that the integration of Digital Advice formed a key part of T-Mobile’s strategy, having a sharp focus on the customer experience, not just its great selection of smartphones or reliable network.
The customer-centric “Un-Carrier” philosophy has helped T-Mobile increase its subscriber base from 33 million to 72 million over the past five years, as well as achieve “one of the highest customer satisfaction rates” among telcos.
3. Brands Are Using Digital Advice To Boost Customer Loyalty
The holy grail for brands is to entice customers and retain them over a long period of time. However, today, customer loyalty is a flimsy concept and it is becoming more difficult to not only attract new customers but to persuade existing customers to stay loyal.
Since its inception in 1899, premium white goods company Miele has built a reputation for creating quality products and delivering exceptional service. But in this super-competitive digital environment, Miele’s Head of Sales Project Management Eléna Helfberend said that the company stands out not only through product innovation but also through their customer-focused approach. The company’s commitment to continuous improvement is reflected by Miele’s motto “Immer besser” (Always better).
One concept that has led to Miele’s success is making sure people understand the value of the brand. But with 14,000 retail partners, presenting a consistent message has proved to be a challenge. The benefits of purchasing a Miele product were not always clear – but the premium price was.
Helfberend said this situation prompted Miele to invest in Digital Advice to educate consumers through its retail partners so that benefits were clear and experiences were consistent.
During her session, Delighting The Consumer – How The Premium Brand Miele Excites People Everytime And Everywhere, Helfberend also explained how their
Digital Advice solutions offer consumers comprehensive online support and guidance through the purchase process with their needs at front of mind.
The focus on consumer education and a consistent brand message across offline and online channels helps Miele cement its position as a trusted brand and acts as a strong differentiator in a competitive environment, said Helfberend.
4. It’s Important To Match Online And Offline Experiences
Evans Cycles‘ Director of E-Commerce Ben Hart used his segment at Digital Advice Live! to illustrate the challenge in making the retailer’s online experience as good as the experience customers enjoy offline.
The company is renowned for having knowledgeable and enthusiastic employees in their stores, ready to understand the customer’s needs and recommend appropriate products. That personalized experience was proving difficult to replicate online.
Before implementing Digital Advice, Evans Cycles’ online customers encountered 1,732 different bike options compared to the couple of hundred they stock in their brick and mortar stores. In the words of Hart, it was
A “bewildering amount of choice” and not an ideal scenario for customers.
Hart’s presentation, How UK’s Leading Cycling Retailer Brings A Guided Buying Experience Online, explained how needs-based questions asked by digital advisors had given customers a more personalized service online, akin to the one they’d experience in store.
His sentiments were echoed by Curtis Bice, Marketing Project Manager of US cycling brand Trek Bikes – one of Evans Cycles’ biggest partners.
In its 60 brick and mortar stores and among the 5,000 retailers that stock Trek Bikes’ products, Bice has confidence that consumers will be advised appropriately by knowledgeable sales assistants. But that experience wasn’t being felt by customers online.
Bice said that as the number of online customers was growing, the specialty brand needed to offer comprehensive advice online. Novice riders, in particular, required choosing support as they were feeling overwhelmed by a large assortment and little guidance.
So Trek set up a digital advisor that asks customers needs-based questions and helps them narrow down the brand’s range of 341 bikes (2,000 variations if you include different sizes and colors) to a few suitable products. After experiencing success in its US and UK markets, the company is planning to roll out digital advisors across its worldwide portfolio of websites.
Another highlight of the conference was the “12 key considerations for implementing Digital Advice solutions”, which Bice shared with the audience.
They included best practices for question development, data creation, and integration, and offered a great deal of knowledge and inspiration for anyone starting out with Digital Advice.
5. Knowing Your Customer And Acting Upon It Is Vital
It goes without saying, but getting a feel for what your customer wants before undertaking an endeavor as significant as digital transformation is crucially important.
While it’s clear that having a strong digital strategy is key to any organization’s survival hopes, getting it wrong could be fatal, with 89% of consumers ready to shop with a competitor if they have a bad experience.
Beko, the world-renowned white goods company, has taken that research incredibly seriously. The company has branded itself as the ‘official partner of the everyday’ and prides itself on understanding the day-to-day lives and challenges of its customers and does everything it can to enhance this status.
Tamara Dutina, Beko’s Digital Marketing Specialist, walked conference attendees through an extensive piece of research conducted to understand the habits and expectations of Millennial shoppers.
It found that a third of Millennials rely on recommendations before making purchasing decision, and 76% only consider a maximum of three brands. The research also discovered that they craved experiences that were “simple, human, smart and surprising”.
These findings influenced the company’s decision to integrate Digital Advice in their customer journey to reduce customer confusing by narrowing down the choice based on their needs.
Customer understanding also plays a significant role in Swisscom’s digital transformation efforts. Experience Manager Stephanie Maeder said that delivering “individual, flexible and personal experiences” are expected by modern consumers, thus playing an integral part in the company’s vision.
To create these personalized experiences, Swisscom decided to implement digital advisors to guide B2B buyers through its “complex” offerings by asking questions relevant to their business requirements. The telco company followed that up by making similar solutions available to its residential consumers.
Overall, the conference was a fabulous and enjoyable experience. Those attending Digital Advice Live! 2017 have prepared themselves for the exciting future of e-commerce after taking part in sessions full of sharp insight, value, and practical advice.
SMARTASSISTANT CEO Markus Linder closed the event by revealing that next year’s Digital Advice Live! will take place in New York City on 28th June 2018.
Register here to not miss information about the 2018 edition of Digital Advice Live! in New York.