10 Inspiring TED Talk Videos Every Digital Leader Should Watch

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What is better than a fair amount of inspiring TED Talk videos to kick off the new year? The digital leaders must stay always on top of things, ready to put their beliefs into question. We live in an age where the only constant is the constant change, after all.

Whether you are trying to improve your business strategy, to establish yourself as a true guide for your employees, or simply to find your inner motivation, there is a TED Talk waiting for you.

Through the years, the world’s leading thinkers have made their mark with brief - and yet disruptive - speeches, ranging from marketing to technology, from creativity to self improvement. As a fact, we have gathered lots of “ideas worth spreading”, and we have now something close to 2.000 talks available online.

You don’t have to feel overwhelmed, though, because we have done the hard work for you. We have selected 10 of the most inspiring TED Talks ever, those that have affected us as digital marketers and entrepreneurs.

YOUR ELUSIVE CREATIVE GENIUS - ELIZABETH GILBERT

Elizabeth Gilbert, the bestselling author of Eat Pray Love, “shares the radical idea that, instead of the rare person being a genius, all of us have a genius.

WHERE GOOD IDEAS COME FROM - STEVEN JOHNSON

Steven Johnson, the author of Mind Wide Open, talks about the birth of ideas. People often thinks they are individual ‘Eureka’ moments but maybe history tells something different.

HOW GREAT LEADERS INSPIRE ACTION - SIMON SINEK

Simon Sinek, the author of Start With Why, shares his powerful model for inspirational leadership. A model that starts with a golden circle and the question ‘Why?’

WHAT CONSUMERS WANT - JOSEPH PINE

You know we are obsessed with the importance of the customer experience. Joseph Pine, author of Mass Customization, tells us why authenticity is so hard to sell.

CHOICE, HAPPINESS AND SPAGHETTI SAUCE - MALCOLM GLADWELL

What does it have to do a spaghetti sauce with the power of choices and the pursuit of happiness? Follow Tipping Point author Malcolm Gladwell and you will know.

404, THE STORY OF A PAGE NOT FOUND - RENNY GLEESON

We all have experienced the 404 - Page Not Found. Is it a failure in the connection between a brand and a customer? Or an incredible choice to build relationships? Ask the expert Renny Gleeson.

YOUR BODY LANGUAGE SHAPES WHO YOU ARE - AMY CUDDY

Your body language affects how others see you, band how you see yourself. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy shows how ‘power posing’ might have an impact on your life.

THE PUZZLE OF MOTIVATION - DAN PINK

Everyone needs motivation in his life. Career analyst Daniel Pink shares his experience, starting with something that marketers often ignore: Traditional rewards aren't always effective.

VIRTUAL REALITY AND THE EMPATHY MACHINE - CHRIS MILK

On the tech side of the TED, this one by Chris Milk is one of the best talks ever. Virtual reality, storytelling, interactions, emotions, even business: you will find this and much more.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN OUR COMPUTERS GET SMARTER THAN WE ARE - NICK BOSTROM

We close the list with Nick Bostrom's talk, because the topic has never been so current and intriguing. Is it true that machines are becoming smarter than humans? And, if so, how will the world change?

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2016 will be the year of conversational commerce.” With these very words Chris Messina, Developer Experience Lead at Uber, introduced in 2015 the idea of conversational commerce as the main trend of customer-facing apps.

Today, with the chatbot mania in full swing, it is time to review this topic, and see what has happened in the tech world since the pioneering Uber’s first integration into Facebook Messenger. And how this trend is affecting the digital customer experience.

Powered by Uber’s API, Messenger has enabled users to sign up for Uber with one tap and request a ride, even if they had not downloaded the Uber app. All important information were delivered to a private conversation between the customer and Uber on Messenger, without having to leave the discussion.

The landscape, as we know it, is made of mobile devices that disrupt the way people communicate, share, and connect with each other (and with brands). The spread of the smartphone has brought the entire world into the hands of customers, and for years they have experienced it using mostly mobile browsers and apps.

Now, things are slowly - but steadily - changing. The first step in this evolution comes with the huge success of messaging applications. WeChat, Telegram, Facebook Messenger, Kik, Slack come in the form of apps but they are not like all the other apps. They show that it is possible to engage customers in a more meaningful way. In a conversational way.

When you look at it from a business perspective, the difference between the traditional and the conversational patterns is evident: in the first one there is interaction but not real-time communication (just think about the push notification); the conversational one, instead, is all about ‘the right moment’. Content and context become so tangled up that you can have one without the other.

Some analysts already say that we are moving towards an ecosystem where the conversational commerce could live without the apps, with the improvement of the vocal assistants (i.e. Siri, Cortana, Google Now), or the development of alternative technologies (i.e. Amazon Echo, Google Instant Apps).

Right now, however, messaging is so huge that it is no wonder more and more brands are willing to join the league. According to eMarketer, 1.4 billion customers used messaging apps in 2015 (31.6% more than 2014), and we will hit 2 billion by 2018. Around 75% of the world’s Internet users use these services, not only chat with friends but also to connect with companies, make a purchase, and get help.

We are seeing at work the same forces that have shaped the social commerce trend in the last two years: Brands discover and embrace the business potential of a tool created to entertain.

What happened with Facebook is now happening with Facebook Messenger, ultimately unveiling what Mark Zuckerberg predicted at the 2015 F8 Conference: Messenger will become a business platform, in the name of a superior customer experience.

That is exactly what we are witnessing today, with the chatbots running all over the place, and bot stores growing within the apps. It is not by chance that Facebook has announced the launch of an API connected to the e-commerce Spring, which will allow users to communicate directly with the service in private chats.

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Since messaging apps now attract more monthly active users than social networks, it is no surprise that companies see them an ideal vehicle for delivering a better experience, creating deeper customer engagement and retention, and ultimately sell more.

The bots (r)evolution is only one piece of the conversational puzzle, and yet bots are attracting attention and investments because their promise is tempting: The automation of services and the creation of more meaningful interactions with customers, at the lowest price.

Conversational commerce (as I see it) largely pertains to utilizing chat, messaging, or other natural language interfaces (i.e. voice) to interact with people, brands, or services and bots that heretofore have had no real place in the bidirectional, asynchronous messaging context.” (Chris Messina)

Chatbots, and conversational technologies in general blend human elements, machine learning, and artificial intelligence so that you do not really know whether you are engaging with a human being or a software.

