Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthJuly 22, 2019
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8min1437

The British love affair with bikes is receiving a boost from a growing number of eco-minded commuters keen to swap their car steering wheels for saddles, and a firm at the forefront of this pedal-powered revolution is Brompton Bicycle, famous for its iconic folding bike design.

The business builds over 45,000 bikes each year in its factory in London, 80 percent of which are exported globally. The brand is associated with its innovative product design and high-quality engineering for its iconic folding bikes.

Yet even a traditional, hands-on crafting company such as this knows the value of Digital Experience, and recently teamed up with Sitecore to offer customers a new way to interact online.

CXM spoke with Brompton’s Head of Customer Experience, Harry Mann (pictured below), to get an insight into the company’s impressive digital transformation journey…

What were the biggest challenges Brompton was facing when it came to Customer Experience?

Brompton has 14 stores across the world, but our customers predominantly make their purchase through our partner retailers. As a result, we found it difficult to gain insight into the customer journey and their individual needs because their data was fragmented. We knew that if we couldn’t use customer data to personalise experiences, we would struggle to build long-standing relationships and brand loyalty and wouldn’t be able to maximise sales opportunities.

In the past, customers could only demo and pick up their Brompton bike from a partner store, so their experience with our brand was often out of our hands. We introduced our flagship Brompton Junction stores and the purchase friction improved, but we still needed to understand the customer more clearly to be able to move them through the sales funnel towards a final purchase.

Our wide network of partners and multiple local websites also meant that customers were receiving a different brand experience depending on where they were in the world, and we lacked consistency across our platforms.

What were Brompton’s goals for personalisation and brand consistency?

As a brand that differentiates its offering through high quality products, we knew that investing in digital channels and providing personalised, multichannel experiences to our customers, regardless of where or how they purchased, was crucial. Brand consistency was also critical, so we chose the Sitecore Experience Platform – a CX management platform – to meet this objective.

The platform was chosen thanks to its ability to scale quickly across the entirety of our retail offering and to deliver personalisation at a local and individual level, factoring in where each customer is on their purchasing journey, based on their tracked profiles.

We wanted to be able to deliver a consistent global brand experience, catering to different audiences with locally translated websites, local content relevant to local trends and in-market behaviour, and the ability to suggest customisation of products.

How has Sitecore helped Brompton to develop a more personalised experience for customers?

For customers ready to build their bike online, Sitecore now allows us to present content that explains each feature, and ultimately leads the customer through the bike-building experience. Using the bike-builder tool, customers can experiment and put together a personalised bike to their exact requirements, choosing from 16 million combinations.

Additionally, Sitecore enables Brompton to make incremental improvements to the content served to customers. For example, we can identify through the online data we collect and analyse, if there are particular pages that are causing customers to leave or if content is ‘sticky’ and should be given greater prominence on the page as customers find it more informative or engaging. The platform’s tools enable Brompton to reconfigure the content and layout at the click of a button and react quickly to customer insights.

Quantitative and qualitative customer data presented clearly through the Sitecore Experience Platform has also played a key role in helping shape the brand’s offline strategy. For example, based on the insight gathered from search data on the website, we have been able to choose the best locations for our Brompton Junction stores.

Furthermore, Brompton can now segment our audience into key customer personas:

  • The builder: who is thinking about buying a Brompton
  • Brompton ‘novice’: who is just getting to grips with their new purchase
  • The ‘known customer’: who is using the bike to commute to work and enjoying the freedom the bike gives them
  • The super-fan: who wants to know about competitive Brompton cycling events

We can adapt the Customer Experience and content to suit the individual based on their segment. For example, the builder could be targeted with a calculator showing how the cost of a Brompton can be offset by not having to buy an annual gym membership or travel card.

What improvements has Brompton seen since implementing these tools?

It has enabled us to deliver a consistent and meaningful experience throughout the whole customer journey. The ability it gives us to own the relationship, even if a customer has bought a bike through a partner, is key for us. With a customer being able to get a bike serviced in addition to simply purchasing the bike, retailers are able to provide an overall ownership experience beyond the point of sale. This is especially important when retailers are struggling to get customers through the door in today’s difficult climate.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthJuly 19, 2019
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4min1245

At this month’s UK Digital Experience Awards, the day’s biggest success story involved an online platform behind a swimming revolution taking place across Britain.

Swimtime is the largest independent swim school in the UK, and since its foundation in 1998 has helped thousands of young people take the plunge and learn to enjoy one of the healthiest activities around. The need for Swimtime was highlighted in a 2017 report by the Water Safety Review Group, which found that one-in-three children leave primary school unable to complete a length of a pool.

In a bid to boost the number of competent young swimmers, the Swimcloud platform was introduced by Swimtime, making it easier for customers to book and manage their lessons.

The innovative technology was the basis of the firm’s presentation at the UK Digital Experience Awards at London’s Park Plaza Riverbank, and judges awarded them the highest score in the Transport, Leisure and Tourism category.

That score also turned out to be the highest of the day, leading to Swimtime being named Overall Winner.

Water result: The UK Digital Experience Awards won by Swimtime

Theo Millward, Managing Director of Swimtime, said: “Our Swimcloud platform is truly groundbreaking, delivering a world-class Digital Experience to our customers and swimmers, helping us teach some 20,000 learners every week. We are the first in our sector to deploy such advanced technology including machine learning.

“To see the implementation and our results be recognised against such an outstanding field of major companies – many with vast budgets – was a true honour and something neither I or my team will forget in a hurry.”

H2 wow: The Swimtime team accept their Transport, Leisure and Tourism trophy

He added: “When the Overall Winner of the event was announced, hearing our name read out is something we’ll never forget! It was a very special day for us, and we enjoyed celebrating our victory with a well earned gin and tonic. Thank you to hosts Awards International for organising the event, and we look forward to entering next year to defend our crown.”


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthJuly 17, 2019
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3min1254

UK businesses have struggled to handle an upswing in personal data access requests since General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into force, it has been revealed.

Research by business process outsourcer Parseq was conducted following the first anniversary of GDPR, and shows that two-thirds of UK businesses (63 percent) saw an increase in data access requests from customers and their own employees in the 12 months following GDPR’s introduction in May 2018.

One-in-ten (10 percent) businesses experienced an increase of more than 50 percent in the volume of requests. This rose to almost a fifth (17 percent) for businesses with a turnover of £500m or more. Almost nine-in-ten (87 percent) businesses that have seen an increase in requests reported they had found effectively responding to them challenging, citing complexity (54 percent) and cost (54 percent) as the biggest obstacles.

A third (34 percent) of businesses that had experienced an increase in data access requests cited a reliance on paper documentation as a barrier. This figure rose to 47 percent for businesses with a turnover of £500m or more, tying with a lack of time as their second most frequently flagged hurdle after cost.

Under GDPR, individuals can submit a data access request free of charge to receive a copy of personal data that organisations hold on them, along with information on factors such as why their personal data is being used. In general, GDPR requires that organisations must respond to data access requests within one month.

Craig Naylor-Smith, Managing Director at Parseq, said: “GDPR made it easier for people to access their personal data from organisations. With this power at their fingertips, we expected to see that data access requests would rise. However, the fact that so many firms have struggled to respond to the surge in requests suggests that the pressure this has put on businesses has been greater than they anticipated, or that many were simply unprepared for what GDPR would bring.

“It could also have been affected by the August 2019 deadline for consumers to claim back Payment Protection Insurance, with individuals possibly using data access requests to help them uncover information to support their claims.

“What’s particularly interesting to see is that so many businesses state a reliance on paper documentation as a barrier. The digitisation of paper documents can make personal information easier to process and manage, make data access requests easier to respond to and, ultimately, help businesses use data to deliver innovative services in an increasingly competitive, digital landscape.”


Fabrice MartinFabrice MartinJuly 16, 2019
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7min1589

It’s important for brands to provide a great experience every time a customer wants to engage.

As the channels to engage continue to expand, brands will want to be accessible and ready to serve. Research indicates that customers who start and end service requests using digital channels have a satisfaction rate that is significantly higher than those using traditional channels. Additionally, the costs per digital customer interaction can be between five to 12 times cheaper than when they engage using the phone.

It’s clear that improving digital efficiency can be an opportunity to minimise costs for the contact centre and improve the overall experience for customers.

So, to boost digital effectiveness, here are five steps:

1. Listen to every feedback source

As the old adage goes – you can’t fix what you can’t measure. Similarly, brands can’t enhance what they don’t fully understand. When embarking on the journey to enhance digital effectiveness, understanding feedback is the only way to prioritise opportunities to improve Customer Experience.

Listen up: Understanding feedback is vital for your CX

Calls are very important, but they’re not the only way that customers are reaching out or looking for support. Emails, social media posts, review sites, surveys and chats need to be considered and these sources should be integrated with CRM data to reveal the full picture.

