Friction Points Diminish the Customer Buying Experience

Global retail ecommerce sales will reach $4.5 trillion by 2021. It’s an amazing, even eye-popping number. Yet without a user-friendly business approach, your company’s sales will not reflect the forecasted industry growth. Businesses devote an exorbitant amount of time reviewing every angle of their business model, from the overall product to their social media presence. Leaders know that consumers want to shop both online and at brick-and-mortar retail locations quickly and flawlessly; however, they may not realize where friction points are limiting completed sales transactions. Friction is any factor, whether it is online or in a store, that impedes or halts the completion of a sale. The next evolution in the shopping experience is the elimination of friction points. Understanding Friction Points Friction can be almost anything—from a confusing website layout to a hard-to-read font color or a slow page load. The largest friction elimination opportunity in retail sits at the juncture of digital and physical storefronts. In order to give customers the ability to research and browse on their own terms, businesses must bridge the gap between their physical and online marketplaces. By connecting digital and physical storefronts, business can link their inventories and enable data-sharing between various sales channels. Allowing customers to research and shop across multiple platforms is important. Customers want to make their purchases whenever and however they want. Friction points aren’t just limited to the online buying experience, either. Long lines and outdated POS systems are  in store friction points that impact sales and create an unnecessarily cumbersome sales experience. Eliminating Friction Points Start with a site that is generally optimized and functional. An easily accessible site makes purchases swift and removes customer confusion. A site’s SEO is critical in attracting potential customers and must be in order, ensuring there are zero hurdles for entry. Site usability is a major feature in a successful operation. Sites should be easy to navigate, with a natural, logical, and inviting sales funnel. Information such as available inventory, reviews, accessories or complimentary products should all be easily accessible. The main goal is to encourage the user to interact and inform them of potential opportunities to buy. Create a site that gives users the choices they desire, without obstacles. In store friction points such as checkout lines are also getting attention from companies like Loblaws who are testing alternatives, including customers ordering online and picking up in store or having it delivered. Driving Positive Sales Experiences Customers like to shop across multiple channels flawlessly. Whether it is providing real-time information, or improving wayfinding across facilities to reducing perceived wait times, digital communications from Omnivex can help get the right information to customers, where and when they need it. Streamlining the shopping journey will eliminate potential friction points and have a positive impact on sales.

A Prescription for Digital Communications in Healthcare

Mobile apps allow consumers to do a multitude of activities from tracking their shipments to counting steps to banking. With the abundance of information accessible in real-time, patients are becoming frustrated with the lack of digital communications in healthcare. If there was an industry where information is vital, it’s healthcare. Unfortunately, the transition to digital communications in healthcare has been slow compared to other industries. As a result, patients expectations about  communications while at healthcare facilities are not being met. The healthcare industry is in the midst of a digital revolution, as patients demand technologically-current options. It’s time for healthcare to step up and transform into a more digitally-enabled domain. Real-Time Information Enhances Patient Satisfaction Instant gratification links directly to satisfaction. Individuals can access data about the current temperature or their bank account balance with just a few taps. Meanwhile, when it comes to information like wait times, or test results, the health care industry is archaic in response. Digital communications systems that indicate wait time or patient portals are being implemented in some healthcare facilities, but aren’t widely adopted currently. These types of basic changes not only improve patient experience and satisfaction they have an impact on the overall efficiency of the healthcare operation. They enable employees to move their focus from relaying information to more value add services. Integrated Digital Communications Streamlines Processes In other industries, accessible data transforms instant gratification into streamlining. For example, phone apps allow consumers to speak the name of a restaurant and receive instant information about location, hours, and reviews. For consumers, this streamlines  the process of getting their lunch or dinner. The healthcare industry can leverage smartphones and wearable devices for consumers’ well-being. Integrating data from wearable devices into medical records could allow healthcare providers to monitor and personalize patients’ activities related to health and fitness, for instance. With data that’s integrated and even monitored from afar, medicine could grow in efficiency and effectiveness. Leveraging Digital Communication Makes Healthcare More Convenient Telemedicine is another exciting avenue in the digitization of healthcare communications. It was a top priority by two-thirds of healthcare professionals in a 2016 Reach Health study. Cisco, in a report on The Digitization of the Healthcare Industry, explains that telemedicine improves patient experience through convenience and accessibility while enhancing provider experience by reducing demands on time, data entry, and more. Digital communications are disrupting the healthcare industry as patients expectations continue to increase and evolve. Healthcare providers need to continually be evaluating and integrating new technologies in order to meet the evolving expectations of patients and employees. Digital communications provide an excellent way to improve the overall experience for patients and providers.  