If properly developed, this is the real deal for the improvement of the digital customer experience. A win-win situation for both the customer and the company:

  • Customers could chat with support representatives, ask for product suggestions, compare product alternatives, get personalized recommendations and offers, purchase with a tap, all from within the messaging app.
  • Companies could automate customer service routines, resolve the issues rapidly, engage in real-time, provide order information and delivery notifications, recommend products (up-sell, cross-sell), analyze wishlists to tailor offers.

The synergy between the conversational commerce and the mobile messaging has the potential to revolutionize how customers connect with brands. It is a step closer to make the online shopping experience more akin to that in the store.

Of course, technology is just a tool, not the purpose. Once again, the main focus should be on creating and delivering an experience that is utterly unique, satisfying and engaging for the customer. Only then the chatbots will be good news for the business and the people.

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Chatbots: The Real Deal For The Future Of Customer Experience?

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They live among us; they have conversations with us; they help us in many ways, and can even anticipate our dreams. Yet, they are not humans. We call them Chatbots (a.k.a. Chatterbots), and they might be the real deal for companies wanting to improve the customer experience.

We hear a lot about Chabots these days. "It is technology that is inevitable", with the very words of Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. Is it really? Why is everyone obsessed with bots?

First of all, what are Chatbots? Simply said, they are artificial entities designed to automate the tasks you would usually do on your own (making a dinner reservation, scheduling an appointment). Today, they are mostly used to maintain an intelligent conversation with human users, while constantly learning from the context. We have already seen them in the form of softwares (SmarterChild) and integrated assistants (Cortana, Siri). They will soon become something more.

There is no doubt that Machine Intelligence is already a major trend, one of those that will define the boundaries of business in the years to come. To quote the speech by Pedro Domingos, the author of The Master Algorithm, at the SXSW 2016: “Artificial Intelligence is not so scary as it seems when it translates into artificial smartness.

Well, Chatbots are exactly heading towards that smartness. It is the nature of things: Just like human beings evolve, as a consequence of the changes in the social and technological environments, so do bots. They become more refined and proactive right before our eyes.

Of course, some ‘futurists’ have already announced that, in the next decades, we are going to live in a dystopian nightmare where you cannot say what is human and what is not. Sure, Philip K. Dick would have gladly used a character like Microsoft’s Tay - the A.I. powered bot that has turned Twitter upside down with nazist and obscene comments.

Said that Tay is set to come back online after an accurate review and various adjustments, Microsoft’s epic fail does not indicate the failure of bots. It rather demonstrate that even the most intelligent machine needs protection against human behaviors.

While technology is neither good nor evil, engineers have a responsibility to make sure it is not designed in a way that will reflect back the worst of humanity.” (TechCrunch)

Put together virtual entities and experiments like the Scarlett Johansson robot, and you may think that we are close to fully realize what Jean Baudrillard prospected in 1981: the arrival of the third order of simulacra, where the distinction between reality and representation vanishes.

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THE HISTORY OF BOTS

Things, of course, are quite more complex. We have learned from the success of virtual and augmented reality that the real world is not enough to fulfill the dreams and desires of digital customers. We do not go online, we live online. Every single activity we carry on in the digital world has effects on the physical reality.

Actually, computer programs which conducts a conversation via auditory or textual methods are not exactly newborn. Since Alan Turing introduced the renowned ‘Turing Test’ - a criterion to distinguish real humans from computers mimicking human behaviors - scientists have tried to fool the test using conversational programs.

ELIZA, created in 1966 by Joseph Weizenbaum, can be considered the first in-embryo example of an artificial intelligence able to move a conversation forward. It wasn’t really ‘smart’ but laid the foundations for the future developments, from the chatterbots that filled the chat rooms and instant messaging softwares (Windows Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger) straight to IBM’s Watson and the infamous Tay.

Bots (as we know them) date back to the dawn of the Internet era. One of the first examples was Bartender, a service which suggested drinks to its users. Then AOL’s Instant Messenger, a pioneer in the messaging services, introduced SmarterChild, an early version of a virtual assistant. And, of course, who can forget Clippy, The Office Assistant?

Moving from desktop computer to mobile devices, Chatbots have found a brand new life in the so-called personal assistants, such as Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana and - last but not least - Google Now. These are interesting warning signs of what was about to happen.

The spread of the smartphone and mobile apps leads us to the point where Chatbots can be more than useful for simple requests. It is in the mobile ecosystem that this technology will ultimately go from a series of experiments to a real business tool.

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THE FUTURE OF BOTS

In the time span that separates SmarterChild from Tay, chatterbots have not gone lost. They were only waiting for better days to come. Many companies have invested in the improvement of services based on artificial intelligence, trying to find a way to bridge the gap between machines and users.

It is no wonder, then, that Mark Zuckerberg has announced that the main focus for the F8 conference this year will be bots. It is the natural consequence of what the founder of Facebook already promised last year: namely, to convert Facebook Messenger from a random messaging app into a powerful business channel to improve the relationship with customers.

One important thing: Not all Chatbots are the same. Some are smart, some are not. Some are useful, some just play with you. Some work in complete autonomy, some still rely on human intervention. But the path is evident: the evolution of bots will make them smarter and totally independent.

Here lies the gap between what Facebook wants and where it is right now: MoneyPenny, the all-in-one virtual assistant, is today still powered by humans. On the contrary, Pana, an online travel agency, is an example of a bot which relies on both automation and humans, to turn text messages into bookings.

BOTS AND CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE

Will bots really define the future of customer experience? The idea is to create a bot that can assist, find the right answer and help customers without any external intervention. How? Using the apps to go beyond the apps as they are today.

The ultimate goal is to create something that will - finally - make customers’ life easier. Instead of wasting time switching manually from one app to the other, the user will just have to ask his question and his full time personal assistant will do the whole work.

You want to know what will be the temperature next weekend? You can ask a Chatbot and it will tell you. No need to open the browser or the weather app. In this terms, “Chatbots are the latest, greatest attempt to improve a user experience without having to hire legions of hand holding customer service operatives.