2. Prioritise opportunities that will have the highest impact on CX

Customer Experience tools can help brands to analyse unstructured text feedback from these channels by overlaying sentiment and effort scores to understand high friction points in the Digital Experience. They will also look for language around “suggestions” when customers are explaining what they wish could be better.

When analysing phone calls, it is typical for organisations to aggregate all mentions of failures on online channels to understand pain points. They can also analyse short duration calls that typically have a singular call driver and prioritise these for digitisation.

3. Create a priority matrix

Using the techniques above, action-oriented organisations can create a priority matrix that ranks each digital opportunity along the two dimensions of customer impact and level of effort. An opportunity that is deemed to have a high customer impact but will only require a low to medium level of effort to implement quickly jumps up the prioritisation list.

4. Understand the full customer journey

Customers want to communicate via their channel of choice, and nowadays these are digital. When they start a transaction online or via a mobile app, they want to be able to complete their transaction within that channel. This is not always possible and they are forced to make contact on the phone or via chat for further assistance. We often hear comments like “I don’t know why we get so many calls related to buying a ticket when our customers can easily do so via our mobile app or our website”.

Digital desire: Channel preference for customers is increasingly digital

Looking further into it, these transactions are often more complicated and multi-faceted than the simple act of purchasing a ticket. There is often another related event that complicates the transaction and causes a channel switch. It may be that the customer is trying to buy a ticket but using loyalty miles or trying to apply a discount code that is not working. Understanding the co-occurrence of such related events to the main transaction is key to designing a digital solution that meets even the more complex interactions.

5. Leverage the power of chatbots

Chatbots provide a way for customers to self-serve on known issues, or to collect important information that facilitates a seamless transition to a contact centre agent. Chatbots are increasingly popular and a 2016 report by Creative Virtual finds that introducing a virtual assistant for customer service can improve chat and phone service levels by 10-15 percent.

Brands can train chatbots to improve customer experience in a variety of ways. By understanding customer ‘intent’ during a live chat interaction or phone call, they can start identifying opportunities for chatbot automation. Organisations can also listen for the words that customers use to express frustration and high effort while accomplishing a task. By understanding these linguistic patterns, brands can train chatbots to express empathy and route a frustrated customer to an agent with a skill set that specialises in the topic that is causing frustration.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthJuly 16, 2019
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5min1536

The victors of the 2019 UK Digital Experience Awards have celebrated success in London, with swimming school Swimtime making waves by being crowned as the day’s Overall Winner.

The event at London’s Park plaza Riverbank saw firms from across Britain present before an expert panel of judges, offering insight into the digital journeys customers make when connecting with their favourite brands. The very best across 23 categories were identified, with organisations competing to claim titles including Best Digital Change & Transformation, Best Digital Marketing Campaign/Project, and Best Mobile Strategy.

Swimtime, which helps over 15,000 children learn to swim at over 300 venues across the UK, made a huge splash in the Transport/Leisure/Tourism category, beating tech firm rivals Valtech and car rental brand Sixt to claim the Gold award.

Their entry focussed on the innovative SwimCloud digital platform, which manages every conceivable stage of the customer journey from booking to delivery, managing payments, lesson planning, and much more.

Victory lap: The Swimtime team accept the 2019 Overall Winner award

That category entry secured the Overall Winner title later in the day, and a spokesperson for the firm said: “Our team and franchisees across the Swimtime family are delighted that the work and investment that has gone into SwimCloud, is not only paying off internally but being recognised as revolutionary in such a competitive award.”

The day was jam-packed with other significant wins for household name brands, including HCL Technologies UK in partnership with Manchester United. Together they secured Gold in the Best Digital Change & Transformation – Project/Platform category after showing judges how they are delivering a unified fan experience, combining subsystems, fan touchpoints, and revenue streams.

Best App was won by BT for its innovative My BT app, while Sky in partnership with Journey Further won Gold for Best PPC Strategy.

Appy days: The BT delegation receive the Gold Award for Best App

Click here for a full list of the day’s winners.

The event was hosted by Awards international, and along with the UK Customer Experience Awards, the UK Employee Experience Awards, and the UK Complaint Handling Awards, proudly holds a Gold Standard Awards Trust mark from the Independent Awards Standards Council (IASC).

CEO of UX design piuoneers Usability 24/7, Paul Blunden chaired the awards, steering the development of the event towards its most impactful year to date, and he will return in the coming years to ensure the event continues to explore and reward the very best digital experiences offered by brands.

Congratulating the day’s winners, Awards International CEO Neil Skehel said: “These awards highlight the most innovative Digital Experiences customers will come across in the UK today, and show just how vital a trusted digital journey is for today’s tech-savvy consumers.

“Well done to all who attended to present before our judges, and a special congratulations to all of the category winners, who truly deserve their success. We look forward to further exciting DX developments from our winning brands in the coming months and years, and hope to see many return to compete at next year’s UK Digital Experience Awards.”

 

 


Ian LoweIan LoweJuly 15, 2019
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13min805

In the scramble to achieve last-minute compliance before the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) deadline last year, many companies engaged in some ‘privacy theatre’ – adopting basic consent models, and meeting the requirements just enough to comply with the new law and avoid fines.

With this kind of minimal compliance mentality, it should come as no surprise that consumers don’t feel much has changed for them when interacting with companies.

Only 31 percent of consumers think their overall experience has improved since the introduction of GDPR and 40 percent don’t feel companies take data breaches seriously, according to a recent Marketing Week study. In only aiming for the lowest GDPR bar, firms have missed the opportunity of turning consent and privacy in to a way to build relationships, earn trust and gain a competitive advantage.

To provide truly engaging digital experiences, businesses must set their sights on a higher level of customer-centric data management that goes far beyond the essentials. Indeed, the biggest mistake we’re seeing in GDPR compliance is leaving the decisions to the Legal department. Too many marketers think that it’s “someone else’s job” and just wait for the lawyers to give them consent language for yet another grey cookie banner. It is vital that marketing take a central role in turning privacy from a compliance issue to a competitive advantage of superior customer experience and loyalty.

The GDPR impasse: a matter of perception

Marketers know that content is what hooks the attention of consumers and keeps them coming back time and again. But that content needs to be tailored or personalised so we can deliver the right messages to the right audiences at the right time. Data is a critical component to creating the right segments, assigning individuals to those segments, and testing the effectiveness of our messages. For that reason, organisations must be focused on exceptional data practices that maximise consent and therefore effectiveness of the personalisation and content stack.

As we begin to see enforcement – in cases like the proposed £183 million fine for British Airways, the £99 million fine for Marriott, and even the rumoured US$5 billion fine for Facebook – regulator compliance is needed not just from a financial risk perspective, but from a customer trust view.

Personalisation can both make or break consumer trust: it can benefit them by adding relevance and value, but it may also fuel privacy issues because consumers are concerned about how their data is collected and used. Despite the appetite for meaningful, personalised content, when it comes to gaining consent businesses still encounter resistance from consumers.

But consent doesn’t have to be an obstacle for organisations or consumers. Rather than operating on a purely functional approach that gets consumers to click and continue – making the organisation legally compliant – if it is well-handled from the start of the marketing funnel, consent requests can be the launch pad for creating deeper understanding of your consumer and in turn providing them with the options they prefer when browsing.

Today, organisations face, on average, a 50 percent bounce rate and 25 percent of consumers running ad-blocking technology. These visitors are completely opting-out of your marketing technology, but are invisible to your consent statistics if you only view “yes vs no” consent resolutions. Those organisations that build earning trust and gaining consent as part of customer experience will earn a higher share of consumers in the technology system and therefore gain structural competitive advantage in the market.

Turning obligation into opportunity

The way businesses ask for consent matters. Intrusive pop-up forms and cookie walls not only interrupt activity, but also leave consumers with a sense of powerlessness; 59 percent say companies don’t allow them to browse their websites unless they share personal data. If businesses want data access, they must reduce friction, and view consent as the first touchpoint of the consumer journey – an opportunity to set new, mutually beneficial rules of engagement. In the case of cookie walls, companies are asking consumers to give access to their personal data and enable tracking before the consumer has even decided if there’s anything valuable on the site. That’s a difficult value proposition to scale.

Put simply, the consent request needs to be a positive experience. Companies need to make this initial interaction a preview of the compliant, customer-focused communications and services consumers can expect after sharing data. In practical terms, this means outlining exactly how and why data will be used, and giving consumers a choice. For example, firms might use an expandable form that restricts disruption by enabling consumers to opt in for multiple sharing purposes at once and, crucially, reject each one if they wish.

By prioritising transparency and consumer control from the offset, companies can boost the odds of gaining consent, as well as encourage individuals to continue along the funnel.