Higher Ed Experience Expectations Rise With The Digital Era

Millenials are all about being social and communicating; as heavily evidenced by social media. This is difficult in post secondary institutions, which can be geographically enormous – some even requiring a bus to get from one side to the other. In addition to campus size, communication becomes more difficult when students are divided into different ‘colleges’, acting as silos that do not allow for easy interaction. Taking these obstacles into consideration, it is no wonder students often have no idea what is happening at their own college or university. Lucky for them, digital communication platforms provide a solution to this problem. In part one, we discussed how digital communications assist in transportation, emergency notifications, and finding a study spot. Let’s take a look at some more situations where digital transformation can further assist in creating a healthy and engaged school community. Let’s Go Gryphs! When selecting a post secondary institution, young adults are very interested in the experience they will have throughout their time there. Hours upon hours go into researching colleges and universities to find the perfect fit. Publishers such as Business Insider consistently rate schools based on their school spirit, since it such a distinguishing aspect of campus culture. In Canada, Queens university is one of the most sought after universities. It is no coincidence it also happens to be ranked highest in school spirit. Through digital communication platforms, institutions can increase school spirit by hyping up events, amplifying student voices, and engaging students. With such platforms now having the ability to reach any device; video wall, TV screen, cellular phone, etc., this allows for a broader reach. Giving this tool to student bodies such as clubs and associations, allows them to better inform other students of activities being run around campus. For example, when the annual pep rally comes around, each team can show off their creative attempts to hold the most school spirit. Videos can be updated in real-time, play on a loop, or even be live streamed. This would allow the entire campus to remain involved even if they are unable to attend. We Won School pride fuels school spirit, so showcasing achievements is crucial. There is always room for improvement in this area. For example, at the university I attend, the only achievements we hear about are those of the football team, or if the university is in the news. On the education side, there is tons of research being conducted by students and faculty, yet if you walk around campus and ask anyone what awards the university has won recently for research, not one student could answer the question. Sports can also fall in a similar category. Besides football, there is no talk of any other sports unless you visit the athletics website. There you can find that the university is consistently winning awards for multiple sports. Showcasing these achievements increases campus moral, adds to campus culture, and allows school pride to thrive. Who Doesn’t Love The Buzz? Students love a campus that is always buzzing. It makes them feel as though they are part of something bigger; a community. In order to create this buzz, it is the institution that is tasked with creating events, or supporting clubs that will do so. Implementing a digital communications platform that helps increase the buzz is a must for every post-secondary institution. Many of these platforms can integrate with real-time data, making it is easier than ever to produce a large buzz. For example, countless hours go into planning an executing campaigns for the next student body president. When voting day comes around, digital platforms make it easy to showcase real time voting polls as they rise. Candidates must meet quorum in order to qualify, so if not enough buzz is generated this can be very difficult for candidates. By showcasing real-time poles, students are more likely to participate in the voting process, and feel as though they are actively contributing to their community. Let’s Talk Revenue Post secondary institutions are a business, and contain multiple different sources of revenue throughout campus. This can include anything from the coffee shop to bookstore, to cafeteria or gift shop. As it stands, these operations currently showcase their promotions through 8 ½ x 11 paper posters randomly plastered in buildings around campus. This requires time and money on behalf of each individual operation to create the poster, print it off, and walk around taping it to the walls. Not to mention, what if there is an unnoticed error on the poster, or the promotion needs to suddenly be adjusted? This again would require an employee taking time out of their day to adjust each individual poster by hand. A digital communications platform would allow an individual to fix a mistake, or adjust a number, on every single deployment with simply a click of a button. As well, different information and promotions could be shown in different areas, the digital signs could rotate through a number of different ads, or promotions could be set to run at certain times of day. This can be very useful for menu boards as well. Prices need to be adjusted? Click of a button. New menu item? Click of a button. Ran out of an item? Click of a button. A lot simpler than asking the graphic artist to redesign the entire board and getting a new sign printed! Another useful use case for campus operations is simply promoting menu items. At my university, there are certain cafeterias that have different meal items everyday. The chefs not only put time into preparing a weekly menu, but also preparing the lovely dishes. Most students will go home to eat their meals since they become tired of the same old Subway of Pizza Pizza. Don’t be fooled, they can be tempted. If they’re leaving the library and see some mouth watering tacos or roast beef pop up on a screen, you can be sure they’re going to change their plans and stay on campus for lunch. Voila, instant revenue. Same goes for the gift shop, nobody plans to go to the gift shop unless it’s Homecoming or Christmas. That is, unless a flash sale comes along. If a student is using a school computer or mobile phone, and a quick notification pops up that the gift shop is having a 50% off sale today, that student is definitely stopping in on their way home. Attentive post secondary officials are aware of how important ‘the experience’ is to students. Whether choosing a college or university, this is their second largest consideration next to academics. It is important that officials continue to build upon the experience they provide to students, and move forward with new technologies to remain competitive in the digital era.

