Rightpoint on Fluid Commerce, Digital Empathy & Transformation
The time I spent at Sitecore Symposium 2018 was full of many great conversations both on camera and off. More than a few of those conversations were with those on site from Rightpoint, an independent customer experience agency headquartered in Chicago with additional locations from coast to coast. When a few of the gentleman had time, I was able to sit down with them to share some details of those conversations with you here, covering such things as the notion of fluid commerce, digital empathy and the digital transformation happening within both the healthcare vertical and the financial services industry.
Dale Traxler, VP Commerce Solutions
To start, Dale and I went into a conversation he and I had off camera about the evolution of omnichannel and the idea of fluid commerce. He began with emphasizing that “omnichannel started out as the right way of approaching the customer experience 5-6 years ago, when you had multiple channels you sold through you wanted to make sure whatever content you were producing wasn’t out of brand or out of context, to what the buyer was doing if they moved to different kinds of channels.” We all know this was done by taking the experience from the desktop, to mobile, tablets, ordering online, picking up in store etc.
Dale makes the point though that now, “it has not gone far enough. It hasn’t really created a frictionless buying environment that customers are looking for. There are still obstacles in that buying experience especially when you move between devices.” He continued to explain back when omnichannel started, people weren’t using as many devices throughout their journey as they do now and this increase in device usage is creating an issue with a consistent experience. It’s no longer enough to provide different experiences on multiple devices, now, customers have the expectation of one journey to exist cohesively no matter what device they are using. In a nutshell, this means if a customer starts their shopping experience on mobile, and jumps to a desktop for a better screen resolution, they should be arriving at the same place in their journey they left off on, just on a different device.
This idea is part and parcel to the notion of fluid commerce and so I asked Dale what is holding businesses back from getting to that place with their commerce experience, he went on to explain: “first of all, customers want a frictionless, contextual experience. So, if you take that as your objective, how you get there if you’re a seller, or manufacturer, retailer or even service agency, you need to know what the buying journey is for the client.” While not a new idea, Dale makes the point and I’d agree that many businesses claim to know the buying journey of their client, but how many can put that into practice? They have roles defined and an idea of personas, but how does a business begin to really know their customer and the journey they require? Dale suggests “go out and do the appropriate research with a representative set of users, with internal stakeholders, look at support calls, look within search queries, there is all kinds of data that you have to mine and most companies have the data, they just don’t actually go in and know how to leverage it right.” Without this, he mentions businesses are then creating experiences based on false assumptions which inherently lend to a disjointed commerce experience.
Knowing the journey is just the first step. Dale went on to say “let’s assume you have identified the journeys, you have identified the personas, now the next thing that I need to be able to do is present content and merchandising offers that are relevant to that experience and so it’s not just about the same experience across all channels, it’s what does that person want at that point in the buying cycle?” To leverage it all in the best way he encourages the alignment of digital teams, technology and the inclusion of machine learning and artificial intelligence to complete the evolution of omnichannel, “mine your data, make it available, index it and then present it in fashions that are predictive and contextual based on the personas and the journeys.”
My final question for Dale had to do with the business value for organizations that could pull this off. He emphasized the conversion rates would up alongside a rise in average order value, increased loyalty and a “shifting from just pure loyalty rewards for purchases to pure engagement”. The important thing he mentions is that its all more than just top-line revenue, if a customer is happy with their purchase because a brand has the wherewithal to know that customer and nail that experience from beginning to end, it has an impact on bottom-line revenue in that as a customer, Dale mentions “I don’t have to call support, or I bought the product and don’t have to return it”.
Brandon Rozelle, VP Solution Strategy
One of the main reasons I was excited to sit down with Brandon, aside from his massive knowledge of the space was his experience with the digital transformation happening in the healthcare vertical, one area we often get asked to cover but don’t always have the right experts on hand to do so. In addition to being, as Brandon calls it, “one of the sleepier verticals to wake up to digital transformation and change”, he makes the point that “by and large, you look at the last 10 years of transformation, starting with the launch of the iPhone, which shifted how consumers think about information as a value ecosystem.” Now I know most people would wonder how healthcare and the iPhone could be linked but they would need to look no further than what the advent of iPhone technology has done to shift the thought-process of our culture. Where most people went from simply consumers of information, we are now making our decisions in a far more research-based way than ever before.
He relates this to healthcare in the way that people, as patients, have a new and “different relationship with information” and used to only take advice of doctors and other healthcare professionals for good health outcomes. As Brandon explains it, “you now have consumers, and now we are using that term in healthcare, who are coming into a doctor’s visit with ideas about their care plan and they’re looking at the physician as a collaborator so we’ve started seeing big shifts with certain health systems in trying to understand that sort of user, customer-centric reality and trying to build change as well as new digital and offline interfaces that allow them to take advantage of that.”