EU better believe it: Customers should know what’s in store at your site from even before they give data consent

Identifying the consent line 

Equally as vital as an enticing welcome is knowing where to draw the line. Given the starring role data plays in determining how online content should be tailored and delivered, it’s easy to see why marketers are especially tempted to collect as much data as possible. But from the consumer perspective, hungry data requests can feel intrusive, increasing the likelihood that they will both lose trust and refuse consent.

Before making consent appeals, businesses should carefully consider how much information they realistically need. More often than not, firms have much of the data necessary to drive impactful content, but not in a unified state. By embracing agile technology that can plug into isolated systems and blend existing pools of freely-given data, organisations may find they already hold a near-complete view of consumers. Combined with other, non-personally identifiable insight – such as recent web-browsing activity and keyword search – this data can help them achieve relevant and contextually appropriate digital marketing. And by issuing reasonable requests that have a higher chance of positive response, this data foundation can be further supplemented to offer optimally meaningful and effective content.

Organisations need to also consider asking for just the data and consent they need to improve the experience. Many sites today ask for geo-location data on first page load – a request that many consumers are likely to refuse as they don’t perceive the value to them. Waiting until a location search, and suggesting sharing geo-location data as a way to improve results – yields higher consent rates, happier consumers, and increased trust.

Forging lasting consumer bonds

Consent isn’t a one-and-done process, and neither is consumer engagement. To prove they are worthy of consent and loyalty, companies must persistently strive to provide high-quality experiences. On the marketing side, this means ensuring interactions are tailored, seamless and consistent throughout the consumer journey. Mismatched branding across mobile and desktop, broken links and low-grade content can be just as damaging to consumer trust as irrelevant ads or overly frequent emails. Businesses must focus on the finer details; sustaining revenue and credibility by maintaining genuinely valuable and accessible, cross-channel content.

Similar principles also apply to data privacy: organisations need to demonstrate a continual dedication to protecting consumers. In the short-term, companies should ensure they have a complete picture of individuals so that preferences can be accommodated no matter which screen or platform they are using. In the longer term, it is essential to allow room for change; ensuring consumers can easily access and adapt their preferences at any time.

There is a growing requirement for companies to shift their attention back towards the real driver of their success: consumers. Amid rising regulation and awareness of how businesses use personal data, consumers understand their rights and are determined to exercise them. To guarantee future prosperity, businesses must up their data and content management game: moving past the compliance minimum to implement consent processes and deliver positive digital experiences centred around the real needs of today’s privacy-conscious customers.

Organisations must treat privacy, consent and data security as customer experience issues. Those that do will get access to more customers and drive better personalisation in the years ahead.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthJuly 11, 2019
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3min1113

Current digital marketing techniques are failing to win over customers, a new report warns.

Published by London-based tech firm Ogury, The Reality Report examines the attitudes of over 287,000 mobile users towards marketing and data, and suggests that current practices of digital marketing fail to provide value to users and could endanger organisations’ long-term prosperity.

Fifty-two percent of respondents agree that intrusive or irrelevant messages give them a poor opinion of the app or website that hosts these messages, while only 25 percent of UK respondents believe that targeted messages are useful.

Wider market data suggests that the majority of mobile  ads are served by Big Tech companies, otherwise known as the walled gardens. These technology behemoths have access to an incomparable mass of user data, enabling them to target users with relevant messages. However, nine out of 10 UK users find targeted marketing messages annoying, even though 13 percent out of the 88 percent find them also useful.

Thomas Pasquet, Ogury’s co-founder and co-CEO, said: “If users feel any form of intrusion, they will be annoyed regardless of the relevancy of the message they receive. Therefore, brands and publishers should always offer consumers clear and fair choices: accept anonymous data to be collected to receive customised marketing; opt-out from sharing data and therefore receive irrelevant ads; or pay a fair price in exchange for a marketing free and data collection free environment.”    


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthJuly 9, 2019
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3min1043

Pan-European data protection cannot be “taken for granted” post-Brexit it has been warned, after British Airways was hit with a fine of £183 million following a cyber attack which affected half-a-million customers.

The record fine was imposed by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), and comes in the wake of customer data – including personal and financial information – being stolen from BA in 2018.

The hack saw data lifted from the airline’s website and mobile app through the use of a fake site, and initial estimates by BA that 380,000 payment cards were affected were proved wrong as the ICO highlighted 500,000 customers were placed at risk.

The £183 million fine – around 1.5% of BA’s global turnover for the financial year ending December 31 – is the largest ever imposed by the ICO, and has been put to the airline in an official Notice of Intention.

Following the ICO ruling, BA Chairman Alex Cruz said: “British Airways responded quickly to a criminal act to steal customers’ data. We have found no evidence of fraud/fraudulent activity on accounts linked to the theft. We apologise to our customers for any inconvenience this event caused.”

Meanwhile, the ruling has implications for data protection in the UK following the country’s proposed departure from the European Union on October 31, according to an expert in litigation and employment law.

Barrister Jonathan Compton, Partner at firm DMH Stallard, said: “BA will be able to make representations to the ICO, the Notice of Intention is not a final decision. In any event, whilst BA described the Notice as ‘disappointing’, the fact remains that if you are processing peoples’ personal data including credit cards, you must have the security measures in place to avoid a hack.

“What is interesting about this investigation is the increased co-operation between European Data protection agencies. In this case, the ICO was the lead investigator for concerns raised in other EU countries. Whether this co-operation will continue post Brexit is not a matter that can be taken for granted.”

 

 

 

 


Jurgen KetelJurgen KetelJuly 9, 2019
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11min877

Sales from digital gift cards are projected to hit nearly $700bn in global sales by 2024 – if you’re a retailer, it’s an area you simply can’t afford to avoid or get wrong, especially since 72 percent of retailers now spend more than the value of their card.

However, while gift cards present unique opportunities, they also present some unique challenges.

The gift card space has evolved considerably due to improvements in technology: they’re used both online and offline, and it’s become easier for brands of all shapes and sizes to operate gift card programs. There’s a real need to differentiate and provide a gift card experience that’s a cut above the rest.

If you’re running a retail business, you might well be asking: how do I go about building a modern gift card program that delivers real benefits to both the brand and its customers?

Make it easy to purchase and redeem

On and offline: Cards should be redeemable in a way that suits the customer

Great Customer Experience is all about cohesion. If you experienced an issue buying something in-store and an advisor was unable to help you resolve it online, then it would present a problem, wouldn’t it? It’s the same with gift cards – they need to be easy to buy and redeem across all different online and offline channels.

When your customer buys a gift card in-store, they should be able to use it online – and when they buy it online, they should be able to use it in-store. If they can’t use it in the way they prefer, they’ll rightly wonder what the point of buying it at all is – damaging their experience and your brand reputation.

Some brands still rely exclusively on physical gift cards and don’t have any kind of digital equivalent, which can be an immediate turn-off for customers. Others run disparate online and offline gift cards that aren’t compatible with one another – a situation that’s common even for more established brands.

So, make sure your provider unites the offline and online experience. Work to migrate separate programs into one distinct program, ensure it converts all kinds of currency if you operate locations globally, and make sure gift cards are clearly available to purchase on your e-commerce platform, as well as from any resellers, such as department stores. You can even distribute them to some businesses to use as a corporate incentive.

The idea is to make your gift cards available across every possible commercial touchpoint: to create a true multichannel gift card program.

Make it global

No borders: Digital gift cards should be scalable worldwide

Ever get annoyed when a much-anticipated film or TV is released in the US – and only released in the UK a week, a month, or even a year later? It’s really annoying, both because you don’t get to watch what you want to watch and because it makes you feel like there are two tiers of viewer: the one in the home market, and the one in the less-valuable foreign market.

The same thing applies to gift cards. If you’re a large international retailer, a hotelier, or a restaurant chain, you need to make sure your gift card program is scalable all over the world rather than restricted by geography. You shouldn’t ever be in a situation where you’re setting up specific programs for specific countries – the same experience, in the preferred language and the preferred currency, should be available to all.

A customer who uses your service in Boston, a customer who uses your service in Berlin, and a customer who flits between the two, should all be able to buy and use gift cards seamlessly.

Make it sustainable

Green card: Physical cards made of non-plastic materials are in demand among eco-conscious consumers

Sustainability is a big draw for modern-day customers – and many gift card programs are heavily reliant on plastic. 

You can make these programs more sustainable by using an eco-card, which has all the advantages of a standard plastic gift card, but is made using substantially ‘greener’ techniques. These cards can be made of recycled PVC, corn-based plastic, or paper stock, and their carriers can be made of soy-based inks or recycled materials. It’s also worth making sure you shred and recycle all deactivated cards.