Digital Customer Experience

Why Digital Customer Experience Is Driving The Shift From Multichannel To Omnichannel  In 1955, milkshake salesman Ray Kroc entered into a partnership with a small California hamburger restaurant named McDonald’s. Over the next few decades, the golden arches would experience an almost unprecedented rise that would shift the landscape of the entire food service industry. What often goes overlooked when discussing the historical significance of McDonald’s, though, is that apart from their streamlined business model, a key driver of growth was the integrated approach to the customer experience. The consistency of McDonald’s messaging allowed them to reach and retain a diverse set of customers. This variety of high-quality consumer communication increased brand loyalty and created opportunities for long term revenue growth. In the not-too-distant-past, sales and marketing professionals looking to emulate the success of a McDonald’s-type organization would refer to this as a “multichannel” marketing strategy. This multichannel strategy involved the simultaneous deployment of messages and offers across a tiered system of channels. The approach, however, is flawed as it lacks a critical cohesiveness.    An omnichannel marketing strategy, on the other hand, is an integrated cross-channel communication strategy that leverages the dispersion of platforms and screens to create powerful and targeted impressions. Omnichannel marketing takes an IOT-like approach to marketing by combining data and analysis with real-time updates and messaging. This omnichannel approach is much better suited for today’s rapidly shifting technological environment. The rewards of a highly optimized customer onboarding, payment, and appreciation process can be tremendous. The Starbucks App, for example, currently has 17 million users and allows customers to place their order, pay before they even enter a store, and collect reward points. Mobile technology is allowing this coffee retailer to drive in-store sales and reduce bottle necks. The next evolution in the digital customer experience strategy is the linking of digital displays and communications. Digital signage is quickly replacing the static variety because it offers organizations such as retailers the opportunity to engage and interact with customers on an entirely new level. Due to digital displays doubling as smart solutions, they can do so much more than project menu boards! By utilizing the proper software, businesses are able to display optimized content, creating a better customer experience, while offering retailers additional advertising opportunities. One exciting digital communications asset available today is multi-screen displays. Dozens of different displays can be synced together to promote attention-grabbing content. VOX Cinema recently completed a refurbishment of its theatres that was designed to create a compelling and integrated digital customer experience. The new VOX cinemas also make use of Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and social media to make customers a part of the conversation, with a dedicated six-screen video wall displaying live feeds from Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Dubai’s City Centre-Deira location synchronized over 135 separate screens to create a world class environment for its customers. Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment uses Omnivex Moxie digital communications platform to create an immersive fan experience, by connecting hundreds of screens throughout their flagship Air Canada Centre, home of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Raptors. This Digital Customer Experience can make quantifiable differences in a company’s P&L as well. Capgemini research found that on average, over 80% of consumers are willing to pay more for a better experience. The same study also found that 1 in 5 customers stopped purchasing after a poor experience. Businesses not employing an omnichannel marketing strategy are not only missing out on potential revenue, they are potentially turning away customers for life. With better and easier access to pricing information and quality reports than ever before, consumers today are exceedingly savvy. This means that competitive businesses must utilize all the tools at their disposal to make the customer experience a seamless thing of beauty.