There is already a long list of ways businesses try to connect with customers; the essential difference is that Chatbots “give the human the illusion that they are communicating with an entity that understands and can generate sentences that make sense.” (Marketplace)

Chatterbots seem to set a win-win situation, both for developers and clients:

  • On the one side we have developers betting on the success of conversational marketplaces. They create new smarter bots and eventually launch selling platforms (Telegram and Kik have already launched that bots platform and store that Facebook is rumored to be building).
  • On the other side we have organizations, perfectly aware that people live online and offline at the same time. They have new tools but the same old business problem: learn how to engage and monetize their customers, delivering meaningful experiences across all channels.

Analysts think that bots might be the next evolution of making something more natural. We think they could represent an invaluable opportunity for brands (above all retail brands) to align the offline/store experience with the persistent online life of their customers.

Connect Chatbots, predictive analytics, eye-tracking and behavioral studies, and you will start to recognize the scenario. To say it with Kik's CEO Ted Livingston, "Over time where we see the killer application for bots is in the offline world."

While we wait to understand what Facebook, Google, Apple, Amazon and other players have in store, we leave you with a question: Will bots eventually replace humans?

To help you provide a strategic advantage to your organization, Neosperience has crafted the first DCX 7-Steps Checklist, with requirements and insights for a successful digital transformation. Download the free guide here:

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Gartner’s Top 10 Technology Trends for 2016 To Improve Your Business

"My interest is in the future because I am going to spend the rest of my life there." (C.F. Kettering)

What technologies will impact organizations from 2016 on? As the end of year approaches, it is natural to look back at the highlights of the past. If you are an innovative digital leader, though, you will agree that it is way more useful to look ahead and try to foresee what is going to happen next.

That is exactly what Gartner’s analysts do every year, tracing the main technology trends that will define the borders of business transformation for the next future. As usual in the digital era, evolution is all about disruption.

First of all, what kind of trends should be considered in this list? Gartner defines a strategic technology trend as “one with the potential for significant impact on the organization. Factors that denote significant impact include a high potential for disruption to the business, end users or IT, the need for a major investment, or the risk of being late to adopt.

These technologies are very different but they share a common trait: they impact the company's long-term development plans, customer experience programs and marketing initiatives.

Last year, in this very same period, we were discussing the 2015 release of Gartner’s technology report. The innovative trends traced could be divided into three major areas of interest:

  • The merging of the real and virtual worlds;
  • The advent of intelligence everywhere;
  • The technology impact of the digital business shift.

Some trends were already evident at the time of the release, others were still in nuce or ready to explode. In a customer’s perspective, all of them had the potential to change forever the way companies define their digital customer experience and build meaningful connections.

Of course, one year is not enough to show the real potential of complex disruptive devices (i.e. this is the case of context-rich systems, the Internet of Things and smart machines). To some extent, the real effects will be fully displayed in the next five years or so. If you want to know more, just take a look at our in-depth analysis.

Now it is time to focus on the newly-released report about Gartner’s Top 10 Technology Trends for 2016. In the words of David Cearley, vice president and Gartner Fellow:

"Gartner's top 10 strategic technology trends will shape digital business opportunities through 2020. The first three trends address merging the physical and virtual worlds and the emergence of the digital mesh. While organizations focus on digital business today, algorithmic business is emerging. Algorithms — relationships and interconnections — define the future of business. In algorithmic business, much happens in the background in which people are not directly involved. This is enabled by smart machines, which our next three trends address. Our final four trends address the new IT reality, the new architecture and platform trends needed to support digital and algorithmic business."

You may not implement all of them at the same rate but one thing is for sure: you will have to make decisions about them during 2016, if you want to improve your customer experience strategy and - as a result - strengthen the relationship with your customers.

THE DEVICE MESH

In the mobile era, customers live submerged in an ever-connected ecosystem, shaped by different mobile technologies. The device mesh refers to this expanding set of endpoints used to access information or interact with people and brands. Today, a successful business strategy is not even conceivable without all these devices, more and more able to communicate with each other: smartphone, wearables, smartwatch, smart TV, domotics, connected cars, iBeacons, the Internet of Things.

AMBIENT USER EXPERIENCE

Digital technologies delete the limits of physical existence, pushing the experience to a whole new level. Virtual reality - and augmented reality - become the perfect companion for companies to deliver immersive experiences, and engage customers emotionally. Delivering the brand values in the process. The ambient user experience preserves continuity, and the experience seamlessly flows across a shifting set of devices and interaction channels as the user moves from physical to virtual.

3D PRINTING MATERIALS

3D printing was already in last year’s list but, from 2016, it will become more affordable and various. Advances will enable 3D printing to use a wide range of materials, and 3D printing will find its way in different industries, with practical applications including aerospace, medical, automotive, energy and the military. We will witness an annual growth rate of 64.1 percent for enterprise 3D-printer shipments through 2019, claiming space in your budgets and investments.

INFORMATION OF EVERYTHING

Everything in the digital mesh produces, uses and transmits information. This information goes beyond textual, audio and video information to include sensory and contextual information.” The real problem, then, is to make sense of all data, in order to extract useful insights that will lead to the renovation of your strategy. Information of everything addresses this influx with strategies and technologies to link data from all these different data sources.

ADVANCED MACHINE LEARNING

The future of business lies in the adoption of smart and connected tools, able to autonomously learn and - in a retail perspective - predict customer behaviors. “In advanced machine learning, deep neural nets (DNNs) move beyond classic computing and information management to create systems that can learn to perceive the world, on their own. DNNs enable hardware - or software-based machines to learn for themselves all the features in their environment, from the finest details to broad sweeping abstract classes of content.

AUTONOMOUS AGENTS AND THINGS

The creation of a meaningful connection between a brand and customers passes through the connection between people and smart machines (physical and virtual). “Machine learning gives rise to a spectrum of smart machine implementations - including robots, autonomous vehicles, virtual personal assistants (VPAs) and smart advisors. While advances in physical smart machines such as robots get a great deal of attention, the software-based smart machines have a more near-term and broader impact.” Just think about Google Now, Microsoft's Cortana and Apple's Siri.

ADAPTIVE SECURITY ARCHITECTURE

Security is the keyword for an evolution without pitfalls. Data security and infrastructure security. “The complexities of digital business and the algorithmic economy combined with an emerging hacker industry significantly increase the threat surface for an organization. IT leaders must focus on detecting and responding to threats, as well as more traditional blocking and other measures to prevent attacks. Application self-protection, as well as user and entity behavior analytics, will help fulfill the adaptive security architecture.

