New technology always involves an interesting dichotomy. When it works and integrates into our lives, it’s spectacular; when it misses the mark, it can be downright creepy.
As organizations start to incorporate new technologies such as robotics, machine learning, and voice recognition into our daily lives, we will come up against what researchers and computer scientists refer to as the Uncanny Valley.
The Uncanny Valley is a hypothesis about why human replicas elicit feelings of eeriness and revulsion. It boils down to the fact that we feel uncomfortable with machines that are close to human. Robots are an example of this, but anyone with an Alexa might experience this phenomenon the first time she reminds us of something we didn’t tell her.
At the moment, retailers are balanced on a knife’s edge. As grateful as consumers are for technology that facilitates their purchases, they are instantly turned off by invasive messages (Why is my grocery store texting me?), off-the-mark marketing (Is anyone getting bizarre messages from Amazon about things you’d never consider purchasing?), and proliferation of customer data (How does this retailer know that about me?).
With all of this in mind, NTT DATA’s Customer Friction FactorSM (CFF) team was interested to read Forrester’s new report, The Top Retail Technologies to Watch in 2017. The report, based on 40 interviews with 80 digital business professionals at the 2017 NRF Big Show in January, found retailers are recognizing the need to differentiate on customer experience and investing in proven solutions that deliver on that promise.
Emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, virtual/augmented reality and the Internet of Things, are being viewed as lower-priority focal points across the industry as retailers work to avoid distractions and focus on meaningful improvement in the customer experience. In fact, according to a Forrester survey of business and tech professionals, 42% of respondents do not have plans for AI investments, and 46% of U.S. online adults do not see a use for virtual reality in their lives. Instead, retailers are focused on getting omnichannel right, refining their digital store, increasing personalization, and advancing their analytics capabilities.
In the report, Forrester recommends that retailers today must identify pain points along each customer journey and avoid being distracted by shiny tech objects — staying customer-obsessed. This discussion mirrors my own experiences at NRF’s Big Show where we saw a real need to measure and showcase the improvements which new solutions are bringing to the business. Needless to say, these are subjects near and dear to our hearts, and at NTT DATA we believe that any digital transformation has to examined from the customer’s perspective.
Our experience with helping companies understand where their customers experience friction in the purchasing process (so they can reduce that friction) exactly matches the recommendations from the Forrester report.
“Before making tech investments, retailers must ask, ‘What parts of the customer journey are not creating optimal experiences?’” writes author Brendan Witcher. Retailers “must avoid tech that merely adds novelty to the customer experience… [and] invest in tech that will raise customer satisfaction, improve loyalty, and ultimately boost the company’s bottom line.”
For retailers, that means bringing the customer’s perspective to technology investment decisions. Self-checkout, distributed commerce, and virtual/augmented reality might end up at the bottom of the list when it comes time to allocate resources. Instead, says the Forrester report, ebusiness professionals must help leadership avoid these types of distractions by staying customer-obsessed.¬
We couldn’t agree more.
Post Date: 6/8/2017