Digital Transformation of Business and Communications - Part 4

As a business owner and communications industry veteran, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, President of Shikatani Lacroix, a Toronto-based branding and design agency, has seen a massive evolution in technology and customer/employee expectations over the last two decades. In part four of this multi-part executive Q&A series I will chat with Jean-Pierre about the future and where digital transformation will lead us. Doug: Things are changing so fast. Do you think if organizations can tie a business process into that exponential growth to increase revenue or decrease cost they will be in a position to reap those benefits for years to come? Jean-Pierre: It's an opportunity to leverage consumer behaviour to your advantage. We're so connected to our phone. The first thing people do when they get up in the morning is check their phone. The last thing they do when they go to bed is check their phone. They check their phone every three to four minutes. When they go to the bank, when they're in the branch, they're checking their phone. They're not connecting with the digital signs because they're looking at their phone. So, there's a real opportunity to disrupt that behaviour and engage that consumer through digital signage - through large-scale digital signage and geo-fencing, things that connect to their phone. Those are the real opportunities that we see in the near future. Geo-fencing makes sense, so if you walk into a bank you would receive a message through their app. You get it now with Starbucks. You're close to this restaurant, that restaurant. But there's been this huge reluctance by retailers and manufacturers to leverage geo-fencing, and I just scratch my head. There is huge impact. In the petroleum business, there's a company that did a test and they increased sales at their store by 30 percent through geo-fencing and just reminding the customer of an offer or "Hey, come in and have a coffee." We're so busy in our lifestyle, we have so much on our mind every day. We have not just complexity of choice, I call it complexity of tasks. You get up in the morning, you have 20 things to do, and heaven forbid if your kids go to soccer or hockey, and you got another 30 things to do. We don't have time to think about anything else. Being able to offer it as a valued service, as a reminder about something you may have forgotten or something you may need - to me, that just makes sense. Doug: Where do you see things 25 years from now when you and I sit down to have this chat again? Jean-Pierre: There are couple of factors that are going to have a huge impact on our behaviour as consumers: how we buy, how we think of things. One is artificial intelligence. We have so much data and we don't know what to do with it. Artificial intelligence eliminates the human factor and through algorithms and learning processes, takes that information and customizes it to every individual. Today the consumer wants personalized service. They don't want mail that's been sent to everyone; they want an email that talks specifically to their needs. Reminders, services and offers based on their buying patterns and their behaviours. Artificial intelligence is going to provide that in spades. It's going to free up time. Look at the auto industry as an example. They are predicting that by 2025, half of the cars sold in the world will be self-driving cars, driven by artificial intelligence. So, you're going to see that movement impacting everything we do, the way we buy, the way we shop, the way we enjoy life. To me that is a pivotal technology. The second technology is what I'll call invisible technology. I believe that innovation happens when you eliminate steps and friction points in the way consumers live their lives. Think of Apple Pay, you don't need to carry your wallet anymore if you have your phone. Google Maps allows you to travel and never get lost. Eliminating these friction points or these steps is where innovation has succeeded at bringing value to consumers. One of those steps is how we absorb visual information. Now the technology is hanging a digital sign on the wall and building a network, but I believe all of that's going to go away. I don't know if you're aware of this but in Sweden, I believe, they will paint a wall and the wall will become an LCD screen. So the physical restrictions of digital signage will go away and it'll be whatever you want it to be. That will open up all kinds of great avenues for experiential and immersive experiences. We think of virtual reality and augmented reality as being kind of trailblazing. I view those as interim steps because you have to wear this clunky thing on your head. To me, immersive experiences are going to be real, they're going to be 3D - 3D and 4D projection screens where you're going to be in that space. We're just at the cusp of that technology. Doug: The best way to get information to a person is through their eyes and we have the ability to help our customers combine data with a visual experience. What do you think the future looks like for our companies? Jean-Pierre: It's a very exciting era for designers. When you start creating virtual experiences, you're no longer restricted by the power of gravity, the laws of gravity, and you don't need to be an architect to build a building now because you can build it virtually. You just need to have the right aesthetics and understanding of consumer behaviour, but you don't need to be an architect. So, you'll see a designer designing a building, see architects creating identity programs. You're going to see the tiers of design professions collapse. That will have a huge impact, and already has had a huge impact on our industry. If you go back 20 years we had typesetters. Overnight, that disappeared. Companies making packaging, that's gone away. Even printing now is going. Now it is customized printing, digital printing, the big print runs have changed to customized print runs. You're seeing a big shift from efficiencies of mass to efficiencies of personalization. I think that's going to play a really important role in how we deliver communication marketing materials. It'll all have to be personalized. It'll all be about, back to my original comment, what's the right content. What's the story we're telling to our customers, and how relevant is that story at that moment of purchase? How do we intertwine that story with the way they live their lives? How different is that story from their neighbour's story or their daughter's story or their spouse's story? That is where the real battleground will be won. It's about content and content management.