Plastic waste is a significant issue in the modern world, and a more sustainable approach can not only reduce your environmental impact, but also boost your brand’s reputation.

Make it easy to integrate

Does your gift card program fit in with your electronic point-of-sale (EPOS) system and e-commerce sites, or is it tethered more loosely? The more tightly you can integrate it, the better. Gift cards should be easily compatible with in-store ordering technology to make it as easy as possible for staff and customers to process sales and redeem cards. The same goes for ecommerce sites.

More integration means a more cohesive customer experience, and it also makes it easier to collect and report data related to gift card transactions. This should help you refine your sales and marketing strategy. Integrating gift cards with EPOS systems can also decrease processing times and improve the ability to offer tailored promotions.

Make it different

Blank slate: Retailers are urged to be creative with their card programs

Finally, think about specificity. Gift cards haven’t been around for all that long, and they weren’t always commonplace. Now they’re available everywhere, so it’s worth making sure yours stands out.

Think about creating different gift cards for different purposes. They come in many flavours: loyalty-based gift cards can be sent to particularly long-time customers to reward them for sticking with you; mystery gift cards can be sent to entice new prospects; you can send them on birthdays or weddings, or you can send them when a customer has checked into a specific location – for a hotel chain, you might want to send customers a specific resort gift card.

You can, of course, also use them to compensate customers for a negative experience. They should all be a part of the same program, but there should be a range available to suit the full range of Customer Experiences you offer. If a customer returns an item for whatever reason, you should give them the option of putting the value onto a gift card – this means the money stays with the retailer, the customer is statistically likely to spend more, and you can easily turn a negative experience into a positive one.

Gift cards, ultimately, are a show of faith in your retailer: instead of spending money on you directly, customers buy them for friends and family – trusting that something within the range of what you offer will make them happy. Repay this faith and trust by making the gift card experience as positive as possible. Customers will reward you for it.


Alex DebeckerAlex DebeckerJuly 8, 2019
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8min1263

Providing a first-class Customer Experience is a goal every organisation pursues – it’s no longer a luxury only large brands with big pockets can afford to focus on.

Consumers now expect to experience the ‘perfect’ buyer journey with every business they deal with – no matter how big or small. Research by Kampyle illustrates this, showing that 87 percent of customers think brands should put more effort into delivering a better Customer Experience.

Thanks to recent progress in technology, this now all achievable. Conversational software – chatbots, in particular – make providing an excellent, hands-on, personal experience to customers possible. Below, we will dissect how a chatbot can assist and delight your customers at every step of their interaction with your brand.

There are four key touchpoints between your customers and your company:

  • First contact
  • Nurturing
  • Sale
  • Customer care

Maximising delight at each of these touchpoints is primordial to providing an excellent Customer Experience.

Let’s see how chatbots help.

Your customers, for the most part, will first get in contact with your brand through your website.

Surprisingly, websites are still hard to navigate for the average user. A simple UX testing exercise can uncover the many ways in which your website visitors get lost between opening your homepage and getting to the goal you want them to reach.

Strategically placed on your website as a widget, a chatbot can offer help throughout the experience. It will be able to pop up, offer help, send accurate information, and drive the user to its goal – all by itself.

Not only does your chatbot provide users with the help they need, it also delivers results. Ubisend has reported that a website widget chatbot converted 28.3 percent of its helpful conversation with users into warm leads for the sales department.

Meanwhile, some brands out there don’t own a website, such as some local restaurants that deal straight from their Facebook page. Chatbot can live on there as well – and achieve the same results.

Face facts: Chatbots can successfully operate on your businesses Facebook page

Nurturing

A chatbot is not just for first touch. The power of a chatbot is its conversational nature tied to its extensive knowledge. In a nutshell, a chatbot can talk to your customers several times over a long period of time and continuously learn about them, providing them with the next best action.

Nurturing leads with a chatbot is the future of marketing. Forget about users losing sight of what they want to achieve on your website; your chatbot knows exactly who that person is when they come back and can nurture them towards your business goal

The user experience here is clearly enhanced – no more endless searching. As the user logs back onto your site, they don’t need to figure out what the next step is. A helpful digital assistant is there to help.

Sale

We all buy from the internet. It has become part of our lives.

And yet, we’re all still very apprehensive when doing so (unless we buy from the giants like Amazon). Does this product actually suit me? Will this wardrobe fit my bedroom? What if I don’t like it, can I send it back?

As business owners, we’ve been trained to try and answer all these questions preemptively through copy, FAQs, and unboxing videos.

Even so, the stress is there for some users, turning them off from buying altogether. Need I remind anyone that the average landing page converts only 2.35 percent of visitors?

This is where a chatbot can help. Strategically placed on your sales pages, a custom-built chatbot will know everything there is to know about your product or service. It will pop up to offer help, answering all the questions your customers have about what’s on the ‘other side’ of their purchase.

Customer care

Though it comes last, customer care is most likely the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of enhancing the user experience.

Providing the best, most attentive, empathic customer support experience is a must-have these days. We’ve all started to expect 24/7 instant answers; we’re likely spoiled by the likes of Amazon.

The good news is that chatbots can help you with that, too.

A customer service chatbot can sit on your service desk and answer questions at incredible speed, 24/7. 

Now consider that your chatbot never sleeps, never gets grumpy, never gets bored. It does its job, all day every day, helping your customers get the answers they need in an instant.

What better customer care could you think of?


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21min1075

The following interview was originally published on MarTech Advisor, official partners of the 2019 UK Digital Experience Awards.

 

Research by Walker suggests that Customer Experience will overtake cost and product as the main differentiator for a brand by 2020.

Thirty-four percent of companies, according to SmartInsights, have a digital transformation program in place, while 31 percent are looking to begin their digital transformation operations soon.

Staying ahead of the tide, the UK Digital Experience Awards (UKDXAs) recognises exemplary performances of marketing teams who have managed to successfully conceptualise and execute digital transformation journeys that enable winning Digital Experience. MarTech Advisor checked in with three of the UKDXA nominees to discuss the role UX plays in building a compelling brand experience, and how data and analytics guide Customer Experience decisions.

Interview with Elliott Prince, Head of Solution Design Geeks Ltd on Digital Experience Strategy

Elliott Prince is Head of Solution Design, Geeks Ltd, where he is responsible for creating engaging experiences for their customers. He also designs software to improve business processes through automation.

 

Dominic Vye is Head of Commercial Development, Customer Management, and Digital Services at JT Group, and has over 15 years of experience in operational and strategic roles.

 

Marc Hetherington is Senior Digital Consultant at Three UK, who loves using data and analytics to solve tough problem statements.

What role does UX play in building a compelling brand experience for customers across digital platforms?

Elliott: UX design can help businesses go beyond merely creating a recognisable visual identity, to creating interactions that signify a brand. A simple example of this is Apple moving the close window “X” icon from the top right to the top left. When I see that I’m immediately in no doubt that I’m using an Apple OS.

Dominic: The objective of providing a compelling brand experience is to differentiate your product or service from others. This differentiation helps to build on our customer’s satisfaction and grow their loyalty. It’s so important to try to understand each customer journey and were possible tailor each Digital Experience to it, making it intuitive, simple, and rewarding.

At JT, we’ve recognised our customers are using new ways to interact with us, preferring digital platforms such as smart apps, online shops, instant chat, or email to the more conventional channels such as the retail store or our contact centre. With this proliferation of customer touchpoints, the importance of a seamless UX across multiple areas cannot be underestimated.

Marc: Testing with users to discover what they want to use the app/site for rather than what Three wants to push while they’re trying to accomplish a different goal. Three could improve at this. UX design helps enhancing the clarity of information and consistency of interactions across various touchpoints, within separate customer journeys. By combining quantitative data from analytics with qualitative data from usability testing, we manage to acquire a holistic view of what our users truly need and address these needs accordingly, either by introducing new solutions or improving existing ones.

What have you learned the most about leveraging UX to deliver the larger Digital Experience?

Elliott: The biggest thing I’ve learnt is that however much you think you’ve empathised with users; they will surprise you. Donald Rumsfeld was once ridiculed for saying there are things we know we don’t know, and there are things we don’t know that we don’t know. What I don’t know is if that applies to other disciplines, but when it comes to UX he was 100 percent right. People will fail to understand a workflow you thought was crystal clear or miss a call to action that looks to you like an enormous neon sign you put in the middle of your design.

So, list all your assumptions and validate them with real users, then test again, and test one more time for good luck. By doing this we can be sure what we’ve created is a truly enjoyable and engaging Digital Experience for everyone, not just the team that delivered it.

