As any marketer will tell you, modern-day technology has created opportunities for brands to engage with customers in ways that were previously unthinkable. With the use of geo-location and push notifications within smartphones, communication can be made with the customer regardless of the time of day or activity being performed. But, with the evolution of mobile has also been a transformation in the customer journey – and therefore the need for brands to deliver an augmented and dynamic end-to-end customer experience.
Rather than simply making products widely available and tailoring offerings to a customer’s unique tastes and channel preferences, brands must take work off of the customer during all phases of the journey: from product discovery to distribution to consumption. Uber Eats has excelled in this domain by presenting the most relevant eateries to the user based on purchase history, restaurant proximity and food availability. Upon placement of an order, the customer can track its location, status and ETA in real-time using Uber’s maps API and its interface with restaurants and couriers.
In the above example, a customer can continue his daily activity, without having to divert attention to food arrival. In similar fashion, McDonalds’ future mobile ordering feature will use geo-location technology to determine when to begin food preparation. Within hospitality, the Marriott app enables guests to request room accommodations, such as additional pillows, with just a few taps. In all three examples, friction is removed from product distribution and consumption, affording the customer more flexibility and convenience throughout the process.
Once a brand has removed friction from all major stages of the customer experience, it must find ways to enrich its interface with the customer, making the experience personal and unique. This is precisely what Uber is designing with its “Trip Experiences” feature, which will transform what used to be a standard commute into a captivating excursion tailored to a passenger’s destination, ride purpose and personal preferences.
Leveraging the “content marketplace” within the Uber app, passengers can learn more about attractions and businesses close to their destination, communicate directly with the service provider (e.g., checking into a hotel room) or browse entertainment and/or work applications during the commute. Suddenly, the service has expanded from a local ride to an integrated experience aligned with the purpose of the ride.
Starbucks has been able to deliver this very experience in its physical stores. It leverages its renowned mobile app to reward customers in real-time, allow them to tip baristas and enable browsing of menu items from their seat. The Starbucks app is integrated with music playlists at each store, so that a customer can discover the song playing at the shop where he is studying while simultaneously enjoying a Starbucks beverage. The experience is both frictionless and distinct from that of a Dunkin Donuts visit.
For retailers and restaurants in particular, the opportunity is large to leverage mobile technology to augment and enrich the customer experience. A grocer may introduce an app that is integrated with unique store designs and inventories so that customers can more easily find products. A sporting goods store may deploy QR codes that customers can scan for additional information on specs and subsequently select an option for delivery. Restaurants may leverage beacons to have specials and other menu items appear on the screens of customers’ smartphones when seated.
The brands that have succeeded in this domain have taken into account all aspects of its product or service that touch the customer, rather than simply selling its product. They have instituted experiences where the consumer is interacting with the brand in a way that establishes an intimate connection and drives loyalty over time. Finally, the powerful customer experiences of today are almost always a product of effectively marrying mobile technology with customer-centric business processes.