The brands that are delivering seamless, multi-dimensional experiences to customers are leading the way in the retail space, Rogers says.
IN:SIGHT sat down with Rogers to discuss the impact of spacetime marketing on the retail sector and the shift in thinking that’s needed to bring your business into the customer experience era.
IN:SIGHT: In the past few years, retail has focused on omnichannel marketing to enhance the customer experience. What impact is this having on retailers?
David Rogers: One thing we need to get over is thinking about a distinction between online and offline. The customer today is both online and offline, and as customers, we are looking for both physical, tactile experiences in front of us, at the same time as digitally connected experiences; so businesses need to respond to that.
Rather than being a multi-channel company, where you have a store and a website and you run them in some cases as separate business units, now companies need to realise it’s the same customer in both places and you have to actually bring those elements together.
You’ve got to look at your social media, your live chat, your chatbots, your website, your mobile app, your physical footprint, your retail showcase experience, alongside your traditional retail footprint to see what role each of those plays in the lives of your customer.
That’s really the goal of an omnichannel view – it’s an understanding that it’s really the same person in all of these places, and they are not different types of business.
IN:SIGHT: What is spacetime marketing? How is it different to omnichannel?
David Rogers: The interesting opportunity with spacetime marketing is that you can actually engage and connect with customers and add value to their experience at more than one point in time.
It’s about connecting with me as a customer at various points, whether that be when I’m researching a product, when I’m thinking of buying one product versus another, or even when I happen to be in the neighbourhood of a business I sometimes frequent.
No matter what that touchpoint is, you’ve got to ask, “how do I fit into these different places and times in the customer’s life in a way that adds value to them and deepens their relationship with my business?”
“The customer today is online and offline at all times. We are looking for both physical, tactile experiences in front of us, at the same time as digitally connected experiences, so businesses need to see that.” David Rogers, Faculty Director, Digital Business Strategy and Digital Marketing, Executive Education, Columbia Business School
IN:SIGHT: What is technology’s role in shaping this new approach to the customer experience?
David Rogers: The linchpin technology right now really is smartphones and the whole ecosystem that has arisen around them.
Smartphones give us instant, location-based information about the customer as they are moving through space and time, and we’re starting to realise this is one of the most interesting pieces of data available to businesses today.
Overlaying location and time against other consumer behaviours like communication on social media, purchases, and search has completely revolutionised the way marketing can operate. Your search engine now knows that if you’re searching the word “pizza” and you’re walking down a city street you are probably looking for a retail location, whereas if you’re at home you’re probably looking for a recipe.
What businesses can take from this is how to leverage where you are in space and in time as a consumer in order to connect with you in new and valuable ways.
IN:SIGHT: What impact is this new era of retail marketing having on bricks-and-mortar retailers and well-established brands?
David Rogers: The impact on existing retailers is significant. On the one hand, you’ve got this opportunity to generate more value in your relationships with customers by connecting with them in a way that’s much more targeted and relevant. But doing so requires a lot of change on the part of retailers.
Simple things have now become more complex, like assigning the value of a sale from an omnichannel customer to one specific channel or stream. For instance, an in-store purchase may have resulted because of a mobile interaction two weeks earlier that was the result of an even earlier search-engine advertisement.
Figuring out the value of the customer relationship is critical, and it’s a process that requires letting go of some of our habits and embracing a more complex operation in terms of how we serve the customer.