Dominic: Listening to our customers and understanding their behaviours was the biggest insight into what our app would be used for, by whom, and why. Our customers shared their motivations and trigger points for using the app and the logical journeys that flow from those trigger points. We learnt that friendly user trials only go so far in helping to design a compelling user experience. It’s vital to continue qualitative research with real customers, to understand their needs and meet their expectations.

Marc: Bounce rates, content, and bottom line. You can entice people through a seemingly useful call to action, say an offer, but if where they land is difficult to use or has poor content/inventory, then positive traffic is wasted and creates negative brand experience. Removing existing pain points and blockers our users struggle with is the first step in improving Digital Experience. This means ensuring users can go through and complete different journeys or find the information they are looking for, more efficiently.

In what ways can data and analytics guide Customer Experience decisions for measurable business results?

Elliott: There’s a simple answer to this one – look for lemmings. Analysing your sales funnel will help you see where potential customers are dropping off before they buy. This tells you where in your customer journey you need to focus your UX efforts. It won’t tell you how to fix something, but it can tell you what to fix. The goal here is to steer the lemmings away from the cliffs and to the checkout!

Dominic: Research-driven insights from customers have been essential in developing the right Customer Experience for JT customers using the smart app from prioritising the development of app functionality, understanding the logical customer journeys, and triggers for using the app and optimising the navigation and overall user experience.

We started with an analysis of the most frequent queries for which our customers contacted our call centre. These were used to guide the priorities about which functionality was implemented first in the app. For example, ‘bill shock’ was one of the key drivers for calls (following launch of 4G and FTTH services) and itemising usage was prioritised above adding a value-added service.

Following the initial design phase, a series of qualitative and quantitative methods were used to optimise user experience; friendly user trials were held to test the prototype. These helped to inform navigation around the site and iron out any bugs in the coding. A series of representative customer groups carried out beta testing with the app and this helped map out much more clearly the links between different customer triggers for using the app, relevant and intuitive customer journeys, associated navigation, and user experience.

Following the launch, we used Google analytics to validate and refine user interfaces with features such as page ranking, customer journey tracking, average time taken on app, and repeat visits.

Through backend reporting via session logs we were able to track individual users and understand frequency of use and purpose of use. For example, the post-paid app is accessed six times a month, with the biggest trigger being the itemisation page. Customers can feedback using the live chat function or leave their comments on the app with suggestions for improvement.

Marc: Utilising data and analytics effectively is fundamental in driving the right outcomes for both your customers and the business. At Three, we view data and analytics as core ingredients in helping to understand what our customers think of us whilst using our products and services. It’s used to tell us what our customers like, what they love, but just as importantly (and maybe more so) the things that they find difficult, annoying, or confusing when dealing with us.

That’s why at Three we place a great amount of emphasis on generating rich insights from our data and analytics and ensure that we act from them. We invest in the best tools and build strong relationships with our partners such as Adobe (marketing cloud), Medallia (Voice of the Customer) and Clicktale (session replay). We invest in our people, by providing extensive training on how to get the most out of these tools. We use data and analytics to help define our product team’s development roadmap, we measure the impact both pre and post any change to understand the impact that this has had on driving the right outcomes for both our customers and our business KPIs.

What are the top three most crucial aspects of building a winning Digital Experience?

Elliott: 

1. Know your audience: You’re never providing a good or service. You’re providing a solution to a problem. Know what your user’s problems are and tell them how you’ll solve them.

2. Make it look good: People will rate a pretty thing that works OK better than an ugly thing that works perfectly.

3. Communicate in line with your brand: Develop a voice and stick to it. If you’re going for serious and stable don’t have comic error messages, it undermines your credibility.

Dominic:

1. Customer insight: This is the single most important factor in developing an excellent Customer Experience. Without proper customer research, the key questions of ‘who? (who is the customer), ‘why? (what triggers their usage), and ‘how?’ (how do they want to interact with the app) can’t be answered.

2. User experience design aligned to customer insight: Using wireframes and storyboarding, each customer journey (inform, transact, manage, add device) was mapped out into a logical intuitive sequence. Interlinked journeys were identified, and navigation flows were optimised. Post launch the team used Google Analytics to increase app interactions.

3. Change management: Ensuring the business is behind the digital change is key. Developing a new channel into JT necessitated the alignment of many teams within the business. The contact centre and retail teams needed to be able to respond to queries on the app, and recommend the app to customers who had a query. Marketing teams were key in working across multiple departments to ensure a consistent user and brand experience across multiple customer touchpoints.

Marc:

1. Putting the customer first: Create features that customers want in ways they can use them, not business only-led features which make it difficult for the customers achieve what they want, but we don’t necessarily want them to do. Doing lots of A/B testing, having a culture and way of working in an iterative way, where quick change can be made based on the learnings from customers or tests. Not being afraid to fail is also important. If we aren’t trying different things and pushing the boundaries which perhaps have never been done before, you are likely going to fail, and it’s important that that’s ok.

2. The experience needs to be seamless: It needs to be personalised and relevant to the customer at the right time, based on what we know about the customer (so offering a personalised upgrade because we know the value of the customer versus offering a generic upgrade to a customer who joined us last week).

3. Having the right people and organisation set-up is important: This will ensure that people are listening to customers, can iterate quickly, it’s seen as ok to fail, etc. Being able to measure what the experience is that you offer your customers and gather new insights to improve it and improve it quickly.

What should marketers be prioritising?

Elliott: The key here, in my opinion, is consistency. Whatever platform, device, or channel I’m using to interact with a brand, the UX design should leave the customer in no doubt as to who they’re interacting with.

Dominic: The shift to digital has led to an explosion in channels and has brought brands in contact with customers across multiple touchpoints away from traditional bricks and mortar to apps, online websites, social media, and interactive chat amongst others. Departments often have different understandings and perspectives of what the Customer Experience should be. Acting as the CX glue between departments, marketing has a vital role to set a holistic view on what the customer experience should be helping to drive a consistent user and brand experience across multiple customer touchpoints.

Digitisation has led to a rich source of customer data across many platforms. Marketers need to prioritise building richer customer insight by harnessing data from multiple touchpoints into a single customer view. For example, by combining customer emails, interactive chats, and notes from customer phone calls into one view has given JT a much better understanding and a more personalised view of our customers.

Customers now expect a personalised experience based on their behaviours and history. Marketers need to embrace new technologies such as AI and cloud computing to build personalised recommendations to customers based on insights from multiple interactions.

Today customers are increasingly empowered to make their own choices. They understand their commercial value and are less sensitive to traditional forms of advertising. The brands that can provide the most compelling, personalised user experience in a self-service environment will drive the best customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Marc: I’m no marketer, but I would say that data driven campaign strategies and personalisation would be where I would be hedging my bets. Probably not the most creative of answers, and certainly nothing new, but I think the organisations that are getting this right are the ones that are leading the way, such as Amazon, Netflix, and Spotify. I’d also put Sky Sports and BT Sports into this category.

 


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8min1078

Work on the internet requires a high level of data security, and setting up a VPN connection to the server will effectively solve this problem and ensure absolute confidentiality on any network.

Nowadays, this technology is actively used by both large companies and individual users, since it fulfils its task one hundred percent.

Key features of VPN technology

A virtual private network is technology that provides the creation of one or more tunnels, located on any other system when connected to the internet. The tunnel  is secured using robust cryptography algorithms, and according to VPN-review.com, such means as authentication, protection against a repetition of data, encryption, and critical public infrastructure are used.

Depending on the settings, a VPN provides a connection of three different types:

  • network-to-network
  • network-to-device
  • device-to-device

The network-to-network VPN connection is straightforward for clients and controlled by the framework manager on the server.  However, its fundamental disadvantage is the absence of encryption inside the system.

VPN compatibility with various operating systems

Creating and configuring a VPN connection is possible based on the most common frameworks. At times, you simply need to download and run a special program. For this situation, the VPN connection will be made with the servers for which the utility was made.

Protocols bolstered by working frameworks are involved in VPN connections with corporate systems. PPTP is utilised in Microsoft Windows customer and server versions. When using Linux, PPTP-Linux customer and PPTP server are required. Independently, an MPD server with PPTP and L2TP backing is executed.

For gadgets running Mac OS or Android, no outsider applications are required because the capacity to use VPN is incorporated into them. Installation and setup of VPNs should be possible not just on PCs or smartphones. As of late, L2TP and IPSec conventions are made by Cisco routers (from OS form 11.3T). Likewise, the capacity to utilise a VPN is available in individual firewalls.

Benefits of using a VPN connection

Connecting to a server through a VPN has several economic advantages. Since the work does not need a dial-up connection, there is no need for modems or a dedicated line. It’s enough for a user to have a device with Internet access to easily connect to his corporate network. The general availability of data does not mean that they are not protected. A VPN connection is a secure shield that protects all information from unauthorised access or interception.