Digital Transformation Of Business And Communications - Part 3

As a business owner and communications industry veteran, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, President of Shikatani Lacroix, a Toronto-based branding and design agency, has seen a massive evolution in technology and customer/employee expectations over the last two decades. In part 3 of this multi-part executive Q&A series I will chat with Jean-Pierre about what industries are at the forefront of digital transformation. Doug: Do you see particular industries or areas where digital transformation has more of an impact, more of a benefit? Jean-Pierre: That's a great question. I would say there is a balancing act happening between being disrupted and leveraging digital technology. Industries that are the most prone to being disrupted, who are vulnerable to new technologies or new business models are also the firms that need to, but not necessarily have, embrace digital more effectively. I'll use banking as a great example. Talk to any banker today, it's not about omnichannel -- that's 10 years old. They were one of the first to develop banking platforms to create a digital online experience for their customers because they knew customers liked doing banking online. Now Fintech start-ups have developed technologies that allow you to transfer money and bypass filling out forms, eliminating friction for the customer in the banking industry. I think the banking industry is awake. They're not going to let themselves be disrupted by Fintech, instead they are embracing Fintech technology and it has a huge play in what happens in the branches. Less and less consumers are going into the branches. Those branches need to change their meaning and their value to their customers. It's not about transactions; it's about knowledge and empowerment. You are seeing the banks, the smart ones, slowly shifting their attention from transaction to knowledge and to empowerment. Where the teller now is enabled and empowered to talk about retirement plans, investment plans, and the financial security of the customer. This is a great example of an industry that has embraced digital, not because it's a nice thing to have but because it's a necessity for avoiding being disrupted. I would say general merchandise retailers, such as Canadian Tire and Walmart, that are selling commoditized items is another industry that needs to wake up when it comes to digital technology since they are all about the transaction. They are about selling to the consumer. It's about basket size and increasing the amount of products customers buy when they visit their stores. Digital can play a really important role at reminding them about things. "Miss Consumer, you know you bought toilet paper the last time you were here. That was a month ago. You may want to replenish." "I didn't think of it." Most consumers who go to a supermarket don't have a shopping list, so there's a great opportunity to drive in pull sales for stores like Walmart and Canadian Tire, but they are not there. If you go to those stores that shelf activation using digital technology is still not there. They still haven't figured out that basket size value, but the smart ones will. Now, it's all about big screens. It's not about shelf. It's about big screens creating a lot of excitement, which is great as it reinforces the brand is relevant. However, at the end of the day in that split second purchase decision -- digital plays a very minimal role, and it shouldn't. Doug: So, what you're talking about is a move from the large screens down to almost a personal experience at the shelf. Shelf displays can drive personalizing things and making things relevant to a particular consumer. Jean-Pierre: I'm back to my reference to advertising. You can spend trillions of dollars building an image of the consumer, and then in the last split second the consumer switches to another brand. To me, the model's upside down and the money needs to be spent in the store experience. It needs to be spent when the consumer is making their buying decision. Not online, not on the radio. Those are great to build brand awareness but when most consumers can be switched at the shelf level, that's where the real battleground is and that's where the money should be spent. That's where big data plays an important role: the connection between mobile devices and all shelf communication. This is where the real battle can be won and where the smart retailers are going to invest their money. It reminds me of a little story from about four years ago. We were hired to do the reinvention of OfficeMax. Online sales had huge impact on the performance of the stores. The stores were an average 25 to 27 thousand square feet. Our mandate was to create urban microstores, stores that were 17 to 20 thousand, even smaller than that. When we looked at digital signage, shelf signage, and we looked at the electronic ink -- sign elements -- and we costed it out. The client was very interested in having digital signage because it allowed them to change their pricing by zone, and then move very quickly at a competitive response. It was going to cost $300,000 for that in one store, so, imagine the multiple. The challenge still remains today and it is a huge nut financially for retailers to embrace digital. Those platforms today would be $100,000. I think it's more of a mindset by retailers. To say that flyers are their most effective marketing vehicle when, really, it is their stores that are the most effective marketing vehicle. Effectively communicating to the consumer at the shelf level is going to drive more revenue and more sales for them than advertising, radio, promotions and billboards. It's just a mindset. I think what digital has done is force organizations to rethink their business model. The business model before was "build it and they will come." What digital is providing is a platform for people to re-evaluate their business model. So, you look at Loblaws, a market leader in the supermarket category in Canada. They're smart. They're digital. They spent their money on a loyalty program that rewards behaviour. Not just purchase, but behaviour -- that is very smart. They're now exploring order on your phone and pickup at a drive through. They're exploring eliminating these anxiety points. I think most organizations now are being challenged through digital to re-evaluate their business model. If you're not re-evaluating your business based on digital and you're a retailer or a packaged goods company or a corporation, the odds are you're not going to be around long-term.