ADVANCED SYSTEM ARCHITECTURE

The combination of ever-connected customers and communicating machines represent the foundations of digital disruption. A huge challenge for all businesses, that will have to adapt values, strategies and architectures. “Providing this required boost are high-powered and ultraefficient neuromorphic architectures. Fueled by field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) as an underlining technology for neuromorphic architectures, there are significant gains to this architecture, such as being able to run at speeds of greater than a teraflop with high-energy efficiency.

MESH APP AND SERVICE ARCHITECTURE

All companies willing to develop a mobile app will have to face a critical change of perspective, from linear application designs to a more loosely coupled integrative approach, focused on Web-scale performance, flexibility and agility: the apps and services architecture. “Microservice architecture is an emerging pattern for building distributed applications that support agile delivery and scalable deployment, both on-premises and in the cloud. Bringing mobile and IoT elements into the app and service architecture creates a comprehensive model to address back-end cloud scalability and front-end device mesh experiences.

INTERNET OF THINGS PLATFORMS

We are surrounded by increasingly intelligent devices and objects able to talk to each other without human intervention. The Internet of Things is the final frontier in connecting users’ entire physical life to the digital world, a further step in the evolution started by mobile devices. “IoT platforms complement the mesh app and service architecture. The management, security, integration and other technologies and standards of the IoT platform are the base set of capabilities for building, managing and securing elements in the IoT.

 

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: 10 Inventions That Will Revolutionize Retail Customer Experience

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Apple Watch: Why Your Digital Customers Love The Smartwatch

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Is the Apple Watch the innovation your digital customers are looking for? Sure, the smartwatch is not a recent invention, but only now it is becoming a business success. Estimates for the first quarter of 2015 talk about 3 to 5 million units sold. Add the multitude of Android Wear and you will have the whole picture of a promising market.

This could be enough for an answer, but the real truth always lies beyond cold numbers. Success or failure of the Apple Watch will decide the role of the smartwatch in the redefinition of digital customer experience and - as a consequence - of your digital marketing strategy.

We will remember 2014 as the year companies seriously approached the smartwatch as a business tool. That was one year ago. Now that Apple’s brand new watch is a reality on store shelves, it’s legitimized the entire industry. Setting the watch as the new trend, because that’s what Apple does best.

There has been much hype around the market, but not mass adoption yet. Things are destined to change very soon. Despite all criticism and skepticism, 2015 will be probably remembered as the year the Apple Watch became the object of desire. For brands and digital customers, for CEOs, CIOs and CMOs.

The watch, together with the one-touch mobile payment system and the Healthkit platform, is the product Apple is focusing on to establish the brand as more than “those of the iPod/iPhone”. And reshape (once again) the mobile customer experience in the process. A fair bet if you think about it.

The focus is - now more than ever - on the digital customer. The experience you deliver is the key to succeeding in this era of digital transformation, not the technology that enables you to deliver it. The reason why the watch is considered Apple’s “most personal device yet”, something unlike any device they have ever made.

New interactions, new technologies to empower the customer to do familiar things more quickly and intuitively. If you are able to adopt this approach - at the same time ordinary and revolutionary - you will understand why the smartwatch can really disrupt your business. The small screen won’t be a problem anymore, neither the price.

As the market grows, and the rate of adoption runs fast (faster than the smartphone, actually), early-adopter brands are already looking for innovative ways to include the smartwatch into their digital customer journey.

The stakes are higher than ever: the ability to engage high-spending customers, conquer their heart and connect with them when it matters most. When they are near or in the store, and ready to make purchase decisions. The essence of the wearable revolution.

The realignment of your digital marketing strategy for this new era needs to start by extending the idea of mobile from smartphone/tablet to include this powerful new tool, the smartwatch.

One shiny object will shake up the wearable market, ready to cause a change in customer behavior and customer experience (both for B2C and B2B companies). The Apple Watch is way more than a self-tracker for fitness activities. As Angela McIntyre, research director at Gartner, perfectly summed up:

There is a ‘killer app’ of sorts, it is convenience. Convenience mainly from being able to leave your phone in your bag, pocket or at home. Smartwatches put people in control of their communications instead of letting the smartphone be in control of them. Smartwatches have the potential to keep us connected, but in a more convenient way.

Where is the true value of the smartwatch? What features can you leverage to appeal digital customers?

APPS

Mobile app development, specifically dedicated to the watch, is still a territory largely untapped, but full of opportunities. Even with all their limitations, the smartwatch versions of iOS and Android offer plenty of features, both for third-party developers and brands willing to improve lead generation and customer engagement (i.e. see the brand-new Neosperience Watch Wand).

PAYMENTS

If mobile technology is changing the way we pay for the things we buy, there is no better option than the smartwatch to disrupt the mobile payment system. Relying on the contactless payment technology and unique security built-in features, Apple Pay and the Apple Watch have a clear promise: let you pay in a simple, secure and easier than ever way. Mobile companies fight for your (digital) wallet.

HEALTH

Say wearable technology and they will think about self-tracking. Though there is much more than meets the eye, fitness and health measurement make the core of many watch features (Healthkit anyone?). No wonder from the very first day all models have had built-in sensors that gather and analyze all sorts of personal data: activity, heart rate, walking distance. Healthy living is also a technological imperative.

INTERNET OF THINGS

Digital customers live in a world of connections, with other people, with the entire world and, last but not least, with the objects around them. The Internet of Things is the final tile in the interconnection between physical and digital worlds. The smartwatch could soon replace the smartphone as the primary method to control this world: smart home, smart car, smart office.

The key to the amazing experience your digital customer have been asking for.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: 4 Ways Virtual Reality Can Help You Improve Customer Experience

To help you provide a strategic advantage to your organization, Neosperience has crafted the first DCX 7-Steps Checklist, with requirements and insights for a successful digital transformation. Download the free guide here:

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8 Retail Trends Transforming the Shopping Experience From 2015

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Retail and smartphones, a story of love and hate. It is clear that mobile technology not only affects sales in the 'online territory'; it also has a much broader impact on retail customer experience in general.

The digital transformation involves how we search for product information, what we buy, how when and where. Basically, it changes in-store customer behavior, driving the value of in-store sales. The future lies behind a wave of retail trends transforming the shopping experience.