The global development of the internet makes it possible to use limitless amounts of information present on various resources. The Virtual Private Network makes it possible to reduce the costs of internal corporate communications and make the transmitted and received information more secure and confidential.

Among the options for implementing a VPN are software and hardware products. A ready application installed on a computer refers to a software solution for VPN. Many companies offer to use this service by connecting to servers that belong to them. Some developers supply VPN packages that interact with software firewalls and operate on different operating systems.

Software products are relatively inexpensive. The hardware method of using VPN implies the presence of a computer, a private operating system, and specialised software. It has high performance, but its cost is also high.

The VPN device is located between the internal network and the web at the end of the connection. During transmission, data disappears at the point of origin. It is then encrypted and appears only at the destination. For guaranteed access to the data of individual users only, the private network can be amplified by an appropriate authentication protocol.

Moreover, VPN is often used by providers to control network access. Simply put, the user connects in the usual way, and then starts the VPN client for further work online. It helps to protect the connection from hackers and organise personal access.

Not all VPN services are equally useful

With free VPN services, you can save a lot of money, but only at the expense of your security. Other VPN services may have the most advanced security system and low connection speed (the more complicated the encryption, the lower the speed). Of course, this service is not well suited for those who want to work online and want to finish a job fast.

Therefore, be careful when choosing a VPN provider.


Jake RansonJake RansonJuly 2, 2019
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6min1118

The digital landscape is continuously evolving and with that the volume of data created and shared grows exponentially month on month.

High profile data breaches and the implementation and enforcement of GDPR have really brought home to customers that their data is of enormous value and that they have explicit rights to consent to its storage and use.

For millennials and Gen X, who may have had the comfort of growing up around emerging technologies and the birth of social media, the use of data may have been apparent early on. Online domains have further highlighted that data is being collected and used to match people to the products it assumes they either want or would like. 

When it comes to personal finances, this can be a prickly subject, as in the past major data breaches and mishandling of data have eroded customer trust. However, when handled responsibly, customer data can be used by personal finance providers to offer better solutions and outcomes – something many customers have yet to realise.

Trust issues: When used responsibly, customer data can be used to offer better solutions by finance providers

Trust in a business and its services is essential to success. In personal finance, it’s about giving customers the tools they need to feel fully in control of their finances, whilst still making sure that there’s people on hand to help. Human interactions are still as important as ever in the financial decision-making process. With that in mind, having someone in your business to bridge the gap between customers, their data and the regulatory landscape, is crucial. That’s where the Chief Customer Officer comes in.

One prime example of the advantages data can bring for customers, is the innovation being made possible by the UK’s Open Banking initiative. People have become increasingly aware of their personal credit scores thanks to a host of places offering free access. In some cases,  historical credit data alone may not be enough to satisfy a card, mortgage or loan application – and in those cases, Open Banking has been revolutionary.

A lot of what’s required to determine whether a product is suitable can be found in an applicant’s bank account, where evidence of income is relatively easy to verify. Those with thinner credit files or irregular incomes, such as the self-employed, people new to the UK, or younger borrowers who are yet to build a comprehensive credit file, have the most to gain from Open Banking. Through this route, the data gathered, allows a better sense of an individual’s income and expenditure, resulting in the best possible product being matched to that person. 

Open Banking is used as a tool to complement existing practices, allowing a more comprehensive view of a borrower’s information and circumstances, that couldn’t have been achieved through credit data alone, to present a better, broader and often cheaper range of personalised offers.

In recent years, the regulatory landscape has become much more consumer-centric, as seen by the likes of PSD2, a directive that ensured consumers were protected in a more digitised sphere. An era of block consent is being superseded by one of explicit individual consent. Organisations who embrace technology, are paving the way for future innovations and as a result will be able to deliver a higher degree of personalisation for each customer.

Customers can now choose to unlock the power of their data for their own benefit. Data is set to work towards their preferred outcomes and not merely to enrich those organisations with the privilege of accessing it. By experimenting with Open Banking and cloud services, Freedom Finance has been able to make the borrowing process easier for customers, while at the same time delivering a customer journey with consent at its core.

Customers of the future will demand better services that reflect the technology available. The challenge will be for all businesses, not just financial services providers, to find how the best elements of that technology can be combined with human guidance. 


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthJuly 2, 2019
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2min888
Digital Experience platform Contentsquare has acquired Israel-based experience analytics company Clicktale, creating a combined entity serving 600 enterprise clients globally.
Contentsquare is used by UK retail brands including Dreams, Clarks, and Moss Bros, while Clicktale has clients such as Dell, RBS and T-Mobile, and the new partnership means they now serve 30 percent of the Fortune Global 100.
The acquisition follows another by Contentsquare just last week when they purchased price optimisation and merchandising solution Pricing Assistant.
New acquisition: Contentsquare CEO Jonathan Cherki
Jonathan Cherki (pictured), founder and CEO of Contentsquare, said: “The combination of Clicktale and Contentsquare heralds an unprecedented goldmine of digital data that enables companies to interpret and predict the impact of any digital element – including user experience, content, price, reviews and product – on visitor behaviour.
“Increasingly, this unique data can be used to activate custom digital experiences in the moment via an ecosystem of over 50 martech partners. With a global community of customers and partners, we are accelerating the interpretation of human behaviour online and shaping a future of addictive customer experiences.”

Shlomi Hagai, CEO of Clicktale, added: “Contentsquare and Clicktale are exceptionally compatible. By combining our resources, we unlock the next level of digital experience success for our customers.”


Simon BrennanSimon BrennanJune 27, 2019
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5min1152

The current conditions for UK high street retailers are far from favourable.

Not only are they battling market pressure and challenges from ecommerce competitors, but also increasing rents and tough trading conditions. To ensure survival, retailers today must keep their finger on the pulse of all the latest technological advancements.

What businesses must remember is that as technology advances, so do customer shopping behaviours and expectations. We are already starting to see more and more businesses implement chatbots, artificial intelligence, and messaging apps to keep up with demand. We are in a time where consumers have never been more vocal on their wants, and this is highlighted with the results of our research.

Our data showed that in order to satisfy customer needs organisations have to offer a variety of channels in which to engage with – 81 percent of respondents demanded this. Consumers not only want choice but also, a seamless, integrated experience across all of them. Taking this one step further, many consumers are wanting Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR) dressing rooms and even drone delivery, to be a possibility.

Termed as “technologies of the future”, large, online and in-store retailers are already reaping the benefits of AR and VR in an attempt to make the customer journey more immersive and engaging. For instance, IKEA, has introduced Amazon’s AR view to help customers visualise how furniture will look in their home before making a purchase.

For customers who prefer ‘ease of use’, these new technologies couldn’t be more perfect as they allow consumers a chance to ‘try’ before they buy. As well as convenience, AR and VR are helping stores to stand apart from the traditional retailer. L’Oreal Paris, for example, guarantees loyal customers with an in-store virtual makeover tool that enables you to try make-up and certain looks before buying. On paper, it has never been so simple for retailers to deliver a more engaging and convenient approach to Customer Experience.

Future sight: VR and AR are changing the way customers interact with brands

However, AR and VR are not the only new inventions transforming the CX landscape. Increasingly, we are seeing chatbots being used as a more convenient way for customers to interact with brands, specifically when they require assistance. In fact, 87 percent of businesses say self-service customer enquiries are a current priority of theirs.

Apart from the obvious benefits like saving businesses money, self-service chatbots are improving CX and satisfaction. It’s fair to say we have all had our share of agonising waits and frustrating calls with agents and can therefore, understand the appeal of having access to instant help and real-time information.

In the age of GDPR and data sensitivity, customers are very particular about who they give their personal data to. With this in mind, retailers must remember to be upfront about who or what they’re speaking to. Giving customers the option to self-serve will only succeed if you’re as transparent as possible.

Ultimately, although traditionally we associate a human touch with CX, retailers that do not adopt the latest technologies and integrate them into the customer offering jeopardise losing the loyalty of existing customers as well as potential new ones.

However, before businesses embark on this digital transformation, they must remember not to run before they can walk. Implementing chatbot technology initially can be just as effective as implementing technologies which are grabbing the headlines, such as AR and VR.

 


Benoit SoucaretBenoit SoucaretJune 21, 2019
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12min1407

Consumers these days expect a hyper-personalised Digital Experience, from cosmetics and fashion brands to consumer goods, online marketplaces, and even video streaming services.

Personalisation has become a focal point for user experience design and, when executed smartly, can be a differentiator for a brand’s Customer Experience. Personalised user experiences can build brand loyalty and drive sales, as well as producing extremely insightful data for brands to evaluate and re-imagine their UX design. A smart personalised experience should allow users to complete tasks in a faster, easier, and more enjoyable way.