Digital Transformation Of Business And Communications - Part 2

As a business owner and communications industry veteran, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, President of Shikatani Lacroix, a Toronto-based branding and design agency, has seen a massive evolution in technology and customer/employee expectations over the last two decades. In part 2 of this multi-part executive Q&A series I will chat with Jean-Pierre about what is driving digital transformation in businesses and the potential ROI from it. Doug: What do you think is really driving the digital transformation within businesses? Is it primarily the customer focus - "let's provide this better experience for our customers?" Is it more internal-facing - "we want to improve productivity of employees?" Or is it reducing cost? There do seem to be several. Jean-Pierre: I would say all of the above. It depends on the industry or category you're competing in. It's about being relevant to your customers, and if your customers are digitally-enabled and digitally-focused, then having a digital platform, whether it is mobile, web, or a tablet, enables them to be smarter on their feet with customers who have done all the research ahead of time. How do you leverage big data? Today most large organizations have spent billions and billions in establishing and building infrastructure for big data. The problem is that the last foot in the sales process between big data and the customer experience is lacking. It's about finding that link. This is where mobile and digital technology are playing a pivotal role. It is enabling the salesforce to provide things like just-in-time inventory analysis. If a customer is looking for a TV, they can tell immediately if that TV is in stock, they can tell if it isn't, which store is closest, and they can actually capture that sale by having the TV sold and delivered to the home on the same day. So you're seeing organizations asking, "How do we build relevancy for brands when the consumers' focus is digitally-oriented?" Doug: How have you seen digital transformation affect your business? Jean-Pierre: Well, the reality is designing has always been digital. When I started the business, we had markers, and we had this thing called Paste Up, and we had typesetters. Then, some guy with a computer that was called an Apple really disrupted the industry. I believe we were the first industry to go digital because we replaced typesetters with Mac computers and software like Adobe InDesign. So, we were always digitally-enabled as an industry. However, the connection between our digital enablement and our clients focus on digital only happened about 10 years ago. It's much more of a transformation of how we look at business opportunities and business challenges. Now, we have a whole component to solving our clients' problems by looking with a digital lens at what that customer's digital path to purchase is. How does that link to the conventional path to purchase and what are those key moments of truth that digital can play a pivotal role? Yes, it's transformed our business, but we've been on this journey for about 20 years. Doug: It is often difficult to show a pure ROI because things change slowly or so dramatically that now we're doing things a completely different way - so how do you show an ROI on it? What are the benefits and advantages that you're showing to customers to say, "Here's what you can do differently, here's what the digital solutions will allow you to do"? Jean-Pierre: Let's turn it around, I would say one of the benefits to the organization is the ability to communicate effectively at the moment of purchase. Consumers buy emotionally; they don't buy functionally, they don't buy rationally. Consumers are irrational, and we all know that. The beauty of digital technology is that ability of connecting emotionally. Pictures connect to our hearts, visuals connect to our hearts. Not words, not sound. Pictures. So, there's a real opportunity for brands to connect with consumers emotionally when they're making their purchase decision. For consumers, it's simple. They're looking for knowledge or answers and they're looking for cues and clues that will help them make the right buying decision. Today, the big challenge for consumers is complexity of choice. We have too many choices. Our stores are too big. Look at the average supermarket: When I grew up it was 20,000 square feet. Now they are 100,000 square feet. The average supermarket back then had maybe 12,000 products. Now they have 100,000 products. Shopping has become a challenge because we have too much choice, and digital provides an opportunity to cut through clutter and help that consumer to make that buying decision either before they visit the store or during their shopping in the store. It also helps make the staff better educated and better enabled to answer the questions consumers have when they're trying to make that buying decision. We see that being a true ROI. Maybe it's not a return on investment, but then I would challenge--look at where the money is being spent today. It's being spent in advertising. Trillions of dollars every year spent on advertising, in social media. They haven't proven an ROI for both those models but they're spending billions and trillions of dollars hopefully connecting with a consumer, hopefully making it work, and the reality is the place to connect with consumers is at the moment of purchase. If we know the consumer's making irrational decisions and they're impulsive in those decisions, we know that it's emotionally-driven. That last split second in that buying decision is the most pivotal. It's not the TV commercial. It's not even the online platform. It's that moment of purchase, and that's where digital plays a very critical role.