Brandon goes on to explain the way technology has enacted change within the dynamics of the brand/customer relationship means, when healthcare organizations are looking for examples of strategies they can leverage, “they’re not looking to their peers with eager eyes, they’re looking at the services industry so, it’s Ritz-Carlton, it’s most airline firms and it’s service design companies like Disney who have done an incredible job of creating that integrated loyalty loop.”
To illustrate an example of how best to understand this, Brandon goes into an “idea-starter” he and a couple of his colleagues at Rightpoint created called Digital Empathy that brings the state of digital transformation in healthcare and positions it within children’s health specifically. The reason behind this specific area of healthcare being chosen is that research showing “85% of the time head of household female is the primary influence on their own or a family’s care decision, of all the demographics its predominantly female so you think about the research journey, you think about social influences, you have a woman that’s making the decision for herself and her family. Well the women, the head of household females who are primary decision-makers in children’s health are almost exclusively under the age of 45, so they fall into the digital native category meaning it’s a first language for them. They’re naturally using digital interfaces to try to help fuel that decision journey to make better informed decisions.”
This changes the entire paradigm for how healthcare organizations need to think about their patient/customer journey and leverage content and technology to “think about the long sort of syndicated content that you’re using around brand reputation, around care and outcomes. It’s predominantly digital in children’s health considerations and there’s so much of it that is already formulated before that prospect ever comes to your site. We’re challenging systems to think about digital empathy and it applies to all of healthcare.”
Amish Dholakia, Senior Director of Digital Strategy
Upon meeting Amish at Sitecore Symposium and learning not only his deep expertise in overall digital strategy and customer experience but also digital transformation in the financial services sector, I was eager to sit down and hear more about both of those topics with him. To start, we often hear so much from technology vendors, services agencies and the customers they work with on what everyone is doing right with their digital strategy but with Amish, I wanted to hear his thoughts on what people are still doing wrong this far into the digital era. He laid out a rather interesting group of statistics that showed even though organizations know about the importance of digital strategy they are quite disassociated from it actually working to move the needle on their business goals: “I think the statistic is 85% of organizations truly believe that digital strategy is the right path forward. The reality is 22% of them actually have a plan on what they need to do and 2% of them are actually activating against that strategy into something that’s formidable against their competitors in their space.”
One key differentiator that Amish sees in organizations that do it well is their recognition of the importance in collaboration, and various internal digital teams not playing a metaphorical game of hot potato when it comes to who owns the digital strategy. He believes there is “definitely a falling down in terms of how different parts of the organizations collaborate with each other. Many people think digital strategy is either owned by marketing or it’s owned by IT and the reality is, it is a joint effort and now in today’s digital era it has to be more joint than ever.” In his opinion, the best way for organizations to enact change is to unload any resistance to truly understanding what it means to get into “the weeds of being a technologist” and instead, primarily “be looking at themselves as a technology company.”
To finish this point, Amish pulled out a conversational tactic that tops the list of my favorite things to draw upon to illustrate a point: the sports analogy. He believes another area holding many organizations back with digital strategy is the lack of self-evaluation across the entire organization. Not just in technology, but in looking at people, processes and technology. He made the point many organizations think technology is their answer and it isn’t always. “The reality is if you had a golf club in your hand and your old technology was helping you hit it 20 feet in the wrong direction, the new technology is going to help you hit it 40 feet in the wrong direction.” If you’re not critically looking at the entire digital strategy in all its components, new technology isn’t going to be what saves the day.
When it comes to the digital transformation in the financial services sector, organizations might fall under the false impression they’re still struggling to catch up but as Amish points out, that’s not the case. “They are actually moving extremely fast when it comes to digital transformation. Most financial services organizations that you probably bank with, either on the retail said or the commercial side have been investing in front end digital transformations for the last 3 to 4 years. The reality is they’ve invested not millions but billions of dollars into that space.”
He even brought up evidence of some financial organizations taking on a super modern, disruptive startup kind of mentality. “I think the traditional banking methods have gone out the window and almost in a way that’s kind of uber-esque in nature, you have this concept of the sharing economy really being applied to the financial services industry. You have people that are not necessarily seeing assets as assets or checking accounts as checking accounts. They’re going after this kind of customer experience journey that allows them to be able to take and share these assets with other people. No one needs to own an account but it’s just a way for them to move money back and forth and as the next generation continues to come up, this is the fastest way to do banking. It’s convenient, it’s seamless and those are the words that the major pillars for how organizations are structuring their financial services.”