Customer Centric Functionality

We are now in the era of the customer. The control around product development, customer access to information and customer engagement has gone from the brands to the hands of the customers.

In short, this means that the customers share their product reviews with the world, have access to competitive pricing information with a simple click, and drive product innovation and development at a demanding and breathtaking pace.

While many companies think their efforts to unify channels to create one brand voice of engagement addresses much of this shift, there are 3 critical things that retail brands need to do today to meet the expectations and drive success in this new era.

Step 1: Individualize
Search Results: Most Popular vs IndividualizedToday’s customers are driven by creating their own personal brand and finding those unique elements that define them.

This means that they aren’t driven by most popular and instead are looking for something that is built to their unique preferences. Yet many of today’s digital commerce experiences focus either on presenting the most popular items or on trying to segment tastes—both of which often completely miss the mark.

For many of today’s customers “Most Popular” means “not what you want.”

You see this dated approach to customer engagement everywhere you turn in ecommerce: on-site search results that are driven by most popular; product recommendations that are built around overly broad segments; and email promotions that are a one size fits all approach.

These approaches are ways to alienate the customer and tell them that you are not in touch with their interests, preferences and needs. What this means to the customer is that they are going to need to invest more time on a site hunting through pages of site search results or endless scrolls of category pages to find what they want.

Treat your customers like you know them and individualize their experience.

Step 2: Be Consistent
customer centric functionalityMost digital merchandisers today use a host of different approaches to customer engagement depending where you are on the site. As an example on the home page, product recommendations and marketing content might be segmented (and oftentimes are out of sync), site search uses most popular and product detail pages have a different segmented approach to merchandising than the home page.

And even more challenging is that most of these engagement solutions are based on yesterday’s data, not what the customer is sharing in real-time.

These disjointed experiences are felt by today’s digitally savvy customer and they elect to go to places and brands that are smarter and who care about helping them find what they are looking for in intuitive and intelligent ways.

Stop throwing everything including the kitchen sink at them and develop a consistent engagement approach.

Step 3: Stay Ahead
customer centric functionality Customers are also deciding how they wish to engage with brands. It used to be that the brands set the terms of engagement, but that is no longer the case.

We have all seen the rapid rise and dominance of mobile and we are now seeing the rise of voice-enabled search (Alexa, Siri, Cortana, Google Assistant, etc.). Just as brands think they might be developing a real mobile strategy along comes this voice-enabled wave.

The pace of change is only accelerating and it is critical to stay ahead, or at the least keep pace with, where and how the consumer wants to engage.

Right now many customers are using voice search on brand sites but the responses they get are most likely not what they are looking for.

They are using Siri or Google Assistant on their phone and instead of typing red shoes they are saying “show me red shoes under $75.”

Most sites aren’t capable of translating that query into a relevant response.

Natural Language Processing (NLP) can make sense of those terms because it isn’t all about products or your content, it is about the language such as “less than” and understanding the price reference (try something similar on your own site).

Make sure NLP is on your roadmap if it isn’t already. And here is a heads up for the next thing, Photo Search.

You can see the progression from “I don’t want to type” which leads to voice search, now imagine when we don’t have to say anything and can say 1,000 words simply by attaching one image or picture.

It is live on sites today and is quickly growing in use as well. Stay ahead of the customer where you can and lock in new customer-centric functionality such as voice-enabled search and photo search as soon as you can.

Kurt Heinemann

Kurt is Reflektion’s CMO. His resume includes CMO positions at Marketwired and Monetate. He’s also held senior executive positions at Priceline, Time Warner and Walker Digital Companies. Despite living in Yankees territory, Kurt is a die hard Tigers fan.