Tech Insights: Omnichannel Bots Are in Your Future
As recently as the 1990s, the only real form of text-based communication with customers was via email. Today, consumers have a range of social platforms they use to effortlessly communicate — and they expect their shopping experiences to be effortless and, more importantly, seamless across channels as well.
Their expectation is that — just as they communicate with friends — they can begin a conversation via one platform (e.g. Facebook), jump over to another platform (e.g. text messaging) seamlessly, and then move on to something else (e.g. Twitter).
While this might be the preference of customers today, many brands are falling short in delivery.
Brands today are, at best, socially awkward. Many might be able to engage with a customer via email, Facebook, Twitter, and more, but as soon as the customer moves to a different platform, that conversation — or sales experience — ends. There’s no ability to pick up a conversation or purchase on one channel that was initiated on a different one.
However, this can now be solved with omnichannel bots.
Rather than siloed communications, the promise of omnichannel bots is that communications with customers can fluidly bounce across mediums to keep interactions alive and moving ahead. Ideally, you want customers to feel like they are interacting with one person on the other end of whatever medium they use to communicate with your company — yielding an improved customer experience.
Move to omnichannel bots in three steps
Unfortunately, a full-blown artificial intelligence omnichannel bot solution isn’t realistic for many brands today. It has little to do with the cost or readiness of the solutions, and more to do with the readiness of retailers, many of whom lack even basic engagement insights. Therefore, when considering the path to omnichannel bot implementation, the journey should be broken into three steps.
First, you must be able to connect customers to sales. At minimum, retailers must understand what customers are buying and who those customers are. Begin by gathering a simple history of interactions with customers. If a customer engaged with you on Facebook, that interaction must be accessible when they re-engage later via Twitter.
Once retailers have that basic insight, they can make their channels more intelligent by connecting them to the customer and captured sales data.
The third step involves using advanced solutions to enable contextual engagement intelligence across all channels.
Admittedly, most brands are still in stage one. Luckily, if this is where you find yourself, you can make headway fairly quickly. There are loyalty solutions on the market that can be easily implemented to gain customer insight almost immediately. Depending on the size of your operation, you could be advancing toward an omnichannel bot solution within weeks.
Pitfalls to avoid
Before you dive in, there are some best practices you should consider. First, advance with purpose. Many brands will launch a mobile app to play catch up with a competitor. They launch this new channel, but they never really figured out the in-store side of their business — which is still the largest part of their sales. Focus on improving the key areas of your current business first.
Next, as you evaluate potential solutions, make sure they will fully integrate with your point-of-sale (POS). Many customer engagement projects have failed when retailers learn that their POS won’t fully integrate and key data can’t be accessed. For example, if you can’t tap into the sales data in the POS, you’re really no better off. If you’re not able to measure the impact of marketing, you might as well not do the marketing.
Finally, if you’re unsure of how to implement a customer loyalty/engagement solution because you’ve been burned by one of the earlier, first-generation solutions that came to market, it’s time to give it another try. Considerable progress has been made by companies dedicated to creating powerful and effective personalized customer engagement platforms for mobile apps, as well as online stores.
Integrated with today’s latest omnichannel bot solutions, you can reach new levels of customer engagement that yield a tangible ROI.
Ivan Matkovic is CEO and founder of Spendgo, a provider of personalized customer engagement solutions for mobile apps and online stores.
Target goes big for Mario
Target Corp. is celebrating the highly-anticipated release of a popular video game with some fun in-store flourishes.
The game Mario Kart 8 has been around for the past couple of years, but on April 28, it launches on the Nintendo Switch. To celebrate, Target is adding Mario and Luigi accents to approximately 650 stores, starting on the exterior. The retailer’s signature big red bollards have been given a makeover, with Mario and Luigi now welcoming shoppers into the store. (This isn’t the first time Target has given the bollards a makeover — in 2011, it painted beach balls as part of a summer campaign, and last year it created Pokemon balls.)
As shoppers walk through the doors to the store, motion sensors fire up flashing lights and play Mario’s catchy theme song. And for anyone who has ever dreamed of driving a real-life Mario kart, the retailer has decorated some of its shopping carts to make it appear as if they Mario karts. (This is the first time Target’s ever decorated our carts. (This is the first time Target has decked out its carts).
“Experience counts — it’s what keeps guests coming in and coming back to our stores,” said Scott Nygaard, senior VP, merchandising, Target. “So we’re delivering the fun like only Target can, giving generations of Mario fans a shopping trip they won’t soon forget.”
CVS Pharmacy adding new in-store health services
CVS Pharmacy has entered a new arena by adding audio and optical services to its in-store offerings.
The retailer has opened seven hearing and five optical centers in its drug stores in the Baltimore-Washington, D.C. area, with plans to expand to 50 locations by the end of 2017, Morgan Diaz, senior director, health services division at CVS Health, told Chain Store Age’s sister publication, Drug Store News. The centers are housed adjacent to pharmacies.
“It allows us to have a nice health quadrant in the back of the store,” Diaz said.
As for the reasoning behind audio centers, Diaz pointed out that 48 million Americans suffer from hearing loss, with 30 million of these people under the age of 65. However, only 20% do something to alleviate the problem.
“We really wanted to ask those people how can we help and how can we differentiate in the space,” she said. “We learned that they were looking for two things: access and price.”
CVS has audiologists in-store at its audio centers five days a week that conduct a complete hearing loss assessment to understand the patient’s needs and then help them with their needs to regain sound, such as hearing aids, Diaz explained.
Zeroing in on optical, approximately three-quarters of Americans have some sort of vision correction need, which presents a huge marketplace, Diaz told DSN. She acknowledged there are many places for people to take care of their eye care needs, so CVS made sure to stand out from the competition.
“We looked at how we can help and how we can differentiate ourselves in this industry,” she said. “We spent a lot of time with patients, and they asked us for a few things. One was access. ‘I really want to see my doctor at the time of day and day of the week I really need them,’ was a big thing we heard. Whether they have something in their eye, they have an emergency or just a routine eye check, they were having trouble seeing an eye doctor, with some waiting as much as 30 days to six months. We really wanted to make it convenient and just let people walk in. We have eye doctor coverage five days a week [at our optical centers].”
Audio and optical centers are one element of CVS’ updated store design that enhances the customer experience.