However, creating a personalised user experience can be complicated. A combination of data, research, and technological knowhow is needed, plus the vision and creativity to create something that engages and delights users. Here are a few things to consider when starting out with personalisation or re-imagining an existing user experience.

1. Data

Users today are digital-savvy and constantly connected, across a plethora of devices. To succeed in providing a consistently pleasing user experience, businesses have to improve the interactions they offer via every channel. This is the way to provide a more intuitive, sophisticated, and personalised relationship with their customers.

Constantly connected: Firms should interact with customers across all channels 

Digital consumers expect real-time responses and transactions with minimal effort, and access to compelling experiences that have been personalised for them specifically, and the only way to generate these interactions is through utilising data. Brands need to create data-driven strategies to target their audience with relevant, timely content to generate conversion and interest. But data is only useful if it is interpreted the right way.

2. Imagination

In theory, every brand that sells directly to consumers has the potential to access the same data as their competitors. Where brands can differentiate is by creatively connecting the dots that this data provides.  This is how the ‘magic’ is created. It’s a blend of logic, imagination, and brand values, and connecting the dots to find the story.

Bright idea: Creative thinking is a must for improving user experience

Quantitative data is a starting point, then it takes a bit of intuition via qualitative data, human behaviour, brainstorming, and creativity to create the magic and lay out the storytelling needed to make the journey happen.

3. Research

Research firstly helps you understand if your brand actually needs personalisation. If yes, where should it be applied? And how much is enough? User research helps comprehend what matters to your users, what are their limits in terms of over-use, and if what you are doing and creating is relevant to the variety of your brand’s audiences.

Research required: User research can show where to focus a brand’s UX strategy

Essentially, personalisation is not the silver bullet for every brand, every audience, or every interaction. User research will help divulge where and how it can be applied most effectively.

4. Testing

Test and repeat. This is as critical as the research step and is the only way to understand if your personalisation application is ready to drive sales and brand engagement – by testing. It needs to feel seamless.

Power of proof: Testing is as important as research in UX design

Practically, this means it is simple to use on their device of preference, and clear what the objective is. An experience is ruined if users spend a time feeling confused, frustrated, or consider another option. Any type of personalisation will take you a step towards providing a frictionless experience. Hyper-personalisation should be almost unnoticeable.

5. Touchpoints

Despite the fact consumers are becoming more accepting of organisations using data in a positive way, brands still need to be prepared demonstrate to users how they are obtaining and using their data. It’s a two-way street. In exchange for data sharing, brands are exploring innovative ways to deliver personalised, valuable moments across various touchpoints to customers that will make their experiences easier and more fun.

Personal touch: All customer touchpoints must be considered by brands

And to develop these experiences, brands need to understand how customers view the brand across all touchpoints. This understanding will allow a platform for brands to connect with their customers on an emotional level consistently across various touchpoints. Because of the explosion of customer interaction points, across channels and devices, the key for brands is to manage the entire journey, not simply individual touchpoints. And the secret is delivering a consistent experience across all channels.

6. Don’t be creepy

Personalisation is about context. It’s effective if brands serve up the right content at the right time for the right person, and creating a contextualised and personalised experience consists of knowing why personalisation is important and how it can help your users. In short, if a user is given a positive, timely, helpful experience, it shouldn’t feel creepy.

Creepshow: Personalisation can go too far if brands aren’t careful

Imagine you’re walking past your favourite shoe shop. You get a push-notification that the sneaker you checked out online last week is available in-store at a discount for a limited time only, and available in your size. That’s peak personalisation – and it’s a positive experience.

Now personalisation is more commonplace, users are educated and so more accepting of personalisation. Brands need to be able to gather contextual data and segment users into target areas. Every user is different, and what some people may find uncomfortable, others may think is helpful or fun. For positive personalisation, knowing and segmenting your users is the key.

7. The future

It’s possible that more acute humanistic aspects and qualities will start to play a role, fuelled by big data and finer insights in terms of user preferences, tolerances, and patience. This might determine the pages and content that users are shown, or not shown in some cases. For example, research and previous applications have shown that depending on users’ goals, they may want to be directed straight to the piece of information they are looking for, and a witty or conversational interaction may not be appropriate.

8. Who’s doing it well?

Amazon is an obvious choice; it would be hard to write about personalisation without mentioning Amazon, as its use of personalisation is widespread around their site (recent orders, previously watched videos, recommended items based on previous purchases, etc). Research indicates that Amazon drives 35 percent of its revenues through its personalised product recommendations.

Experts: Amazon is reaping the rewards of personalisation

Another example is Thread, which built its brand around personalisation, delivering hyper-personalised recommendations at scale. Thread’s free ‘personal stylist’ takes visitors through a survey to understand body type, colourings, tastes, and budget. The stylist then provides ‘hand-picked’ recommendations, delivered through personalised emails – usually a link to a curated list of items alongside a personal message.

Despite providing ‘hand-picked’ recommendations for over 650,000 customers, Thread actually employs fewer than 10 stylists. Obviously, personalisation algorithms are hard at work behind the scenes. Recommendations are generated via user data analysis, and emails are segmented by location, or what the weather is like, to resonate with customers. A handful of ‘stylists’ are used to face up the front end, making the experience feel super-personal.

Netflix is another flag-bearer in terms of user data and personalisation. Eighty percent of Netflix views come from personalised recommendations. In fact, user data generated the concept of one of its most popular series, House of Cards. Netflix committed to two series of the show without knowing it would be a success, based on user insights, by analysing tens of millions of plays. It found that people who watched the original UK series also clicked on programs that starred Kevin Spacey and were directed by David Fincher. Although not ‘personalisation’ as such, this is a prime example of connecting the dots, and finding the niche.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthJune 19, 2019
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2min1315

The vast majority of CIOs find integrating new communications with legacy systems a challenge.

That is among the findings in research carried out by global cloud communications software provider, IMImobile, which discovered that 92 percent of CIOs faced this issue. This comes at a time when almost all (98 percent) CIOs feel under pressure to deliver the Customer Experience expected by both customers and the wider business world.

Businesses are increasingly expected to respond with the same level of speed and consistency whether using email, SMS, Facebook Messenger, or new channels such as WhatsApp Business. However, more than half (52 percent) of CIOs admit they are unable to provide a truly connected and integrated customer communications experience across all channels and business systems.

Asked to consider the major barriers they face when it comes to delivering frictionless CX, CIOs cited legacy IT systems (51 percent), data being spread across multiple systems (51 percent), and budget constraints (42 percent), as the top three blockers to progress.

Aseem Sadana, EVP at IMImobile, said: “It is widely known that the ability to innovate and improve customer communications can make or break a business. Worryingly, the research lays bare the gap between the experience customers now expect, and what businesses are currently able to provide.

“The challenge is that delivering great Customer Experience is easier said than done. This is especially the case for large consumer facing enterprises, where fragmented, legacy IT environments make integrating new communications channels and processes very complex. Many of them also have data that is spread across multiple systems, with programmes and processes varying from department to department. CIOs must consider a centralised platform approach to orchestrate and automate communications across existing business systems and communications channels.”


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthJune 17, 2019
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5min1822

A new study shows that Brits are quick to complain online following a bad ecommerce encounter.

The survey of 2,000 UK customers by retail operations platform Brightpearl found that almost a third of shoppers have left a negative review online, with nearly seven in 10 having done so in the last year. Seventy-six percent of those surveyed will also share a negative retail experience with someone else they know to warn them off a particular brand.

In the digital age, consumers are quicker to take to social media or online review sites to share their anger or dissatisfaction, but even those who don’t vent wish they had.

Fifty-five percent of Brits are yet to leave a negative review of a company online, but the same percentage regret missing out on the opportunity to air their grievances with the brand or retailer when they’ve had a poor shopping experience.

Derek O’Carroll, CEO of Brightpearl, said: “Brits are famously awkward and averse to confrontation and complaining, but, with the rise of so many avenues for customer feedback, from online forms to social media, those habits appear to be changing. Consumers have started exercising their right to have a moan when they receive sub-par service – and brands need to start paying closer attention.”

The research reveals that online consumers are becoming more reliant on the feedback of other shoppers to support their decision making.

Forty-six percent of respondents regularly check star ratings for online retailers before buying from them, and two-in-five consumers have been put off a brand or a retailer they might have shopped with – by a single unfavourable review.

Thirty percent of shoppers do look more favourably on retailers who actively respond to negative reviews posted about their services online.

Meanwhile, 55 percent admit they would also be likely to spend more money with an online outlet which had ‘excellent’ reviews or star ratings. Brits believe they would be willing to spend as much as 22 percent more with a brand or retailer which has received mostly ‘excellent’ reviews than one which has been reviewed less favourably.

