2020: The family digital Christmas?

It’s the year 2020.  Digital technology is all around us. So what might Christmas Day be like? Here are some ideas…

Forget Dad getting into a sweat early Christmas morning because he hasn’t defrosted the turkey yet…in 2020 internet of things (IoT) smart sensors in the family kitchen refrigerator have been monitoring the thaw of the big bird for the last couple of days and adjusting the fridge’s internal temperature accordingly to ensure its ready on time. Other smart sensors have also got the oven warmed up perfectly for Dad’s culinary magnum opus.

It’s barely dawn and the little ones are wide awake eager to open their presents. Mum and Dad are barely conscious but have managed to roll themselves downstairs to be with the kids round the Christmas tree…a magic moment through bleary adult eyes. But in 2020 using miniature action cameras embedded on the Christmas tree every emotional, tearful moment of joy on their faces is captured and saved on the family’s private cloud. Mum and Dad will be able to cherish forever the look on young Sam’s face when she finally got the bicycle she wanted all year.

Mid-morning and the Christmas cards on the mantelpiece are dynamically updating with pictures and videos of family and friends celebrating from across the world.  That’s because in 2020 people send paper-thin OLED Christmas cards that are linked directly to their social media feeds – it looks like Aunt Liz and Uncle Ted haven’t stopping partying for twenty-four hours on their Caribbean cruise!

Christmas dinner is fast approaching and Gran’s thousand piece jigsaw puzzle of Buckingham Palace is missing the vital middle bit with the flag on!  Little Tim is not happy either; he’s only had Gigantic Bot for six hours and he’s already lost its Laser Sword accessory in the black hole known as the back of the living room sofa. So it’s a good job in 2020 there are delivery drones in the local area available immediately to pick up and replace faulty or missing Christmas gifts. There will be no tears of frustration on this festive day.

So Dad’s dinner went down a treat and all the family are dozing on the couch. Mum in particular feels relaxed – she hasn’t done anything today and it’s been great! In 2020, even the music and lighting of the living room is taken care of by the house AI – its smart sensors detect the slowing pace of the family in the afternoon so it moves from playing bouncy festive jingles in brightness to soothing Christmas lullabies with a cosy ambient glow from the fireplace. Mum drifts off to sleep with a smile on her face.

Christmas in 2020 sounds like fun doesn’t it?

Season’s greetings!

If you would like more information about how digital transformation can benefit your organisation please contact the Sopra Steria Digital Practice.

Digital Justice Scotland 2016: delivering 21st century justice

This year’s Holyrood Digital Justice Scotland 2016 conference held on 7 December, once again brought together some great speakers who laid out their vision and shared some of the challenges they continue to face in delivering against the objectives of the 2014 Digital Strategy for Justice in Scotland.

As one of the co-sponsors we had the opportunity to present our approach to service design and discuss with the delegates its potential in delivering improved outcomes within the justice sector. Before embarking on the interactive session, we introduced the audience to the positive impact that service design can have on an end-to-end customer experience by firstly taking them through a simple example they would all be familiar with – buying a burger.

Then we presented a high level offender journey from being convicted to release back to the community and asked the audience to highlight the gaps and risks to the business and offender in the end to end journey. Our method was very visual, we kept the user journeys simple to plant the idea of service disruption by design and we challenged the participants to focus on how offenders are interacting with services and what outcomes are needed at each stage of the journey.

Mark Macrae presents at Digital Justice Scotland 2016
Mark Macrae presents at Digital Justice Scotland 2016

The session highlighted a number of areas where digital technology could be used to improve ways of working, for example:

  • Offender self-service access to services such as money management, organising visits, buying essentials, scheduling education and work activities etc.
  • Reducing repetitive administrative tasks for Prison Officers and freeing them for more value adding face to face services for the vulnerable
  • There was also a strong theme of improving information flows, both on arrival at prison and exit back into the community.

Common Themes

Several strong common themes kept reoccurring through the day:

  • Progress on delivering the vision of the Digital Strategy for Justice has been slow since its publication in 2014. The Rt Hon Leonna Dorrian said “we need 21st century attitudes” and that “it’s not about tinkering” when considering the much needed policy and cultural changes required to transform justice processes.
  • Austerity is having a significant impact on the ability to deliver digital transformation but I believe a positive aspect of this is that it is forcing a closer look at what can be re-used within an organisation with integrated services helping to leverage current investment.
  • Empowerment is an important driver in the delivery of services for staff and victims / witnesses / offenders within justice processes. In the last session of the day Susan Gallagher (Acting Chief Exec at Victim Support Scotland) demonstrated how far they’ve come in digitally transforming the charity to be truly focused on user (victim) needs. Interesting that a charity can move so quickly compared to government organisations…

Sopra Steria’s service design approach puts the user at the heart of the process. It challenges you to examine the pain points, map out the business needs and customer expectations and identify the required outcomes. It enables you to understand what is needed to change ways of working.

If you’d like more information on our approach to service integration or service design please get in touch – leave a reply below, or contact me by email.

The no stop checkout: what could be its impact?