Since the Internet first entered our home, it was pretty clear that buying patterns were destined to evolve. When mobile connections and - above all - the smartphone were added to the equation, the behavior of retail customers changed forever. And so did the very idea of ‘store’.

All studies highlight the evidence that the traditional physical store we grew up with is inadequate to appeal empowered customers of the digital era, and to respond to the challenge of e-commerce.

Yet retailers are “dramatically underestimating the influence of digital and are caught in a divide where they are making digital investments that primarily support their e-commerce business rather than their brick-and-mortar business.

A truth stated by ‘Navigating the new digital divide’, a survey conducted by Deloitte Digital to understand how customers engage with digital when shopping, and to quantify how these interactions influence retail customer experience.

Digital influence – that is, the degree to which in-store sales are influenced by digital at some point in the shopping journey – is growing at an increasing pace. We are fast approaching a day when we can assume 100 percent of shoppers will be connected 100 percent of the time.

As a consequence of digital disruption, a one-sided approach to retail marketing strategy is potentially catastrophic for your business; it is like randomly walking blindfolded. An omni-channel approach (mobile-first) is the only adequate move: a complete digital customer journey rather than separate e-commerce and physical retail experiences.

Only on the surface traditional retail and online retail are two different things. They’re just the two sides of the same business coin, caught in the maze of evolution. Check the following numbers from the same research:

  • 64% of all in-store sales will be influenced by digital by the end of 2015;
  • 33% of customers say they spend more when they use digital as part of their shopping experience;
  • Customers are 29% more likely to buy the same day when they use social media during their journey;
  • Customers engaged with social media while shopping are 4x more likely to spend more;
  • 45% of customers say digital is essential to make in-store buying easier;
  • 67% of customers look for info and read product reviews on their way to the store.

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For decades, the core of retail growth strategy revolved around promotion, place and price. But that was before the mobile mind shift came in to shake up the rules of shopping. We live now an era of rapid technological advancement, with Internet and mobile devices as catalysts for a massive change in the retail & consumer goods industry.

They have changed the industry with a much deeper impact than most retailers actually understand, and over the next ten years there is going to be more change than in the last fifty. What kind of change? Here we outline 10 major paths of evolution that will define the future of retail.

MILLENNIALS POWER

There is no doubt that millennials are critical to decide who wins (or lose) the retail brand challenge. As native digital citizens, they grew up with smartphone, social media and e-commerce. Millennials are the most powerful force in Western economies: their 2015 spending is estimated to be between 1 and 2.45 trillion dollars. Successful retail will be experience-driven retail, across all touch points and channels.

MICRO MOMENTS

Over the last few months, Google released a research that has major implications for brands wanting to succeed in the mobile landscape. Well aware of the impact of the smartphone - in 2015 mobile searches surpassed desktop searches - Google wants you to fragment customer’s life into micro moments, driven by specific intents. That means your traditional marketing funnel is outdated and inadequate to engage the new customer.

MOBILE JOURNEY

Mobile devices and mobile apps become mandatory to map your customer journey in the digital era. Only then you will be able to identify all critical touch points your clients go through when connecting with your brand and products. Customer journey mapping will ultimately help you to identify areas for improvement and establish the appropriate technology to improve the experience across all stages of the life cycle.

SOCIAL COMMERCE

Forget the store, forget the e-store: the next battleground for innovative retailers is called social commerce. Right now people spend more time on Facebook & Co. than on any other site; they use social connections to talk with friends, search for information and share opinions about brand and products. ‘Buy buttons’ already show up on your news feed, and soon we may all buy tapping on a Pin, an image, a featured post or a tweet.

INTERNET OF THINGS

Now that the Internet connects not only people but also objects, the retail customer experience is going to withstand a major upgrade. The Internet of Things can be considered the extreme frontier in connecting customers’ entire physical life to the digital world. This further evolution will have two major effects on retail business: change the way companies create, distribute and sell their products; change the way customers experience the store.

PROXIMITY MARKETING

One side effect of the convergence between the Internet of Things and the spread of mobile devices is the dawn of a new way to connect with customers. It is called proximity marketing and leverages technology to engage clients when they are near or inside the physical store. The iBeacon is one perfect tool to deliver context-aware contents, engage with customers and personalize the shopping experience.

MOBILE PAYMENTS

While we won’t say goodbye to paper cash anytime soon, it was inevitable that mobile technology would also change the way we pay for the things we buy. Customers are moving away from traditional cards, eager to embrace new means of payment. Bitcoins, social transactions, wearables and the Apple Watch pave the way for the future of banking and financial services.

VIRTUAL REALITY

The key to deliver an amazing digital customer experience is to harness the enabling power of technology, focusing on customers’ needs. Virtual reality and augmented reality, in this perspective, are perfect to create an immersive new level of reality, engaging customers with gamification dynamics, supporting the purchase decision, and enhancing the experience (i.e. Neosperience Showroom).

All in all, most purchase decisions happen in front of a screen (mostly a smartphone screen) rather than in-store. Deal with it and rethink your marketing and engagement strategy, capitalizing on digital influence to improve retail customer experience.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: Retail Marketing Strategy: 5 Steps To Renew Customer Experience

To help you ensure a strategic advantage to your organization, learn about the DCX 7-Steps Checklist crafted by Neosperience, with requirements and insights for a successful digital transformation.

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Wearable Technology: 3 Trends For The Future of Quantified Self

wearable_fashion

There could be wearables for everyone. Far from being fancy gadgets made to impress coworkers and friends, the smartwatch and all wearable technology seem destined to build a solid market, possibly taking a large share from smartphones and tablets.

While companies are still trying to figure out how to include them into their mobile marketing strategy, smart watches, glasses and wristbands are already reshaping the customer journey. And that’s just the beginning: even more disruptive wearables may come very soon.

The adoption rate is somewhat incredible, if you think about it: according to the most recent forecast data from the International Data Corporation (IDC), vendors will ship a total of 45.7 million units in 2015 (133.4% more than 2014). By 2019, that number is projected to reach 126.1 million units.

Right now, the smartwatch and health & fitness trackers lead the way, accounting for about 80% of the total market. But there’s more than meets the eye: many leading-edge projects are on their way to bring different concepts of wearable tech to life. Some may fail but others may change our life.

