The 3 Big Forces Shaping the Customer Experience

While most of our time at Eventful Conferences is spent nurturing and refining our existing conference portfolio, there’s nothing more exciting than immersing in a completely new space filled with its own set of complexities and challenges. It takes us back to the beginning and puts us on edge, which is exactly where we are right now as we explore how companies in consumer industries harness SAP technologies to deliver superior customer experiences.

Eventful has a long history of partnering with SAP, we’ve been researching and producing conferences with them for over 20 years in multiple countries. Recently SAP asked if we’d take on the challenge of evolving a conference they’ve been running in the retail space to which after careful analysis we said yes. Our joint goal is to build and nurture a vibrant and valuable industry conference for customers in the retail, consumer products and wholesale distribution industries to rival what we’ve done in other key industries like utilities, oil and gas, automotive and chemicals. Why extend outside of retail and include consumer products and wholesale distribution? Companies in these industries are going through truly significant change, in part driven by consumers using smartphones to browse, purchase and share their opinions, and in part driven by companies like Amazon who have harnessed technology to drive new industry dynamics. Companies are responding as they adapt to this mobile first omnichannel world and traditional industry lines are blurring. Retailers are increasingly selling their own branded products and consumer products companies are increasingly going direct to consumer.

So with this backdrop, we’ve spoken to over 50+ retail, consumer products and wholesale distribution companies in an attempt to unpack and understand their world. Are they being challenged with a high degree of change? Is their world becoming more increasingly complex? If so how are they responding, what’s working, what’s not, where do they need help, and do they see value coming together to hear and learn from each other? If yes, what are their specific pain points and how do we construct a forum that really helps them? Will they see value investing the time and money to spend a couple of days together with their industry peers?

From the outset companies have talked very openly about the big forces, the macro challenges confronting their industry and driving the decisions of their executive teams. These forces are;

  • Customization – consumers are often looking for unique products or experiences.
  • Speed – consumer trends are emerging and moving quicker than ever.
  • Scale – companies are needing to replicate, scale and globalize in a highly efficient manner which is massively complex.

So how are companies dealing with these competing forces and what solutions are they coming up with as they pursue the delivery of a superior customer experience? In order to see how things are playing out we wanted to directly observe these company’s customers, so we spent a Saturday in SOHO, a global retail epicenter, wandering and observing consumers in action. Of all the amazing stores and customer experiences, and there were a few, the one that stood out more than any other was the Nike store. In the middle of the ground floor there’s a shoe customization section. A customer can choose one of Nike’s latest model shoes like the Air Max 270, choose five colors, and watch their custom shoe get created, along with a crowd taking photos and posting them. So, Nike has invented a process to create truly unique shoes, simplifying the process by starting with one color – white, creating a pair of custom shoes in minutes, and getting free promotion from other consumers posting and sharing images.

While Nike has been customizing shoes for some time with its iD program where you go online, choose a model and design a unique pair, seeing and experiencing the process instore along with consumer reactions is priceless. Not only has Nike harnessed its capabilities to deal with the competing forces of customization, speed and scale, they’re using the instore experience to demonstrate how innovative their brand really is! The store was packed with locals and tourists, and the creation of every shoe was an event. People were jostling for position, captivated by the cool technology, capturing and sharing the experience instantly with photos and videos. Genius!

So how do companies, especially large ones, respond to the changes around them and what big priorities are being set within their companies? Having spoken to 50+ companies we’ve distilled the many conversations down to six key themes, they are;

  • Creating a digitally enabled Customer Experience. How do companies harness technology and develop a mobile first omnichannel customer experience?
  • Developing a Digital Roadmap. As an SAP customer how do they integrate and optimize the full potential of the SAP suite and extensions from partners? How do they make the right decisions today for tomorrow?
  • Integrated Supply Chain and Inventory Management. How do they anticipate demand, align inventory and maximize sales? Predicting and forecasting sales is tough and getting tougher.
  • Big Data and Analytics. How do they get the right data, to the right people, in the right form, at the right time in order to help the company make better decisions?
  • Data, Cyber Security and IT Protection. How do they protect their customer data from a breach that could seriously impact the trust they’ve worked so hard to build? This topic is especially front of mind given recent data breaches and consumers reacting to the use of Facebook data.
  • Technology Innovations. Which new technologies will have the biggest positive impact on our business? Blockchain, IoT, Robotics, Artificial intelligence, Machine Learning, Augmented Reality?

There has also been another underlying theme, and we’ve seen it emerge in other industries, particularly over the last 12 months. Historically companies have looked at their traditional competitors and been reticent to share much of their expertise or experience for fear of losing competitive advantage. This is no longer the case, established companies are realizing that their future competitors maybe tomorrows disruptors, therefore there’s real value collaborating with each other around core business process optimization. In other words, if a business process is not a source of competitive advantage then collaborate, define, lock down, and bake in a cloud based application. This approach is enabling established market players to move quicker together and mitigate the risk of being disrupted by more agile market entrants. We are finding companies in the retail, consumer products and wholesale distribution industries expressing a real desire to come together, share, and learn from each other.

There is no doubt that companies in the retail, consumer products and wholesale distribution industries are experiencing disruption and are needing to drive transformational change. At Eventful we’re excited and committed to play a role helping companies navigate the complexity of this change. To read more download our recent research report at www.sapcxforum.com/hot-topics/