The Customer Is The Channel

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[ Forrester Viewpoint ] Deliver Value-Oriented, Contextually-Relevant Experiences

Picture this: A busy Mom is on her way to the grocery store, with 2 kids in the back seat asking about snacks. One wants an apple juice, the other wants a cheese stick. As she parks the car and gives the kids their snacks, she has a moment to catch up on the three things that are on her mind:

1 - The playdate she's hosting this weekend,

2 - Lunches for the family, and

3 - The new dress her daughter wants to wear at her friend's birthday party next Sunday.

The first two are momentary thoughts, the latter, is a pause filled with concern that what she has ordered online might not make it in time. It will stir a fight if she has to convince her daughter to wear something from the wardrobe.

She pulls out her phone, as the kids are getting restless in their seats, and quickly messages Carter's, her go-to for new outfits. 'Where is the dress I ordered?" Immediately, Carter's responds, "The new Sun-Drenched Party Dress is on its way - it will arrive this Thursday." Slipping her phone in her pocket, she breathes a sigh of relief, and wrangles the kids out of their seats, and into the store.

Though a momentary interaction, from a customer engagement and service strategy perspective for a large brand, every interaction is important, and often, time-critical to a customer. Shoppers don't have time to go hunting through emails, or looking up order numbers, and they don't have the patience to find their own answers if the process is complex, or buggy. Customers today look for ways to turn 'found' moments into productive time, to leave more time in their day for other things.

As Brendan Witcher, Forrester's VP and Principal Analyst in Digital Business Strategy, explains: omnichannel and personalization efforts that brands are bringing to the table may not be bridging the gap to deliver what the customer really needs. For customers who want contextually-relevant experiences that are seamless, tying together personalization with omnichannel is key.

 

Video: Brendan Witcher explains how omnichannel and personalization tie together to create a lasting impact.

For both efforts to deliver what the customer wants, there needs to be a holistic approach to customer data that feeds these initiatives. With the goal to deliver truly personal engagement across all channels. Otherwise, it won't deliver the value that customers are looking for, and won't provide the differentiation that brands need in order to compete and drive loyalty.

For a busy Mom, contextually-relevant experiences means the ability to quickly get answers, and get back to what she needs to focus on. The value is in being kept up to date, so that its one less thing on her mind. Using an automated assistant provides the convenience that she wants in terms of timely information, and also access via the channels she finds most convenient, like SMS, Messenger, web chat and voice assistants.

Today, the importance of offering differentiated services and experiences to customers is growing. These moments are the pathway to creating lasting loyalty and a strong presence in a crowded and challenging market landscape. Brands who take action today will fuel their growth, and improve profitability.

Linc is working with these leaders to offer real-time, contextually-relevant experiences that customers want with the convenience and value they expect. Linc delivers fast launch timelines, ongoing support and development, with proven ROI.

 

You can learn more about Linc's platform here.

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Look at service-oriented features, such as notification capability and on-demand service and support capabilities, to guide the customer journey. Don’t just focus on the “Checkout.” The main benefit of service-oriented conversational channel offerings is the ability to organically drive usage into new channels. For example, a customer might place an order on your website and learn that she can subscribe to order status updates through Facebook Messenger. What she sees as taking advantage of a perk will benefit you by encouraging her toward a channel where your chatbot can take over. ChatBots are best for organic conversations with common use cases, but also provide a sense of personalization and convenience for the shopper. Customer service should be your core use for this technology to start. Be Prepared For Bot-to-Human Handoffs The great thing about a conversation handled over text or Messenger is that the customer doesn’t have to know when they might be switching from a bot to a human. Bot design in the future will focus on what they can do, knowing what they can’t do, and designing a bridge to employee assistance that feels seamless to the customer. It’s not just the customer that will be helped by the bot, but the employee. It will provide faster information and better analytics in real time, perhaps then parsing information to pass on to the consumer. The most important aspect of innovation is convenience for the shopper. They should never have to explain their request twice. Start Simple and Grow to Brand Management You can start with bots as a single voice in the chorus of messages from your brand. The long term will have bots as representatives of your entire brand, managing relationships with your customers. 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Focus On Concepts Rather Than Solutions Your customers might be on Kik today but head over to Facebook Messenger tomorrow. Focusing on the concepts of conversational commerce rather than today’s hottest medium will help you keep your sanity and provide an agile approach that can be applied to meet your customers wherever they migrate. Try not to get bogged down with the details of how to build for one particular channel, and look instead to use-cases. You can learn more about conversational commerce and engaging your customers at every touchpoint by exploring Linc’s platform and solutions pages. Or take a look at how leading brands like Lamps Plus, JustFab.com and others are using automated conversational commerce strategies in their businesses today, in our resources page.