Perhaps it dawned on you while you were sitting in traffic, stuck behind a car using Adaptive Cruise Control. You saw its driver sitting dozily at the wheel – probably tuned into a mindfulness podcast – and realised: these are different times. Traffic moves at a crawl, but information moves so fast a Kickstarter product is plagiarized and produced in Shenzen before its campaign has funded. Meanwhile, Vice makes meal kits and brews beer, breweries open hotels, hotels launch designer apparel, and apparel brands sell bricks, stones and metrocards. Verticals are artifacts from a more timid time. One of long corporate lifespans and easily impressed customers.
You can’t sit out the 21st Century Customer Experience Wars. Shots are fired every second. From Oslo to Ottawa, from Seattle to Santiago. No brand is safe. No wonder, then, that 86% of business leaders agree that customer experience is vital for success (Harvard Business Review, January 2017). Time to get to know the rules of engagement…
In a hyper-competitive Experience Economy where consumers are digitally empowered, yet feel forever time-starved, there’s a fundamental choice to make with your Customer Experience strategy. At any particular moment, you must decide if your brand’s offering is a stepping stone on the way to experiences or if you are providing the experience itself. At every interaction or encounter you must ask: is your brand saving the customer’s attention or seizing it?
The answer to that question may change over the course of the customer journey, yet the challenge remains constant. Fail to save or seize attention and you’ll end up wasting it. And wasted attention is unforgivable.
Customers today are beyond fortunate, yet they often feel that ‘paying’ for anything – with time and attention – is an almost intolerable cost. And while the question, “are you functional or delightful?” is as old as commerce itself, it’s more relevant than ever. Here are just four shifts that have brought us here:
• Digitally-supercharged business models deliver everything, from baby food to life advice on-demand, and battle to maximize efficiency.
• Connected devices (with image and voice recognition and more built in) actually work. Meanwhile machine learning and massive data trails empower brands to better decisions on the customer’s behalf.
• The switch to ephemeral social sharing via Snapchat and the Copycats is pouring gasoline on the Experience Economy.
• A chorus of purpose-driven brands, big and small, promise (and increasingly deliver) a path to self-actualization.
In response to the above shifts, many brands will specialize and either seize or save attention. Others are a hybrid, varying at each touchpoint. The core truth to absorb? You must know exactly where you stand in this dichotomy or you will suffer the consequences.
Your customer is already benefiting from brands that utilize relevant data to deploy hidden intelligence and recommend (or make) decisions on their behalf. This frees up attention in the customer journey, from discovery to purchase, to maintenance and beyond.
Amazon - Echo Look takes hands-free selfies and uses AI to recommend outfits for users
Pirelli - Smart tires provide real-time data and automatically book maintenance when needed
Digit / Neat / Koho - Fintech startups use AI to offer automated budgeting and saving
Nudge for Change - Users alerted if they enter a business that clashes with their ‘moral compass’
Brands will continue to look at the customer journey and ask how they might incrementally improve the experience at each step. The boldest will work to eradicate steps all together and redefine expectations in the process.
ICA, PostNord and Glue - Smart lock enables groceries to be delivered direct to buyer’s fridge
SITA - Autonomous, roving robots reduce flight check-in wait times
Air Bank - Bank tests contactless ATMs in Prague
Warby Parker - Vision test app lets customers get prescriptions from home
Burger King - Playstation gamers can order food by speaking, without leaving their video game session
Considerate brands now strive to eliminate attention-hogging pain points in their customer’s lives, even if they are are outside the brand’s ‘responsibility’. Meanwhile, a wave of entrepreneurial startups continues to launch new solutions for old problems.
Qatar Airways - Airlines offer free loaner laptops on flights in response to US ban
L’Oréal - Chatbot-middleman makes finding the right gift for a friend easier
BBVA Bancomer - Telco partnerships mean bank's apps don’t consume data
BingoBox - Staff-free, WeChat-powered convenience store opens in China
While few businesses can build a meaningful brand with puppies, pop-ups, pyrotechnics and PR stunts alone, the desire for playful, one of a kind, unexpected experiences is real. Brave brands will experiment at every touchpoint and redefine expectations.
Various - Instagram-friendly food creations offer the status-hungry a taste of the rainbow
Mexican Tourist Board - Tourist board’s installation makes it rain... tequila
Air France and Adidas - Cinderella-esque stunt makes kids travel home to collect second sneaker
Citroën - Ultra-rare car plays unreleased song only when in close proximity to a matching model
Once they’ve met lower level needs, humans crave self-improvement. This urge spread across the emerging global middle class and collided with the Experience Economy. Today, hard-to-impress clientele seek self-actualization and a colorful story to share with peers.
ChromaYoga - Chromatherapy yoga classes use color, scent and sound to induce trance-like state
The Met - Museum hosts guided workout tours of the gallery before regular opening hours
Kemet - 6-minute educational radio shows broadcast at Cairo’s subway stations while commuters wait
RYU - Athleisure brand offers discount trade-in program for customers hitting fitness goals and sizing out of clothes
Customer-obsessed brands know that digital disruption does not call for a retreat from all physical infrastructure. Innovative, brand-driven venues for performance, education, work, and great coffee – with longer lifespans than 'pop-ups' – can bring people together and seize attention.
Hyundai Card - Credit card company opens dedicated 10,000 book cookery library and event space
Mini - 23,000 sq. ft. creative hub in Greenpoint provides coworking and maker spaces for designers
Apple - Apple ramps up free educational sessions at all 495 global stores
We said right at the start that your brand’s role would vary. It’s unlikely your optimal strategy is to be a saver at every step in the customer journey, or a seizer throughout.
Consider Netflix, the media and entertainment giant wants to seize users attention with as much compelling content as it can, hence the USD 6 billion it is investing in original programming in 2017. Yet Netflix was able to celebrate (with a steak dinner, no less) reaching 100 million subscribers because it endeavors to make trials, purchasing, logging in, refunds, updates, discovery, cross-device access and more as seamless as possible.
Meal kit subscriptions are another compelling hybrid solution for millions of customers. Even if Blue Apron goes belly up before its impending IPO, the expectation it has created won’t go anywhere. The value-add (versus takeout and home cooking) is that they involve just the right amount of convenient-yet-rewarding preparation. Blue Apron is approaching USD 1 billion in annual revenue by expertly walking the CX tightrope.
So the answer may vary from touchpoint to touchpoint. From your pricing to your packaging to your return policy. The optimal strategy may even vary from one customer segment to another. What is absolutely vital is that you ask the question.
We’d like to take this moment to THANK YOU for giving us your in-demand attention. We cherish it. Now go grab your team and ask them how your brand can be the best in class at seizing or saving attention at every 👏 single 👏 encounter 👏 with the customer. Your customer deserves it.
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It takes a team:
This Trend Briefing has many hands on it. A huge thanks to the team that pulled this together with such positivity and enthusiasm, especially: Acacia Leroy, Alida Urban, Anton Bjorklund, Chris Class, Daniela Moya, David Mattin, Denis Rasia, Francesca Coppola, Gillian Harris, Harry Metzger, Harvey Gomez, Henry Mason, Jack Saunders, James Treacher, Jessica Tindle, Jonathan Herbst, Laura Varetto, Laurie Roxby, Lola Pedro, Luciana Stein, Lyubo Popov, Nikki Ritmeijer, Vicki Loomes, Vicky Kim and Xander van Baarsen. THANK YOU!