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Customer Experience

Time Out Explores the Future of Customer Experience with Experience:NYC Small Business Festival

As New York City enters the fourth and final stage of the state’s reopening plan on Monday, indoor dining has yet to appear on the agenda.  For Time Out, that means their 24,000 square foot market, located in the heart of DUMBO, remains shuttered.  The New York location is the third installation of the concept space following markets in Lisbon and Miami; the space features 21 different eateries, 3 bars, a video installation wall and a demo cooking area. The company’s mission: showcase the best of New York City’s local cuisine all in one place.

The media company has since had to pivot in how it engages with its customers as the market has remained closed to accommodate safe social distancing, but their commitment to highlighting New York’s local businesses has not waned.  As a part of their ongoing Love Local Campaign, Time Out partnered with Instagram to host Experience:NYC, a two day festival highlighting small business from across all five boroughs.  The event was entirely virtual, taking place exclusively over Instagram live.  Here, 16 different small businesses with specialties ranging from candlemaking to Japanese mixology had one hour to showcase their wares to Time Out New York’s over 490,000 Instagram followers.

For CeCe’s Closet, a sister owned clothing brand that seeks to celebrate the beauty of West African prints, that experience provided a virtual fashion show in advance of the release of their newest collection.  The models walked through the bright, open air venue offering a final pose directly in front of the camera, while the host provided information about the garments’ construction, among other whimsical commentary. To close the show, the brand encouraged interaction from attendees, asking everyone to vote on their favorite look or send a reaction in the form of an emoji leveraging the comments feature built into Instagram live.  Finally, the brand promoted their own social channels for those interested in more content.

Models take a final walk on the runway during Cece’s Closet’s virtual fashion show

Sarah Paji Yoo, founder and CEO of Blueland, an eco-conscious cleaning product company, set up her broadcast from her Manhattan apartment.  After pinning a comment to let newcomers to the livestream know about the event’s description, she began to demonstrate different cleaning products in her kitchen, all while explaining her company’s mission to provide quality cleaning products with no plastic waste.  The demonstration took on the likes of a casual conversation, as viewers asked questions throughout, again utilizing the comments feature, as Yoo simultaneously shared her story and product recommendations with attendees.

Sarah Paji Yoo, founder and CEO of Blueland demonstrated different cleaning products from her NYC home

As the country gradually reopens with social distancing measures becoming the norm, the traditional customer experience, oftentimes rooted in crowded venues and shared spaces, is in jeopardy.  Many customers still remain apprehensive to return to in person shopping and digital tools such as Instagram and Zoom are continuously building out features to further support robust online interaction between event hosts and attendees, giving virtual events increasing promise. With customer safety top of mind, retailers will undoubtedly have to get creative in leveraging digital tools to connect and engage with their consumers, ultimately to prove that a meaningful and a digital customer experience are not mutually exclusive.


Operationalizing Customer Data: Examples From Nike and Zara

Now is the moment for brands to prioritize listening to their consumers above all else. Instead of driving consumers to your platforms, sites and events, businesses should meet them where they are. There are two important behaviors that can help companies to reinforce both their value proposition and license to communicate to consumers.  First, brands should be using customer data to cultivate a relationship instead of a transaction. Second, firms should be developing solutions to turn channel engagement into quantitative insights. Adopting these two systems will create an authentic reason to engage with the fans of your brand and perhaps more importantly, contribute to a company cultural shift towards a customer-centric approach.

Nike’s Nike Training Club (an exercise community platform) is a great example of prioritizing a consumer relationship over a transaction. After watching yoga class attendance rise during COVID-19, Nike has added to the number of yoga courses offered and prioritized cultivating a community on the platform over product messaging. Decisions like this have led to a 100% increase in active weekly NTC users[i]. The consumer engagement through these efforts will yield meaningful information that can inform future product launches and brand activations, increasing Customer Lifetime Value as well as related switching costs.

As consumers return to stores post lock down, measuring in-store engagement has never been more important.  In-store engagement, a challenging metric for most retailers, can be effectively measured by leveraging heat mapping technology to turn qualitative interaction with your store into a quantitative output. Two consumers visit the Zara flagship store and neither makes a purchase. However, one spends 40 minutes trying on accessories and talking to store ambassadors, while the other spends 1 minute in the store as he or she waits for a friend.  Those two experiences should be valued accordingly. Data scientists can analyze these interactions and group them based on the behavior. The data collected from these journeys can be inputted into multiple KPIs like “time spent talking to store ambassadors” or “products tried on”. The result would be a robust attribution thread between offline activity and offline + online transactions as well as a tool to optimize store experience and offerings.

A thoughtful and meaningful omnichannel approach is predicated upon being nimble enough as a company to recognize where a consumer wants to meet you rather than drive them to where you are. Agility to adapt to new growth-oriented KPIs and metrics will be a characteristic of best practice retailers.  The above two recommendations can be the building block that ensures that data is leveraged to understand where the consumer wants you as a brand to be.