The new generation of wearables will surely solve the main problem that affected the perception of the first models. That is: prices considered too high, with customers not really understanding how this technology might really benefit them.

Google Glass, Oculus Rift, the first Apple Watch: amazing pieces of innovation, infinite potential, but why should I spend all my money on them? No more than one year ago, numbers recounted of a 30% return rate and even higher product abandonment after six months.

Now we are all starting to understand the real distinctive value. Once again we need to say thank you to Apple WWDC and Google I/O, both focused on the smartwatch. Equipped with powerful operating systems and designed to meet fashion, Apple Watch and Android Wear have injected a new lifeblood into the market, responding to the ‘lack of functionalities and style’ issue.

As it happens frequently, however, the adoption rate shows a gap between users and companies. Following the success of activity & fitness trackers, wearables have soon become part of customers’ life, mostly used to fulfill their need for:

  • Connected self: since the Internet came out of our houses, mobile devices have become extensions of our body, the first reference when we need information.

  • Quantified self: now that we disseminate our identity throughout the web, we want to use those data to analyze our life and perfect our existence.

On the other side of the coin we find brands, desperately looking for new ways to engage connected customers but still struggling to include wearables into their customer experience strategy.

In the age of the mobile mind shift, they sense that wearable technology is perfect to deliver proximity marketing contents, but how? While they ponder, it’s already clear that the introduction of innovative products is expected to significantly influence business interest in smart wearables.

What qualities the wearable of the future will have to have? In a recent article about this topic, Wired has drawn attention to the following elements:

  • Invisible: components will get smaller and integrated with garments.

  • Personalized: brands will focus on a personalized approach to wearables.

  • Accurate: in the era of Big Data, tracking will become more and more precise.

  • Efficient: powerful technology will require energy-saving power supply.

  • Respectful: privacy of data collected will become critical for customers’ acceptance.

  • Sentient: wearables will need to evolve and grow as customers evolve and grow.

  • Inter-connected: all technology we wear will communicate and fully integrate.

  • Seamless: wearables and the Internet of Things will become one amazing world.

All researches indicate consumer electronics and healthcare segments as the major growth areas but, thanks to integrations and unique features (GPS, monitoring, sensors), they will easily find applications in diverse industries including fashion, defense and sports. Even luxury brands will need to respond to the new trend, with exclusive wearable pieces to lure the high income customers.

And the market is also rapidly clearing up a further misunderstanding: wearables means more than just sports watches and wellness wristbands - popularized by Jawbone Up in 2011. All around the net we find imaginative speculations about what will happen next in this potentially disruptive industry.

The army, obviously, is at the forefront of this revolution. Let's see how customer experience will change in the near future.

WEARABLE STYLE

Gartner believes that the area with the greatest potential for growth is the smart garment category, forecast to increase from 0.1 million units sold in 2014 to 26 million units in 2016. Many designers and tech start-ups already focus their efforts on the fashion side of the wearables: smart socks, trackable accessories, weather-sensitive clothes, solar powered hi-tech dresses, LED bags. You will really wear your style.

WEARABLE LIFE

Wearables could soon lead us all toward a better life. Not by coincidence, right now investors open their wallet more willingly when wearable tech is adopted in the wellness and healthcare industries. Easy to understand why: fitness is today the main framework for applied wearables (trackers but also smart clothes); healthcare, on the other hand, is an open market with millions at stake, mostly from public investments. Apple's HealthKit is just the tip of a profitable iceberg.

WEARABLE GAMES

Soon we will remember the Wiimote as a relic from the past. The new frontier for videogames is called 'total immersion'. When the joypad is not enough, you need something more to feel the game. Virtual reality - think about Samsung Gear VR and Oculus Rift - is just one possibility. Wearables could have a double effect: bring videogame design into the real world (i.e. Microsoft Hololens) and bring people into the virtual world they are playing (i.e. Disney Playmation).

Wearable tech is a fascinating field to study, and is still premature to predict what features or shapes will prevail in the future. For the very first time computing is small enough to be worn or even dressed, and surely there are marketing opportunities out there we don’t even imagine right now.

What we know is that the customer journey as we experience it today will probably become outdated. Brands will have to rebuild it from scratch, starting from our wrist, head, eyes and body.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: The Evolution Of Mobile Customer Experience: 4 Steps To Improve

To help you ensure a strategic advantage to your organization, learn about the DCX 7-Steps Checklist crafted by Neosperience, with requirements and insights for a successful digital transformation.

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Mobile Engagement: Google’s Micro Moments Change The Rules

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Do you remember the Mobilegeddon? In the last two months, Google has announced several updates to the search engine algorithm and AdWords: all in the name of the mobile mind shift.

The updates were in response to the impact of the smartphone on the way customers make purchase decisions. Google wants you to think in terms of Micro Moments, ‘in the moment’ opportunities that will change the rules of mobile engagement.

There was a clear statement behind the mobile-friendly update and the new image-format ads: mobile devices have completely disrupted the way people communicate and connect with others, products and brands.

What used to be our predictable, daily sessions online have been replaced by many fragmented interactions that now occur instantaneously. There are hundreds of these moments every day - checking the time, texting a spouse, chatting with friends on social media.” (Google)

As the smartphone becomes an indispensable companion in our daily lives, we are witnessing a change in the way people search for information and decide what product/service fits their needs the best.

Think about it: when you need to find a quick solution to your problem or to scan deeper into a certain topic, the first thing you do is to reach for your smartphone. It is now pure instinct, especially for younger generations.

This is the Age of the Customer in full display: we don’t just go online, we live online.

How will this trend affect different industries (retail and consumer brands above all)? Consider these insights, collected by Google researchers:

  • 91% of smartphone users turn to their phone to look for instant ideas while doing a given task;
  • 82% of users turn to their smartphone while they’re in a store, to decide which product to buy and influence the purchase decision;
  • 62% of users are more likely to take action right away toward solving a new task because they have a smartphone;
  • 90% of smartphone users have used their phone to make progress toward a long term goal or multi-step process while ‘out and about’;
  • 69% of online customers agree that the quality, timing, or relevance of a company's message influences their perception of a brand.

Rather than spending long periods of time to research on a desktop or laptop, we now turn to our mobile devices in a continuous series of small sessions. A completely new customer behavior. The challenge for brands, then, is to be visible and reachable whenever customers pick up their phones during these moments.

