How Sprint Connects Physical and Digital Retail
by Nate Smith
posted on 10-01-2019
The biggest technology trend impacting retail right now is not what some might think. It isn’t chat bots or augmented reality, nor is it voice commerce. Instead, it is a quirky little acronym known as “BOPIS”. Short for “Buy Online, Pickup In-Store,” the concept is not new by any means, but it speaks to a larger trend in the blending of online and in-store shopping. As with eCommerce, this kind of connected retail experience has the potential to wipe out brands that move too slowly. Longstanding retailers with a large physical footprint are already finding new ways for stores to drive additional value, while the Internet stalwarts are moving in the opposite direction—making considerable investments in physical stores and things like pop-up shops.
With thousands of retail locations and partnerships with the likes of Walmart, Sprint is one of the nation’s largest retailers. In digital, Sprint has set a high bar: they were an early adopter of analytics and personalization technologies, many driven by AI and machine learning, and have been leaders in customer experience management (CXM). The next chapter for the brand is going to be focused on blending channels together even more and meeting customers on their terms. It is a simple proposition, but one that has alluded many companies. As a longtime user of Adobe Analytics, data has been the guiding light in driving this seamless customer experience.
For Sprint, the customer experience is anything but linear. While many brands face this challenge, it is particularly true in retail environments where people still enjoy going to a physical store. A customer could begin their journey with Sprint through seeing the latest deals on their smartphone, visit a local store to demo products and eventually order online, then pick up in-store. Sprint’s overarching strategy is to create what they call an “elegant handshake” between each of these individual channels and minimize the number of steps to get from point A to B. And as the customer moves from online to in-store, to interacting with customer service and so on, cues are also being picked up along the way to ensure that every next step is contextually relevant and personalized based on that individual’s relationship stage with the company.
The orchestration of this customer experience is driven by data as the backbone, with AI and machine learning via Adobe Sensei to support advanced data analysis and drive accuracy in personalization. As an example, Sprint can identify segments of people who are more likely to make a purchase in-store (as opposed to the website). For these individuals, the “handshake” between web and the store is optimized so that a few simple clicks gets the desired product to a local store, with an associate informed and ready to help. The strategy creates a living and breathing customer experience, one where nobody is forced down one path. Sprint is constantly experimenting with different journeys, looking at how factors like demographics and credit class impact what customers need.
According to Jeff Henshaw, vice president of digital product & analytics for Sprint: “Retailers are trying to deliver a more connected shopping experience. Our desire is to enable customers to interact and transact with us on their terms. Often times, that means cross channel touches throughout the customer journey. Therefore, we work hard to bridge the digital and physical worlds by building journeys informed by data. Adobe Analytics has played a critical role in our efforts to understand user behaviors and discover traits that dictate how we build and personalize experiences.”
A recipe for customer experience
True Customer Experience Management (CXM) requires more than just great technology. Best-in-class tools provide little value if the company culture and processes are not aligned around a common rally cry. With analytics, we often see that brands will claim to be data-driven, but when it comes down to actual strategy and decision-making, they will reject data if it goes against preconceived notions. Embracing technology needs to be coupled with an acknowledgement of human nature and different working styles.
“The Hive” as they call it, has been central to Sprint’s customer experience strategy. It brings together innovators from across functions to solve challenges like BOPIS. Central to this program is alignment that data starts every conversation (and not the other way around). Access to data is fully democratized so that whether it is a data scientist or a product manager, everyone has access to Adobe Analytics and can curate insights that are most useful to their function. Primary focus is not around channel success (such as website traffic) but customer success instead, with all efforts geared towards creating the most elegant and intuitive “handshakes”.
Sprint uses Adobe Experience Cloud and its analytics, AI/machine learning, data management platform (DMP), web content management and personalization tools to become a true Customer Experience Management company. Learn more here.