I focused day 1 on the role digital is playing to enhance physical experiences across both retail and sport. I saw three very smart women who either run or play senior roles at Sephora, Rent the Runway and Stitch Fix, plus three Major League Soccer team owners who were also clever in different ways.
The overwhelming theme that came through was the importance of creating great experiences, driven by data, that enhance a customer’s overall experience and give them something they can’t get elsewhere. Make it authentic, make it memorable and make it add value to them. Don’t consider just the in-store/in-stadium experience, but also the getting there and getting home experiences (for sport the whole game day experience).
In the US Amazon has made online shopping so convenient that physical stores need to evolve and provide something extra. When I was growing up teenagers used to go and hangout at the mall/shopping centre, but that’s not happening nowadays. Just having lots of shops in one place isn’t enough, you can get that online anytime. Stores and malls need to provide entertainment, personalised service and great experiences that can’t be found online. There was even talk of stores becoming brand experiences and therefore funded out of the marketing budget, rather than measured on a sales per square foot model. And online businesses need to continue to evolve.
Some of the examples of providing great experiences were:
- Rent the Runway enables women to rent rather than buy clothes. Many of their orders are for fancy dresses to wear out on a weekend, so they now run their own dry-cleaners and tailors in the warehouse so they can do zero day turnaround on items. They’re also testing a subscription model where you can have any 3 dresses at a time from their entire catalogue. And in the future their vision is you don’t need to take a suitcase on holiday, you can just turn up at the hotel and the wardrobe will be full of awesome clothes for you to wear.
- Stitch Fix is an online personal shopper service that delivers you clothes that will look great on you. You fill in a profile, and then make specific orders, and their goal is to achieve the fewest returns. So if someone says ‘I want a pair of red jeans & I’m a size 10′, they will find a pair of jeans that will suit your body size and shape. They have developed algorithms that predict how likely you are to keep a product, and the personal stylists can also choose to override the recommendation, if for example they see something you pinned on Pinterest that makes them think you’ll like something else.
- The MLS owners had all done a lot of work with fan groups to find out what they wanted, and how to make the game day experience something that they couldn’t get at home. They want to create authenticity and the real fan experiences. They all had different tactics including a ‘march to the match’ with supporters, getting fans to lead the national anthem, in seat food ordering (which makes food outlets more effective across 120 minutes rather than just before the game and at half time, rewards systems for fans that order food more than half an hour before the game starts to encourage people to get their early, fully Wi-Fi enabled stadiums to allow people to share their experiences easily, opening mascots up to fans to use in social media and then picking images up for outdoor campaigns, and buying tickets for fans for away games. They talked about alpha testing ideas with select groups of fans, then not rolling out to beta tests until everything works – the alpha testing is a great way for fan engagement. One of the teams monitors everything done on Wi-Fi to learn more about the fans and what they want.
I was impressed by how well all of these organisations use data to drive the customer experiences. All of the MLS owners talked about data and social media extensively; the first C-suite exec employed by Rent the Runway was the Chief Analytics Officer; and Stitch Fix have a team of more then 20 data scientists to build their algorithms and predict inventory needs.
Then I went to some sessions run by McDonalds where they had start-ups pitch new ideas to them around revolutionising the restaurant experience and looking at new transportation & delivery options. My favourites were:
- Snowshoe who have developed plastic chips that will interact with your existing website or app on a mobile device without needing to download any new apps. Great for the kids toys you get in Happy Meals at McDonalds and extending the fun into the digital world, and I also see opportunities for FMCG and beverages businesses
- Nirvania who make paper interactive. They create posters on which you can play the drums; posters that light up when you interact in certain ways and notebooks at include a full piano. These would be great for promotional & POS materials
- Lisnr who have developed a communication standard between devices using audio files to send data. This is a very efficient, reliable and compatible way of sending data which has great possibilities at concerts and outdoor events, as well as for personalisation if used in conjunction with beacons and POS systems
- Enplug which is the worlds only open software platform for digital display advertising. They enable you to turn any screen into a display advertising screen for your brand, which can easily be updated centrally without very much infrastructure and at low cost. There are great opportunities for franchised style businesses (e.g. car dealerships) and for restaurants, bars, pubs and retail chains. You can create custom interactive experiences with your brand through display screens which can be personalised – they can be set up so you can play games with other people in the room, meet other people, or receive targeted messaging.
- Walc which is aiming to recreate directions for walkers by replacing maps with landmarks. So when you come out of the train station instead of being told ‘walk north’ you would be told ‘walk towards the McDonalds and turn right at the next corner’
I’m keen to explore these technologies more and look at applications for our clients and whether or not any of them would be useful and add value to you businesses and consumers.
And finally I saw Charles Barkley (ex-NBA basketballer & Turner Sports Analyst). He had nothing to do with customer experiences, but I was keen to hear him speak! He was interviewed about what it takes to remain relevant in today’s digital age. His main points were to be honest with your opinions, even though you know that will piss off half the people (i.e. he picks one team to win, half the people don’t like it), and to know your stuff.
But mainly I liked him because he made me laugh:
- On why he’s not on social media ‘Being famous is like being the homecoming Queen, all the ugly girls hate you’
- On people liking his honesty ‘People love my honesty unless they disagree with me’
- On golf ‘Golf & sex are the only two things you can be bad at and still have fun doing’
- On the value of analytics ‘Analytics are just a way to make stats expensive. They’re still just stats. It’s like a black man is a cook and a white man is a chef. Chefs get paid more but they’re the same thing, they both cook’ (he did know his stats very well, he just didn’t think additional analytics added to the stats!)’
- On why Colonel Sanders was voted as one of the greatest Americans in a poll ‘Colonel Sanders is a great American because any white man who can cook chicken like that deserves to be recognised’ (closely followed by ‘I’m joking people, you need to be able to take a joke!’)
So that’s it for a very enjoyable day 1, can’t wait for tomorrow.