Adobe Summit: CX Is The ‘Retail Differentiator’

A session about digital transformation in retail, led by Adobe’s Michael Klein, highlighted how innovative retailers are standing out—having nothing to do with offering the best price.

Adobe Summit: CX Is The ‘Retail Differentiator’

At the Adobe Summit last week in Las Vegas, compelling calls to action were shared by marketing and business leaders who “get” that we are rapidly entering the “Experience Era.”

“This new wave is not about us—it is not about what we sell,” said Brad Rencher, EVP and GM of digital marketing at Adobe (’s parent company). “It is about the consumer and the experiences we provide them.”

During the “Digital Transformation of Retail: An Experience-First Approach” session, led by Michael Klein, director of industry strategy, retail, at Adobe, we heard why this matters to retailers. “Even though e-commerce is way up, 90% of retail still takes place in a physical store, where store traffic and comps are down,” Klein told the audience. “I’ve had retailers ask me, ‘Will the lift in my e-commerce be enough to keep my business alive?’ I don’t think so.”

In other words, “You can’t compete on price alone,” he said. “One of the first lessons I learned early in my retail career is that there’s always someone else willing to make less money than you every day. So to compete and win going forward, the retail differentiator will come from services and experiences. Your digital transformation will be a key part of delivering this.”

Sucharita Mulpuru, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester, shared why it is critical for firms to have the right processes in place to excel digitally and be capable of delivering differentiated, customer-centric services and experiences. Such a process comprises four components:

Mulpuru also referenced the “Digital Customer Experience and Digital Operational Excellence” graph (right) to show what it takes for firms to become “digital masters.”

We then heard from someone who has achieved master status at two very different brands: Dave Finnegan, CIO, VP technology and interactive, at Orvis, and previously chief information and interactive officer at Build-A-Bear Workshop, where he led the Store-of-the-Future.

Finnegan said his objective is to create amazing stories for customers that they will share.To do so, he developed a straightforward process to discover, design, and deliver human-centered, emotionally connected retail interactions based on customer stories.

“Storytelling is universal and has power with every demographic,” Finnegan said. “We’ve learned that we get our highest customer satisfaction when a human connects with the customer. Using consumer insights helps us shape, improve, and validate the stories but is not sufficient for revolutionary change. We’ve learned that digital can deliver additional magic, smiles, and satisfaction to enhance the human experiences, which is our goal.”

Finnegan described the storytelling process he used at Build-A-Bear, beginning with “Smile Mapping” to “observe and discover where our guests were emotionally connecting in-store and where they were not. We used these insights to identify where there was ‘emotional density.’ We then identified ways to use digital to enhance [or improve] the human connections and experience.”

He continued: “We then used ‘Story Playback’ by building a series of stories around these customer experiences, different customer personas, and customer journey maps. … We did rapid prototyping of these experiences in an innovation lab and mocked up a new store, immersing ourselves in these stories to experience them for ourselves, giving each other feedback, making changes, and iterating the Story Playback process until it felt right and we could say, ‘That is the next generation Build-A-Bear experience.’”

The next step involved the “Cub Advisory Board”—a group of kids who mirrored Build-A-Bear’s customers. The board went through the Story Playback process in the prototype stores every few weeks and provided feedback. “We literally put them in the story,” Finnegan explained. “As they were immersed in the stories, we observed how they would act and asked them for their feedback. What we learned was that when you immerse someone in the stories, their ability to innovate increases exponentially. We got many more ideas, and they were better.”

Finnegan also made the point of bringing the C-suite through the stories in the prototype store. “We took them on field trips through the stories to show them how things have changed versus previous iterations,” he said. “We got much better feedback from the executives because they experienced the stories themselves.”

Finnegan said he is using the same three-pronged process at Orvis. “We’ve seen payback of 10% to 12% improvement of cross-channel orders, a 2x to 4x increase in the store associates’ experience, and a 4s of our email capture goal.”

More: Adobe Summit 2016: Team Coverage

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