Fragmented interactions create multiple touch points across all channels. You can’t leave them out when planning your digital marketing strategy. Customer experience turns into mobile customer experience, and the idea of a linear customer journey is now dead and gone.

The customer journey map, shaped by mobile connectivity, is fractured into hundreds of real-time micro moments, driven by specific intents. Each one is a critical opportunity for your brand to engage customers and guide decisions.

Micro moments, as defined by Google, basically unfold through a set of "I want" demands:

I want to know
I want to go
I want to do
I want to buy

 

They're all micro moments, and they’re the new battleground for brands.” (Google)

With these very words Google has launched the new website Micro-Moments, a place to gather all insights on customers’ mobile behavior, and help marketers understand the opportunities and challenges of connecting with customers when it matters most, with relevant messages.

Brian Solis, one of the first media guru to talk about Google’s micro moments, has clearly stated on Forbes that micro moments are the real game changers for both customers and brands:

Here’s the thing, in these micro-moments you are present or hidden, engaging or disingenuous, helpful or inconvenient. Customers expect answers and direction their way, in the right time, on the device and in the channel they are using.

After defining the ‘Zero Moment of Truth’ - that moment when the customer journey begins with a search - Google takes a further step into the fragmentation of our life as human beings and customers. Breaking the map into smaller, decisive fragments.

Here’s the battlefield you may want to control to become customers’ top choice. The constant flow of communication makes it difficult to differentiate yourself from competitors. Shorter attention-span make it even harder to acquire customers and retain their loyalty:

Google’s concept of micro-moments represent the new frontier (and reality) of digital marketing. It’s all real-time and everything is on demand.” (Brian Solis)

What can you do to ensure that your brand is there when customers need it?

 

Map the Customer Journey

Map to learn exactly what stages people go through when interacting with your brand, starting with the Zero Moment of Truth.

 

 

Trace Key Micro Moments

Use the map to understand those moments when people want to find info, make purchases, learn about products.

 

Identify Customers’ Needs

For any given micro moment, discover the needs, desires and wants that drive customers' behavior. Put yourself into their point of view.

 

Use Big Data to Improve

All the data you gather about customers with mobile technology have the primary purpose to find what you might be missing and should improve.

 

Deliver Content With Context

You can leverage mobile devices to deliver the right content at the right time. Personalized experiences are the key to survive in de-massified markets.

 

Always Exceed Expectations

Study new ways to meet and exceed customers' expectation. As Walt Disney once said, "Whatever you do, do it so well that people will want to come back".

 

Test & Optimize the Journey

Find your set of KPIs and measure results constantly. The only way to know if you're delivering a great experience is to improve while dealing with customers.

 

If the future of society really resembles the picture created by Google, the destiny of your brand identity and digital customer experience starts with identifying these pivotal micro moments. To discover how to take instant action and offer instant gratification to your customers.

"Micro moments happen all the time and all along the consumer decision journey. And they’re becoming the new battleground for brands – where hearts, minds and dollars are won." (Google)

Here's Google livestream event about Micro Moments, with Matt Lawson (Managing Director, Ads Marketing at Google).

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: Google's 3 Tech Trends For 2015 To Improve Digital Customer Experience

 

To help you ensure a strategic advantage to your organization, learn about the DCX 7-Steps Checklist crafted by Neosperience, with requirements and insights for a successful digital transformation.
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5 Key Takeaways From 2015 Internet Trends Report

Nothing beats a great report when you need to understand concisely where we’re going. When it comes to technology, a major choice has always been The Internet Trends report by Mary Meeker, one of those Internet oracles you'd better take seriously.

The 2015 Internet Trends arrives 20 years after the inaugural report, published in 1995. Since the first release, the scenario has changed so much that you can now hardly remember the world before the Internet.

Let’s start with one single eye-opening fact: back in 1995, there were 35 million Internet users globally, with a penetration stuck at 0.6% of the population. In 2015, connected people have reached 2.8 billion; that means 39% of worldwide population is now online, at home and on mobile devices.

When the Internet story started, there probably wasn't a single person - except for sci-fi writers and dreamers - who could have predicted how this single technology would disrupt how we communicate and how companies build their customer experience. Connectivity constantly reshapes our daily lives, and almost every human being is influenced by it, in one way or another.

The 196-slides deck by Mary Meeker, partner at venture capital firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield, and Byers, has the great quality of delivering an overview of most pitfalls and opportunities that will guide the evolution of markets - and digital marketing strategies, consequently.

  • In 1995, only 1% of the world population used mobile phones. In 2014, that number has reached 73%, with a 40% penetration of smartphones.
  • The Internet has opened a whole new business: the market cap of the top 15 Internet companies is now $2.4 trillion; 20 years ago it was roughly $16.8 billion.
  • 51% of users come now from Asia, 23% from China; traditional markets fall behind, with Europe at 19% and the USA at 10%.
  • Today, the USA still have 11 of the world’s top 20 companies, but Asia is rapidly growing: China is now officially a tech giant with 6 companies, followed by Japan (2) and Korea (1).

These few insightful statistics create a broad picture of a social - and business - environment, shaped by innovative devices, where both people and objects are connected.

Point here is: the world has gone mobile. While people have embraced the change, too many companies are still slow to adapt, focusing on traditional marketing funnels rather than what really matters: the customer.

Purchase and loyalty decisions are mostly based on customer’s expectation that they can get what they want with ease and speed, wherever they are and whatever technology they are using. Clients expect that you are able to assist them across all touch points of the customer journey, on any device.

While the overall subscriptions rate starts to slow, customers now possess the whole world in their hand. Information is just one tap away. Internet and engagement walk together, a correlation reinforced by the rise of time spent on mobile devices, where customer are online 24/7.

2015-internet-trends-report-5-638

As users, we are re-imagining all aspects of our lives; it’s about time that businesses do the same with their strategy and approach. Here are 5 takeaways from the 2015 Internet Trends Report that you can use to improve your customer experience.

THE INTERNET, REINVENTED

The Internet has reinvented the consumer and retail industry, forcing brands to re-image the way they connect with clients. Now the rise of innovative technologies and mobile devices turns the table again, encouraging a further evolution of technology and content. New frontiers are ready to be set: virtual reality, the Internet of Things, social media buying, mobile payments, real-time user generated broadcasts, messaging customer service. The Internet reinvents and gets reinvented day after day.