However, on average, UK customers want a brand or retailer to have a whopping 30 positive online reviews before they’d trust it enough to part with their cash, and anything rated below four out of five stars is generally considered negative by discerning consumers – with shoppers becoming highly dubious about shopping with any brand that has more than five negative reviews.

“From our research, it is clear that a positive review – or 30 – can make a huge difference in the choices consumers make when it comes to selecting a brand or retailer,” Derek continued.

“It is also important for retailers to be aware of the wide-ranging impact a negative review can have on their business, as well as understanding where those problems are coming from – whether it’s items not arriving on time or at all, to lack of delivery updates or cancelled purchases. Customers pay attention to middling and lower reviews, resulting in lost sales opportunities and potentially damaged reputation. The best approach to negative reviews is to identify and fix the issues that can lead to unhappy shopping experiences.”


Ryan FalkenbergRyan FalkenbergJune 12, 2019
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11min1651

Have you been the victim of chatbot incompetence recently?

It typically starts with a specific query that you need help with. You don’t have the time to listen to the contact centre’s hold music, so you turn to the company’s much vaunted chatbot.

It seems fairly straightforward. You type in your question and press enter. The chatbot comes back with a list of completely unrelated content links, and asks if any of these solve your problem. ‘No’ you say.

You retype your question, hoping this time it’s a little clearer. Again the chatbot cheerfully responds with a new list of possible ‘helpful’ articles and FAQ links, and mentions that it is busy learning and is grateful for your help. It will get more accurate the more people engage with it.

Oh, so your diabolical customer experience is all for a good cause – to train their chatbot! The cheek of it.

After a third attempt, you notice a link that may be relevant. You click on the link and are taken to a three-page document providing generic product information. The assumption is that you will take the time to read this document and then work out the answer yourself. With raised blood pressure, you click on the ‘Connect me to an agent’ link and hope that possibly they may have the knowledge needed to solve your query. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. That’s how it goes with so many omnichannel customer journeys these days.

I must confess I expected more. I envisaged that by now we could engage with chatbots that are capable of diagnosing my specific issue, and then offering me a relevant response that results in a relevant action. In other words, a chatbot that is not simply an over-hyped digital assistant that can execute basic instructions or offer me links to possible content matches. I had in mind an digital advisor that could operate at the level of an expert – one whose intelligence is defined as much by the relevance of the questions it asks as the answers it finally offers.

If you talk to most AI companies, their chatbots already perform like digital experts. They will refer to their amazing natural language understanding and incredibly intelligent algorithms that are powered by ‘machine learning’, ‘deep learning’, and ‘neural nets’. They will give you the sense that all you need to do is point their technology in the direction of your knowledge base and the digital advisor will magically onboard all your product, policy and procedural expertise. Then, with just a little bit of guidance, you can soon have trained your chatbot into a digital Einstein that can change your customer service offering forever.

When you ask them to show you a working example, they will probably show you one of their canned demo’s – built off a scenario where the source data is in rich supply, the use case is clearly defined, and the user script can be carefully followed. As a result, their chatbot’s conversation will feel so intelligent, so human-like, that you will feel you simply have to have one.

Just don’t ask them mid-way to type in something unscripted and to upset their crafted storyline! I am certain that you will be quickly informed that they have not managed to train this chatbot to cover all contexts, and that this is simply used for illustration purposes.

No ifs or bots: Many chatbots are lacking when it comes to customer support

The real reason is that it is all really a digital mirage. It looks so achievable until you shift your eyes down to your current position, and suddenly the mirage vanishes. There are a number of reasons for this:

Companies seldom have the quality of data needed to accurately train a customer facing chatbot

Most companies operate in a world of legacy systems, limited integrations, poor quality data, and poorly documented internal policies and procedures – the very things that cognitive systems depend on to build their engagement accuracy.

A customer support chatbot is powered more by prescriptive than predictive logic

To understand the difference, ask Siri or Alexa for an answer based on available information, and they can usually give it to you. For example, if you ask: “What is the weather looking like tomorrow in London?”, you will be amazed how accurate the answer is. That is because the information exists, and thousands of people have already asked the same or a similar question. The patterns are thus established and the correct answer can be predicted.

However, try ask a question that requires more context before answering. Say: “What is the best home loan for me?”. You will probably notice that the response will be to offer you possible links to companies offering loans. It won’t begin by understanding your needs. This is because a financial need analysis is driven off a diagnostic set of prescribed logic. There is no answer yet – the problem still needs to be understood.

In regulated environments, you need to be able to prove your chatbot asked the right questions and offered the right advice

Where a chatbot is powered by predictive logic – the logic you need to train and that keeps ‘learning’ based on multiple engagements – you will find it will struggle in a regulated environment. This is because the logic is designed to change and adapt, based on user engagement. It is also hard to prove how a decision was reached, as each recommendation is made in what is often referred to as a ‘black box’. This is hugely problematic when you are offering customers advisory support in a regulated environment, such as banking and finance.

Context matters, and the way most companies capture prescriptive logic lacks context

Prescriptive logic is typically captured using documents (knowledge bases) or decision trees (process flows). It’s how we have trained employees brains for decades and it’s how we are trying to train our chatbots. So just like giving staff exercises to learn how to apply the formula to different situations, we get teams to train the chatbot, telling them when they are right and when they are wrong. The problem is that documents and decision trees are not able to capture all the possible scenarios. They can only describe a few. And as a result, the more variables you need to consider in order to offer a customer accurate, relevant advice, the harder it becomes to achieve.

The good news is that there are now digital platforms available that allow you to achieve the holy grail – a chatbot capable of asking me context relevant questions that then lead to relevant answers and actions. These platforms have been built off data-powered, prescriptive logic that can ensure your customers are offered a consistent, compliant and context-relevant digital engagement, one that leads to a successful customer service outcome every time.

These platforms have acknowledged that not all logic should be predicted, and that for customer support chatbots the foundation of the logic has to prescribed. The trick is ensuring it is also contextual, and these platforms have now managed to do this in a way that can be maintained effectively.

The dawn of chatbots capable of offering customers consistent, compliant and yet highly context-relevant customer engagements is upon us. And it’s about time, too.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthJune 7, 2019
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5min1350

The ability of artificial intelligence (AI) to grasp morality and empathy are among concerns expressed by customers when it comes to interacting digitally with brands.

The lack of trust in AI has been revealed by Pegasystems Inc. and research firm Savanta, who surveyed 5,000 consumers across the globe. They found that many don’t understand the extent to which AI can make their interactions with businesses better and more efficient, while one-in-ten said they believed AI cannot tell the difference between good and evil.

The suspicions on morality seeped into customers’ overall opinions on brands, with 68 percent believing organisations have an obligation to do what is morally right for the customer, beyond what is legally required.

Sixty-five percent don’t trust that companies have their best interests at heart, raising significant questions about how much trust they have in the technology businesses use to interact with them. Less than half (40 percent) of respondents agreed that AI has the potential to improve the customer service of businesses they interact with, while less than one third (30 percent) felt comfortable with businesses using AI to interact with them.

Just nine percent said they were “very comfortable” with the idea. At the same time, one-third of all respondents said they were concerned about machines taking their jobs, with more than one quarter (27 percent) also citing the “rise of the robots and enslavement of humanity” as a concern.

Moral choice: Customers have doubts AI can tell the difference

Over half (53 percent) said it’s possible for AI to show bias in the way it makes decisions, and 53 percent also felt that AI will always make decisions based on the biases of the person who created its initial instructions, regardless of how much time has passed.

Meanwhile, just 12 percent of consumers agreed that AI can tell the difference between good and evil, while over half (56 percent) of customers don’t believe it is possible to develop machines that behave morally. Just 12 percent believe they have ever interacted with a machine that has shown empathy.

The results of the survey coincide with plans by Pega to “improve empathy in AI systems”, and speaking of the poll results, the firm’s VP of Decisioning and Analytics, Dr Rob Walker, said: “Our study found that only 25 percent of consumers would trust a decision made by an AI system over that of a person regarding their qualification for a bank loan. Consumers likely prefer speaking to people because they have a greater degree of trust in them and believe it’s possible to influence the decision, when that’s far from the case.

“What’s needed is the ability for AI systems to help companies make ethical decisions. To use the same example, in addition to a bank following regulatory processes before making an offer of a loan to an individual, it should also be able to determine whether or not it’s the right thing to do ethically.”

He continued: “An important part of the evolution of artificial intelligence will be the addition of guidelines that put ethical considerations on top of machine learning. This will allow decisions to be made by AI systems within the context of customer engagement that would be seen as empathetic if made by a person. AI shouldn’t be the sole arbiter of empathy in any organisation and it’s not going to help customers to trust organisations overnight. However, by building a culture of empathy within a business, AI can be used as a powerful tool to help differentiate companies from their competition.”




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