Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Ubiquitous virtual reality and embracing the real-time online catalog: a case study in cross-channel sales coordination 3

Posted in business and convergent technologies, Web 2.0 marketing by Timothy Platt on October 4, 2014

This is my third posting to a series on integrating customer online experience and particularly their always on and always connected interactive online experience, into the bricks and mortar storefront and its ongoing operations (see Part 1 and Part 2.)

I primarily focused on the customer experience side of this in Part 1 and on the business side of it in Part 2. But the vast majority of this discussion up to here might be seen as just version 1.0 for connecting customer experience and business efficiency together to meet their shared needs. Discussion up to here has only focused on enhancing:

• The standard shopping experience and sales opportunity where customers can find and obtain essentially any purchase option that the store could offer to meet their needs, and
• The store can do this seamlessly and quickly and through lean inventory processes so as to gain greater business efficiency.

Here, adding in the connectivity capabilities of ubiquitous online is only being used to enhance what amounts to more traditional business as usual. But customers, sales staff and employees … we ourselves and essentially everyone around us are all holding and using our smartphones and other real-time, ubiquitously connected tools all of the time and we are all always looking for new apps and new ways to add to our life experience through them. This of necessity includes bringing these communications and connection enabling tools, and the social media and other resources that this technology makes possible into our day to day shopping experience.

• And I go back to those smartphones as customers take them out to send photos of items that catch their attention to friends, or to tweet or post about them and about the store and their current real-time experience there.
• I go back to those smartphones as people look up reviews and consumer experience ratings on brand names and styles and on specific products – parsing their experience according to whatever criteria they see as important in making their shopping choices (e.g. fashionability and stylishness, durability, etc.)
• And of course it is impossible to address this type of issue without noting how messages sent are messages shared, with tweets and retweets, YouTube and other crowdsourced content
• That might start out going to one or to just a few, but that is often shared outward from there – if it is not immediately sent out as openly and publically visible as for example with default-publically posted tweet replies.
• And I only briefly touch upon a few possible channels here, and I have only cited tools and channels that have already become thoroughly mainstreamed and standard and even for many technology later adaptors now. New tools and channels, web sites and other online forums and resources come online all of the time and their usage goes viral and expands out too. Customers, and I add sales staff and other employees bring all of this with them, and certainly when entering into any retail or other customer-facing business.

I am writing here of a phenomenon that many readers would already see as standard and routine but that is still only in its early and even still embryonic stage of development: an emerging true version 2.0 for connecting customer experience and business efficiency together – and both to meet their shared immediate needs and to establish wider-reaching ongoing dialogs.

• What do customers post and how and when and in what formats and through what channels?
• What do store personnel monitor out of this and who at this business does that monitoring and how consistently and how frequently do they do this? Where does any insight that is gained from this monitoring go within the business and to what effect? How is this knowledge and insight into the marketplace used, if it is at all?
• And I write here about two-way and even multi-directional communications here. How does this store respond, beyond simply attempting to leverage standard bricks and mortar only marketing and communications approaches to this far more fluid and open-ended conversation? How do they reach back and well as proactively reach outward to help create real conversations out of all of this and how do they seek to create value out of it and both for their business and for their customers?

I wrote in Part 2 about inventory management and of the efficiencies that can be created for a store that can really see and understand consumer likes and dislikes and that can order and maintain and position inventory accordingly. That is important and it directly impacts upon the store’s sales and its customer appeal and its monetary bottom line as well. But version 1.0 as noted here can be pursued pretty much entirely short-term and as a matter of business tactics. Version 2.0 and participation in its arena, of necessity makes this ongoing flow of activity a longer-term proposition as longer more sustained flows of conversation develop, and that all feeds into longer term strategic visions of the store and what it stands for and how it pursues those goals.

I have been writing this brief series primarily in order to make note of how customer expectations are changing. And I have been writing about how this shared experience is both shaped by and in turn is helping to shape the ubiquitous communications and information sharing tools that we all carry. And in the process I have been writing about how these new interpersonal connectivity resources can even fundamentally reshape businesses, and certainly any consumer facing ones such as retail stores. This is all reshaping and even fundamentally redefining the shopping experience and what businesses have to do to be and to remain competitive in retail markets. Noting that, I acknowledge that I have only begun to discuss a complex of issues here that I will be returning to. But I am going to finish this posting and this series here, at least for now and with a final concluding point:

• Version 2 of this real-time ubiquitous business and customer experience is a deeply collaborative experience. The consumer side of this collaboration and the online services that they tap into and use in their day to day lives will continue to add disruptively new and innovative change into all of this. But this is a collaboration that in order to be fully effective, requires active creative and even disruptively creative input from the business side too. And the most successful and effective businesses in retail, to stick with the point of focus of this series, are increasingly going to be the ones that most fully and openly and seamlessly smoothly enter into these conversations, and enable the shopping experiences for all concerned that can grow out from this still rapidly evolving form of collaboration.

You can find this and related postings at Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time and at Page 2 of that directory. You can also find this and related material at Web 2.0 Marketing.

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