Online to Offline, the GenX & Millennial Standard

Online to Offline, the GenX & Millennial Standard

As part of our celebrations for West Monroe Partners CX Day, I am prompted to write about Operationalizing Customer Experience (CX ). For the next few moments, instead of talking about operational models, let’s think about how we are on the cusp of Operationalizing CX in the old-yet-new commerce model of Online to Offline (O2O).

We’ve heard the same tropes over and over again: physical stores are dying. With Amazon killing off the physical bookstore industry, declining consumer sales in traditional brick and mortar stores, and consistently increasing numbers of online retailers, we’ve been bombarded with the same message that physical stores don’t make money anymore, and we should be focusing on Digital marketplaces. Yet, we’re conveniently ignoring  reports from the Chinese and Asia-Pacific markets, where acquiring customers’ information and interest online, and integrating purchasing and servicing models offline in physical, and often in Pop-up stores, have gained immense popularity and profitability. We’re seeing resurgence in physical customer interaction models, from Amazon opening a bookstore,  Pop-up stores, to a growing contingent of startups and small businesses alike, opting to anchor their core business offerings to physical locations instead of digital outlets; face-to-face interactions, instead of the usual point and click.  With each 1% improvement in customer experience quality — as measured by Forrester’s Customer Experience Index equaling an additional $15 million to $175 million in annual revenues, focusing on improving offline customer experience along with the digital experience is becoming more important as we look to grow revenue. So what should we focus on in the O2O world to better interact and capitalize on our customers?

Offline Brands & Product: Warby Parker has Pop-ups, so does Combatant Gentleman, so why is this so popular? From a consumer standpoint, the hybrid model shows a new way of shopping for products that combines the myriad of different product selections and pricing deals online, with the opportunity to view and touch the actual product (whether it’s the fabric or the design), and furthers the brand value through shop design and layout. But what does this mean for companies that wish to capitalize on the trend? It’s about focusing on the product and the customer’s needs, we have to understand CX is no longer just about Digital Strategy & Marketing, but the combined digital-physical interactions are a result of efficient and effective digital marketing and consumer intake, to physical storefronts and face-to-face customer service. As a tertiary touch point, physical storefronts not only allow us understand the customer better (through better tracking and analytics), but to also further the brand promise through avenues digital can’t touch: scent, touch, and physical interactions.

Service & Convenience: When was the last time you opted to handle major purchases (whether that’s a car, a house, or even a large appliance) purely online? Did you feel a bit uncomfortable that your transaction was primarily enacted through trust? What if you’re the first to purchase from this specific distributor that had a deal you couldn’t pass up? Face to face interactions are more trustworthy than call centers, or digital only processes. When we’re able to see emotions played out, we are able to be more empathetic, and at the end of the day, customer trust that a transaction will be completed, or resolved, when they’re speaking to a live person. The hybrid CX model should combine an efficient and effective online service process, with an experienced, and empathetic, last mile interaction that is offline. Even with products, as proven with Amazon Lockers, we’re able to witness effective customer service (especially when it deals with physical products) revolves around providing a convenient and safe option for consumers to handle their needed wares, whether that’s receiving or returning.

Trust: As our world becomes more interconnected with technology, we found ourselves at the cross roads of whether to trust our devices and interactions multiple times every day. From the Mobile Ecosystem Forum study, reluctant sharers account for half of US and German mobile users, and the concern around data privacy and security is paramount. Trust is key – consumer trust in your products, your brands, and how you stand behind them and service your customers will make or break customer loyalty in today’s economy. O2O provides an output for consumers to trust your products, brand, and company through live interactions. It provides a sense of comfort knowing  customer service and support is just a drive away.

Digital commerce has certainly changed the way we shop and look for information. But the shift has already begun with the Gen-X and Millennial consumer base. Addressing the needs of the modern consumer that demands both the selection and efficiency of an online store, with the trust and service of an offline storefront is a balance of strategy and operationalizing effective customer experience. Strategy considerations extend beyond products and sale schedules, but into how to extend customer service from the screen to face-to-face. At least from this side of the table, I’m certainly welcoming the integrated O2O service models – I’m looking forward to talking to an actual person.

Phone: 312-602-4000
222 W. Adams
Chicago, IL 60606
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