POWER TO MILLENNIALS

New generations mean new ways to explore the world and experience products and brands. The birth of a new generation of empowered customers is driven by the so-called Millennials. High spending and high demanding, these customers are submerged in a mobile ecosystem with totally different needs and desires. They love their smartphones, prefer visual content (Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat), and use social networks as main reference for opinions and information.

CONNECTIVITY EVOLUTION

Mobile technology brings in the need to get what you want when you want it. Patience is a virtue that empowered customers don't often pursue. The smartphone, together with other mobile devices (activity trackers, wearables, Apple Watch) and sensors, simplifies the access to just-in-time information: car directions, breaking news, events, public transportation schedule. Branded contents and services must be timely personalized too, 24/7.

THE NEW COMMERCE

Digital disruption has brought a challenge within a challenge for traditional retail companies. Worldwide competition is a whole new story; traditional commerce has been replaced by a new digital arena, paving the way to e-commerce and social media commerce. The Internet has changed how we track of our finances, how we do research, and even where and how we buy products and services. One-touch mobile payments (Apple Pay and Android Pay) will be the next step in this evolution.

INTERNET IS YOUR JOB

Technology, society and business trends are so strictly linked that it is now impossible to talk about the Internet without mentioning the deep revolution of the marketplace. Said that many of the most profitable brands are now Internet-related companies, we have also witnessed a huge transformation in the meaning of 'job'. The widespread of connectivity has favored flexibility, allowing people to use online platforms (such as Airbnb, Uber, and Etsy) to increase their income.

We search online and mobile; we buy online and mobile. We live online and mobile. What about your company?

Here’s the full 2015 Internet Trends slide-show.

The emergence of mobile devices - and the need of a mobile-firts approach - is one of the key elements of the DCX 7-Steps Checklist crafted by Neosperience, with requirements and insights for a successful digital transformation.

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The Future of Shopping: Retail Customer Experience Goes Mobile

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Retail is dead, long live retail. In the next months customers will be in the mood to shop, even in those countries still struggling to overcome the consequences of a long economic and financial crisis. People want to spend, it’s just how and where they spend that is deeply changing.

The future of shopping gets caught between social and technological changes, and one thing looks clear: this is the end of retail customer experience as we know it.

Forecasts agree that - while undergoing a necessary evolution - the retail industry will generate a robust annual growth in 2015. As usual, the U.S. market will lead the way: the National Retail Federation projects retail industry sales to an increase of 4.1 percent; non-store sales, in addition, will show even better growth rates (between 7 and 10 percent just for 2015).

The rest of the world will follow, sooner or later. According to the 2015 Global Powers of Retailing, Embracing Innovation report from Deloitte, “the prosperity of the global retail sector in 2015 will very much depend on the economic stability of several of the largest economies”. China and the Eurozone have had a particularly tough 2014 but many indicators point to the likelihood of strong growth in 2015 and beyond.

WHERE IS RETAIL HEADED?

This is the tough question: surrounded and shaken by new technologies, how will retail evolve? It is evident that in-store purchases won’t disappear anytime soon: despite the fact that online and mobile shopping keep growing every year at a faster pace, it’s still brick-and-mortar retail that dominates customer spending all over the world.

Smartphone penetration rates increase, E-Commerce firms spread and evolve, but people still love to walk and wander into a physical store. What makes it so special? Not the product itself, nor the price. When competitors with better prices and a broader range of products are just a click away, the retail customer experience becomes the key differentiator for brands.

It’s much more easy to click on a ‘buy’ button on a smartphone, and for traditional brick-and-mortars the only answer is to evolve into something less traditional. Whatever technology solution you implement, your only chance to survive is to offer truly amazing and unique in-store experiences.

WHAT CUSTOMERS WANT

Marketers seem well-aware of the importance of a great customer experience but, more often than not, what has been achieved in reality lags behind the goals which have been announced. Let’s get back to data: a recent report by Econsultancy and IBM shows a huge gap between brands’ intentions and customers' real perception:

  • 81% of consumer brands say they have a working holistic view of their customers;

  • Most customers don't feel understood by brands - only 37% say their favourite retailer understands them.

The reinvention of store starts from the need to blend analog and digital into a new, and most complete, experience. A handful of retailers have already tried a smooth transition from physical store to online and - finally - to a seamless omni-channel experience. They confirm something that Forrester has stated in a report entitled - not by coincidence - The Future of Shopping:

The retail industry is more complex than ever. Every year, startups release new technologies that promise to help customers shop more easily or aim to help retailers improve their businesses. At the same time, customers are changing. Digital natives are now sought-after shoppers with disposable income and retailers are nervous that these consumers are capricious and demanding, with unique expectations for products, customer service, and payments”.

THE NEW RETAIL

Economic trends plus the evolution of disruptive technologies create a new powerful generation customer and force retailers to reinvent the store as an experience. The only way to attract, involve and delight the digital natives (the so-called millennials) is to bridge the physical experience of buying into a store and the online journey experienced across their mobile devices.

It could be useful, then, to make a list of the possible evolutions that will disrupt the retail industry in the years to come:

  • From brick to click to brick: the challenge of E-Commerce will force traditional retailers to think and act digital first, shaping a mobile friendly presence. They will rely strongly on social media for customer service, and on gamification for engagement management.

  • The brand new shopping: back from click to brick, retailers will build a new identity for the physical store, tearing down the four concrete walls and connecting with mobile devices. Starting with customer-facing apps, digital showrooms and advanced loyalty programs.

  • Self-directed purchasing: personalization is the keyword to understand how customers want to live the shopping experience. iBeacons, push notifications and the Internet of Things make the perfect companion for context-aware content. Loyalty will matter more than sales. Geo-fencing is the essence of proximity marketing.

The future of shopping will be shaped by technology but will ultimately depend on whether retail brands are able to understand the new rules of the Age of the Customer, embrace the challenge of digital transformation and finally deliver a better customer experience.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: 4 Ways To Improve Your Fashion Digital Customer Experience

As practical advice: if you want to connect with your customers 
in a whole new way discover Neosperience Engage, the end-to-end mobile marketing solution to turn on smartphones like magic and deliver personalized experiences to customers close to, or inside the store.

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