Digital transformation of business and communications – Part 1

As a business owner and communications industry veteran, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, President of Shikatani Lacroix, a Toronto-based branding and design agency, has seen a massive evolution in technology and customer/employee expectations over the last two decades. In this multi-part executive Q&A series I will chat with Jean-Pierre about how digital technologies are transforming businesses in every sector and what shifts he expects to see amongst these key stakeholders. Doug: How has the technological and digital transformation over the last 25 years impacted your business? Jean-Pierre: It has a huge impact. Everything we do now, even if it’s consumer packaging or retail environment or corporate identity and branding programs, digital is a core element of that experience. It’s obvious. Consumers today use their mobile phones to connect with most brands. Most retail environments are being challenged to engage with customers, competing with online, and so digital plays a really important role in being that link between online consumer behaviour and the physical environment. So every project has a digital experience component. It’s at the core of what we do. Doug: One of the things I find in our business is that as we move through these technological changes the core values of our company stay the same. Do you see similar kind of things? Jean-Pierre: We’ve seen a major shift. It’s a mindset. Clients put value on where they spend their money and where they allocate their capital. For many years, the capital allocation was on hardware: screens and media players. Very little attention was given to the content or the software driving that content. I would say it’s only in the last five years that we’ve noticed a shift in focus by our clients for many reasons. One of which is that they’ve already deployed a digital platform and they’re looking at how to get a better ROI on this investment. It’s not about saving money on hardware. It’s about engaging with customers and driving more sales that’s going to deliver that ROI. So our clients are shifting their attention towards effective content management. And it’s about time because to us, content management is really the core of the value that digital provides for the retail environment and for corporations. Content is the element that’s actually going to change behaviour. It’s not the size of the screen or how many lumens go through that screen. It’s really what message are you communicating with that content, and we’re seeing that re-focus towards content management. Doug: How well do you find your customers are implementing digital? Jean-Pierre: I was just reading a quote this morning by Cisco ex-president Mr. John Chambers, and he was saying that 70% of companies have embarked on a digital transformation. However, only 30% will actually achieve effectiveness in that transformation. I think that’s really representative of our work with our clients. Every single assignment that we do, specifically in retail brand transformations, has an important digital component. That client clearly identifies the need to develop that digital component and is willing to make an investment until they need to sign the cheque and deploy the digital platform. We have worked with banks that did a Request for Proposal 10 years ago and they’re still trying to justify the investment for the hardware. The great news is the cost of hardware is coming down dramatically. As well, its intrusiveness in the retail environment is disappearing. With the cost of digital technology dropping we’re seeing more and more eagerness to invest, but it’s still a challenge. It is still a heart attack, “Wow, I didn’t realize it was going to cost this much and I didn’t realize the national deployment was going be in the millions.” I think to a certain degree that those who haven’t stuck their toe in the water, that ticket shock is enormous, but for those clients that have actually embarked on digital technology and the immersion of mobile and digital and online, they see a huge benefit to their business. They know that consumers shop online, and if they can make that connection from an online experience to mobile experience in the stores, they’re going to retain that customer in their shopping, and, so, it’s just a matter of time. The number one question that clients ask us every time is, “Can you demonstrate an ROI on the investment we’re going to make?” The good news is with much more deployments in the marketplace and the establishment of benchmarks, we’re getting closer to being able to justify numerically the ROI of an investment in digital.

