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Tech Viewpoint: IRCE 2019 – Omnichannel customer experience illuminated in three comments

Speakers at the recent Internet Retailer Conference & Exposition (IRCE) dispensed a lot of industry wisdom in a few words.

Reviewing my live LinkedIn and Twitter feeds from the event, I was struck by the large, positive response to a few key quotes I posted. Taking a closer look, I realized that these quotes contained a vast amount of omnichannel insight.

Here is a brief overview of each comment.

‘Make your customers feel like they’re one in a million, even if they’re one of a million’
This nugget of advice from Colin Crowley, VP of customer experience at online meal subscription service Freshly, encapsulates the full potential of the omnichannel customer experience. While the concept of “one-to-one retailing at scale” may seem like an oxymoron, retailers can now literally interact with millions of constantly connected consumers in a manner that treats them like unique individuals.

Retailers can identify customers in-store by smartphone and send individualized mobile promotions, based on what they are currently browsing or buying as well as on past shopping behavior across channels. A consumer who signs into their e-commerce account can have their experience tailored around recent in-store purchases. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technology enable retailers to deliver a seamless customer experience more personalized than any old-time neighborhood store.

‘Netflix focuses on customer enjoyment, not conversion’
Bridget Fahrland, head of digital strategy at Astound Commerce, showed real-life examples from her own Netflix account of how the online video streaming service will serve up different images of the same title depending on the customer’s historical genre interests. For example, the 1997 comedy-drama “Good Will Hunting” might show a photo of the late Robin Williams or an image of Matt Damon and Minnie Driver, depending on whether the customer has mostly browsed and purchased comedies or romances.

Underlying this broader promotional approach is an effort to serve the customer with a highly individualized list of suggestions based on their prior viewing habits, rather than what titles will most likely lead to purchases. This focus on longer-term customer enjoyment and satisfaction favors long-term loyalty, which inevitably produces better results than short-term sales.

‘Gen Z most prefer in-store shopping, while millennials most prefer interacting with store associates’
Gregory Zakowicz, senior commerce marketing analyst for Oracle Netsuite, made this generational observation during a booth briefing. According to Zakowicz, Gen Zers see shopping as a social experience, while millennials entering their career and family years appreciate the time-saving convenience provided by helpful store associates.

In contrast, Gen Z are used to navigating the physical world with smartphones and don’t want or need associates intruding on their in-store activities. On the surface, these findings are surprising, given popular assumptions that the under-40 crowd doesn’t go to stores and certainly doesn’t want to interact with human beings if they do.

Dig a little deeper, however, and Oracle Netsuite’s data highlights that the store continues to be a critical part of the omnichannel experience, but every generation needs its own version of the store. There is room for human associates, mobile apps that eliminate the need for human associates, and everything in-between, all within the same four walls.

Follow Dan Berthiaume on Twitter at @DBerthiaumeCSA and LinkedIn at
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