Wednesday, January 16, 2008

IBM touts tech as the key to customer experience

Via David Polinchock at Brand Experience Labs comes a new research paper published by IBM entitled "how immersive technology can revitalize the shopping experience." Given IBM's role in providing back-end software, POS systems and interactive kiosks to a huge swath of retailers across the globe the insights from the paper are not exactly startling (technology -> better personalization -> improved customer experience). But one line I found particularly noteworthy was:
"Truly immersive experiences—which connect with shoppers on an
emotional level through personalized dialogues and give them greater
control over the shopping experience—are the new frontier in retailing.
After all, that can pretty much be done without any (modern) technology. In fact, the best examples of an emotional connection, personalized dialogs and immersive environments that I've experienced have all come from interactions in small shops that don't use high-tech gadgetry and in some cases don't even have an electronic cash register. Of course, that experience doesn't typically translate well into the modern retail era of huge megamarts and suburban sprawl, and that's certainly where IBM is focusing its attention with this report. One thing I will agree with, though, is that retailers must continue to evolve their experience if they want to stay relevant and competitive. As IBM notes:
"Walt Disney said, 'whenever I go on a ride, I'm always thinking of what's wrong with the thing and how it can be improved.' Disney knew: you must constantly improve the experience in order to stay relevant."
The particular tenet holds true regardless of a retailer's size -- the mom & pop shop has to continually refine their experience to keep customers loyal and happy, just as the big box guys and department stores do. IBM's take, of course, is that with the right technology, even the biggest retailers can create the same kind of personalized environment and custom-tailored atmosphere that small retailers use to their advantage to woo shoppers looking for some added attention.

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