The Electronic Retailing Association

Article, Part Three: The Digital Secret Weapons by Mattias Bråhammar

#3 of the 3 Fundamentals to success in Digital Commerce

Mattias Bråhammar

Mattias Bråhammar has over 20 years of experience in Media & Digital Commerce, holding various Executive and Board level positions in industry leading corporations. He’s currently Owner and Co-owner of the companies MILAN | DIGITAL and Veespo, and also active as Industry Expert, Advisor and Consultant.

For more info: www.milandigital.it

The Digital Secret Weapons...the real secret is how to use them successfully!

This is the third part of a 3 part series, the second part was in last quarter's ERA Europe News

As a matter of fact our daily life is full of technology that intersects our dialogue with companies, interest groups, brands and even friends. Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Predictive Analysis, Automated Marketing tools and Chat Bots are all technological instruments that were part of a futuristic dream just some decade ago, but now, even just when we’re ordering a cab or booking a restaurant on our cellular phone, these mechanisms come into play.

A general perception is that these technical tools in some way intrude into our privacy sphere and as a consequence we tend to reject requests to interface with and allow these interactions, if not absolutely necessary. On the other hand, when we get truly useful help as a result from predictive analysis or AI, we are surprised that machines actually “get it” and can help us, adding value to our life.

More evoluted thinkers see the connection between machines and human beings as a symbiosis, where machines do what machines are best at, helping humans do what only humans can do, without the machines “stealing” the tasks from the humans.

So how does this tie in to retail?

Well, we all like to be inspired and surprised, but if what gets thrown at us is unrelated to our real interests it becomes just boring noise. Here smart technology can help not only the retailers save time, gathering more granular information about their customers, being more cost effective in the processes and so on, but this technology can actually also help to improve the shopping experience for the end customers. This is not only where the magic starts, but also what separates some retailers in whether they apply these instruments in a successful way, (as opposed to just “going with the flow” of adding new tech to their toolkit, but without really adding any tangible value for the end users).

Keep the customers' experience and point of view in absolute focus.

This all means that innovative technology is never of real value to the people unless it’s applied carefully, considering the total chain of end effects it will generate. As a retailer it’s always paramount to keep the customers’ experience and point of view in absolute focus. If the customer is happy, the retailer is happy, and customers are happy when they are for example inspired and surprised, in a way that makes them feel fresh and curious.

Artificial intelligence algorithms can make the customer feel positively curated

Artificial Intelligence algorithms, if well-tuned and “taught”, can apply a level of predicted match, mixed with a customized and intended portion of surprise, in such a way that the customer feels almost personally taken care of – curated – something that would be very cost intensive and potentially difficult to deliver on a massive scale if done with human beings.

Chatbots can be really useful

Chat bots are top of mind in marketing and customer service at the moment, and many of us have certainly felt annoyed when we get redirected to a chat bot instead of a human being when we need help from a company or retailer. Chat bots though, if well programmed, can be a really interesting element in such interactions – but also well used from the end customer. I see my daughter trying to make fun of Siri on her iPhone, asking ironic questions, but Siri is fairly well trained and usually responds calmly with admirable patience.

Is profiling worth the price?

So we don’t like to be profiled, but if the profiling actually helps us to get quicker access to information (or products!) that we often use, or would otherwise hardly find, then profiling might be worth the price. On the other hand we probably also have to ask ourselves if our personal “micro-data” really is that unique in the big scheme of things.

The vital trust

But the most important point, for the retailers, is trust. Trust that the customers’ personal information is safely stored and kept in a private realm, and that it’s used to the benefit of the customer, not only the retailer. I think we all know the difference, both as retailers and as end customers, when this boundary is crossed (“- I know it when I see it”…), and after all, customer trust is what has built most great brands over time anyway, so this is really not all that new.

As discussed in my two earlier articles here and here, even though we’re morphing the retail era into omnichannel, digital and AI driven shopping experiences, many old truths and concepts still apply and the behavior of the customers’ minds and the sales psychology that sits behind the curiosity leading to a conversion in a finalized purchase still react to similar schemes and unconscious reactions as before. This is why in applying digital intelligent tools to the retail business, a lot of care has to be put into the human end user experience.

look at these digital processes from a holistic perspective, carefully considering the tasks and key 'game changers' for each of the stake holders along the line of processes (...) and then match the full flow together; technology, processes, added value for the customers, efficiency but not least the more 'human' and intangible values like inspiration, uniqueness, individualism and surprise.

Look at the digital processes from a holistic perspective, carefully considering the tasks and key “game changers”

So it’s actually an interaction between three parties: the retailer, the “chat bots” (or other digital intelligence tools involved) and the customer. This triangle needs to be fine tuned and sensibly managed in order to produce an efficient and good final result, for all parties involved. It’s like a key and a lock: it will only open if it fits perfectly. My invitation to retailers seeking to modernize their value and customer engagement chain, is to look at these digital processes from a holistic perspective, carefully considering the tasks and key 'game changers' for each of the stake holders along the line of processes (including the 'artificial friends'!), and then match the full flow together; technology, processes, added value for the customers, efficiency but not the least the more 'human' and intangible values like inspiration, uniqueness, individualism and surprise.

This futuristic ecosystem can definitely generate a 'Shopping Journey 4.0' that makes your customers want to come back and choose your store front instead of your competitors’. Most customers may not understand exactly how this new value chain works, but as Henry Ford once supposedly said: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

This is the third in a series of three articles by Mattias Bråhammar on the '3 Fundamentals to success in Digital Commerce' and discusses the third fundamental.

The second article: The Secret Sauce of Social Selling (January 2019)

The first article: Each channel or touchpoint has its unique communication language (October 2018)