Our first post of the series introduced the 3R Approach to Digitization and its three dimensions, i.e., Rethinking products and services, Reimagining customer experience, and Re-engineering the value chain. Then we dove into the first step of how enterprises could drive digitization by rethinking products and services. In this post, I’ll be discussing the second step of the 3R approach – reimagining customer experience.
In today’s technologically disruptive world, it isn’t enough to simply provide an amazing product. Customers want more. They demand experiences that engage and amaze them. This shift in consumer expectations has already impacted business culture and strategies across industries.
If we rewind the clock a couple of decades, we can see how this shift began. Before Google was synonymous with ‘search,’ searching was an imperfect activity. Most people would target specific websites or stumble across links through other means, with no clear assurance of what they would find. Early search engines opened up the World Wide Web and made it easier to explore but the results were far from perfect.
Google radically transformed this activity. They reimagined the search engine into what we take for granted today. What differentiated Google wasn’t just its speed and effectiveness, but also its simplicity. Google showed the world that there was a better way to search — a way that was simpler, faster, and more effective.
Reimagining customer experiences has powerful outcomes and benefits for any business. It can turn users into evangelists, and products into indispensable, permanent fixtures of normal life.
Just ask Google, Apple, or Tesla.
Each of these companies designs their products and services with the customer as the sole focus. They dominate their competition by integrating the values of humanism, design thinking, and customer centricity into the technology of their products, resulting in a customer experience that is unparalleled.
As personal technology has evolved, so have the challenges for enterprises. Users have advanced from desktops to laptops to tablets and smartphones, and this intimacy of technology has given rise to a whole new generation of consumers.
Businesses who wish to win over these digital natives have to learn how they experience their products and interact with technology. Organizations that have predicted, and even directed, these user preferences have experienced immense success. The most famous example is Apple’s reimagining of the cell phone with the iPhone and music with the iPod. The result of Apple’s innovation is soaring profits from USD 38 million in Q1 2001 to USD 565 million in Q1 2006 to a staggering USD 20.1 billion in Q1 2018.
Clearly, rethinking products and services, along with reimagining customer experience can transform a company’s bottom line.
Reimagine the Power of Voice
As we’ve seen, in less than 10 years, the preferences for personal computing has transformed from desktop systems to mobile smartphones. The interface evolution with technology has been a defining attribute of customer experience and continues to evolve.
We are already witnessing the rise of one such branch of evolution — the rapid emergence of voice assistants, which have gone from our cell phones into our homes. Users can now simply ‘tell’ their machine learning and AI-powered assistants to execute a number of everyday tasks – from ordering groceries, making appointments, playing music, or simply controlling the household light and heating.
Products like Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home are the embodiment of simplicity, seamlessness, and, most importantly, a sophisticated and invisible technology doing its work unobtrusively from behind the scenes. The emphasis on delivering back-end technological sophistication via an elegant interface is what has made voice assistants an increasingly desirable product. Furthermore, the convergence of AI-powered natural language recognition with personal voice assistants has already put us well on our way to a new commercial segment — voice commerce.
Already, nearly 20 per cent of US consumers have made a purchase through voice e-commerce, while over 33 per cent are planning to do so in the next year. And as NLP technology progresses beyond the 70 per cent accent recognition, it may become a commonplace global phenomenon in less than five years. To buy something, simply ask for it.
We’re witnessing similar technology convergence developments on the road. Take the case of personal transportation with companies like Tesla. The technology behind Tesla’s self-driving cars possible is built on the same principles as those used by SpaceX for the automated landing of their rocket boosters. Technology is being adapted across industries to reimagine customer experience and launch a new era of innovation.
In areas such as retail, we see similar examples of reimagined customer experience forging brave new paths. Today, a consumer can walk into an Amazon Go store and pick up their groceries and simply walk out.
Other companies such as Alibaba are approaching the same problem from a different angle. Alibaba’s Hema chain of supermarkets are hybrids of offline and online systems that seek to make their mobile app the heart of the shopping experience and reimagine both domains. By fusing the offline and online experience through a customer’s mobile device, Alibaba placed the power in the customer’s hand and gave them a unified yet flexible experience. For markets where the costs of large-scale technical investments are prohibitive, this hybrid approach may prove to be an innovation that serves billions.
Executives need to be the ‘imagineers’ of their products and services, always pushing beyond the now, and envisioning the future from a customer’s perspective.
The ability to rethink products and services and reimagine customer experience successfully opens up a world of opportunities for businesses. However, neither of these paths to driving digitization can be successful without the crucial final step.
Join me in the next and final blog post of this series, as we discuss the most important part of the 3R approach to driving digitization – reengineering the value chain.