The new era of communication

Microsoft's acquisition of LinkedIn brings together the “world’s leading professional cloud and network.”  With a common mission to empower people and organizations, Microsoft and LinkedIn intend to break down the silos of information that currently exist for professionals and “create more connected, intelligent and productive experiences.”  At Omnivex we have been on the forefront of digital communication for over 25 years. We believe when you connect people with information you improve productivity, unlock ROI and break down silos. At Omnivex we see information as being fundamental to empowering people and organizations.  Providing access to information, while a seemingly simple task, is not always easy or straightforward.  To empower, information must be available at the right time on the right device.  Imagine an important announcement like Microsoft and LinkedIn made yesterday being read by employees hours after it was published in the media.  Or the executive heading to the airport to catch a flight that has been delayed, to travel to a meeting that has moved locations and they are unaware of either change.  How about the line manager in a manufacturing plant getting notified the next day or week of important KPIs like inventory shortages or product defects?  In all of these situations communication is key. Being able to push information in real-time to individuals regardless of where they are or to the device that makes the most sense, provides not only empowerment but enables intelligent decision making and creates a new level of connection. At Omnivex we see a future that includes a vibrant communication infrastructure where organizations and professionals have access to the right information at the right time on the right device.  This eliminates the information silos that have developed over the last few decades.  A communications platform like Omnivex provides organizations with the ability to improve productivity and create intelligent and interactive experiences every day.

The Self-Service Movement of Interactive Kiosks

Consumers today are more self-directed than ever. Few are bothered by self-checkout lanes in supermarkets or fast food restaurants, and the trial and adoption of these self-serve kiosks is growing rapidly. The growth in popularity and usage is partly due to companies getting better at implementing self-service technologies but is also due to the average consumer being more technologically savvy. Kiosks with Interactive Displays Prompt In-Store Purchases Self-service kiosks are becoming increasingly common in retail stores and fast food chains. They provide shoppers with the opportunity to direct their own experience, which makes it more enjoyable and efficient. These self-service kiosks are powered by interactive touch screens and are often combined with additional digital signs which provides businesses with an opportunity to cross-sell and upsell their products and services. A recent survey by InReality on the Reality of Retail found that 69% of customers would be more likely to make in-store purchases if they had access to kiosks or interactive displays. As well, the survey found 78% would be more likely to visit a store that offered self-service for finding products or brands and a self-service solution for product or price comparison would increase the likelihood of 75% of customers making a purchase. The online shopping experience has changed the in-store experience for customers, and to remain competitive, bricks-and-mortar retailers are having to become smarter, more data-driven, and more technology-forward. Self-service kiosks can be an important aspect of technological sophistication. Self-Service Ticketing Can Be a New Profit Center Self-service kiosks for ticketing are proving to be valuable profit generators for many businesses. Not only can most of the headaches of paper-based ticketing systems be avoided with these self-service solutions, they generate profits due to the fact they reduce the amount of staff required and often can process business faster. For example, a sports or entertainment venue, or a transportation hub can use self-service kiosks to quickly and easily dispense tickets and process payments, as well as promote complimentary products, services or events. Integration with sales and inventory systems and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies also provides numerous opportunities for making self-serve kiosks even more valuable to both businesses and customers. Putting the Customer in Charge When a customer interacts with a well-implemented self-service kiosk, they feel as if they have more control over their shopping experience. Advertising delivered through interactive digital signage that is part of the self-service kiosk can find a receptive audience as long as kiosk users have that feeling of contentment with the technology and control of the event. Self-service options that are consistent from location to location offer customers a sense of familiarity that can reduce the anxiety of shopping in a new setting and set the stage for successfully presenting offers and discounts.    


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