With the launch of the concept store Amazon Go – where customers can walk out of the store with their chosen grocer items being automatically charged to their bank account – the age of the no stop checkout customer experience is emerging. But what could this mean for retailers if such an approach is adopted wholesale across the bricks and mortar shopping experience? Here are some ideas…

Implementation Challenge – from what insight has been shared about Amazon Go it is understood to have taken four years to develop this unique store experience that involved integrating a range of technologies such as machine learning, image recognition and mobile. The solution looks innovative but would it be feasible for a retailer to implement across potentially hundreds of its stores? Furthermore, what kind of ROI should a retailer expect from this substantive investment in cloud and physical digital capabilities?

Threat Of New Entrants – By removing checkouts means added convenience that could be exploited by existing or new competitors. For example; a disruptor could offer a platform service that compares the price of the same products across different local completing stores to enable a customer to “optimise their shopping basket”. This indirect competitor could then buy and deliver these items for a customer removing any direct engagement with the retailer.

New Forms Of Customer Experience – An opportunity and a challenge is that no stop checkouts eliminate a touch point directly with the customer physically within the store itself (even if that process is self service). The opportunity is that this enables retail staff to engage with customers in different, delightful ways such as product demonstrations or marketing promotional events – retail as an experiential destination. However, by removing this interaction also risks diluting further the unique experience of being in-store by making customers focus more on specific products and prices than the retailer’s brand.

If you would like more information about how Sopra Steria can help your organisation benefit from digital transformation please contact the Sopra Steria Digital Practice.

Next gen personalisation: let customers play?

A key challenge of personalisation (the application of analytics by retailers to identify patterns of customer behaviour to create recipes such as targeted marketing or product recommendations) is how to gather the right data about an individual customer effectively in the first place.

Understanding what really makes an individual customer “tick” – what kind of personality he or she has (as defined by using Carl Jung’s Psychological Types that categorise how an individual perceives, interprets, thinks and feels about the world around them for example) can enable a retailer to create unique, specific recipes for that individual customer that competitors can’t imitate. For retailers carrying millions of products like Amazon, applying such deep, meaningful insight could help encourage a customer to explore a far greater range of its offerings and drive stronger loyalty.

Yet gathering data for these recipes is typically an implicit activity in the customer experience, produced by observing customer behaviour such as product browsing or buying history, social media feedback and often combined with other external factors like customer location, weather or time of day. Even the more disruptive forms of engagement – such as eBay’s “emotional recognition technology” prototype that observes a customer’s physical reaction to being shown different products to identify potential connections – is arguably a passive activity. Ideally to get a better understanding of someone’s personality involves proactively asking a series of self-reflective questions for an individual to answer privately – something totally unacceptable to the retail customer experience. So, could there be a different approach retailers could apply that gives similar valuable insights without the risk of appearing intrusive or insensitive?

One response is to let customers “play” with products before they buy them, including dynamically shaping this presales engagement based on observable behaviours. When someone buys a product online or even in-store a retailer has limited (if any) opportunities to observe how a customer reacts to it – an indicator that could help determine targeted recipes that excite, motive an individual’s exact personality. Encouraging customers to play, experiment with a product before purchase could however capture similar insight.

A non-grocer retailer may already have the tools in place to encourage such structured playtime with their products such as digital mirrors or augmented reality in store, or even have digital assets of product samples for 3D printing by a customer at home. Combined with capabilities like “emotional recognition technology”, these presale activities could become critical drivers for effective personalisation as well as offering exciting, differentiated customer experiences in their own right.

Such an approach is emerging from big retailers such as Toys R Us that is looking to transform itself into an experiential destination – the retail shopping experience as participatory theatre – so why can’t the grown-up customers have just as much fun?

If you would like more information about how Sopra Steria can help your organisation benefit from cloud analytics please contact the Sopra Steria Digital Practice.

Ways to turn around poor customer experience using personalisation

Personalisation – the application of data analytics to identify patterns of customer behaviour to improve their engagement or retention – traditionally focuses on enhancing positive experiences such as browsing and buying. Yet could personalisation be used to turn around a seemingly unchangeable, negative customer experience that also benefits the retailer? Here are some ideas…

Personalising the complaints process to drive better customer engagement

Making personalisation effective is challenging – it requires a high level of data integrity and can be costly to implement. When it goes wrong it can irritate customers or worse, make them feel like a retailer doesn’t know them at all – for example, consider the negative impact on customer experience of repeatedly receiving the same unwanted product recommendations when shopping online.

Could this failure be caused by a retailer’s approach to personalisation that arguably only focuses on purchasing and other positive behaviour? Whereas what is also required is a complementary understanding of an individual’s dislikes and pet hates about its brand.

For instance, rather than using a generic approach a retailer could personalise its complaints process. This could involve asking the customer who is making the complaint specific, personalised questions about the totality of this experience with the retailer (e.g. pricing, quality, service) to better understand what this individual really feels about its brand – i.e. use this moment of catharsis to gain a deeper, more rounded understanding of a customer’s expectations. The retailer can then use these hard to reach insights to dynamically inform its future engagement with this individual – complaints as a source of brand loyalty and advocacy.

However, this disruptive approach arguably feels counter-intuitive and commercially risky; it will require new types of behaviour from (and greater trust between) customer and retailer alike to be successful.

Incentivising a customer to keep an unwanted item

UK retailers are losing billions of pounds a year from managing reverse logistics costs for returned items across their physical and digital channels. Because of the multiple touch points involved margin can often deteriorate to a point where writing off the item as a loss is a better outcome than resell.

A retailer could lever cloud big data analytics to make an on the spot personalised counter offer to a customer alongside the standard return via a returns app. This could draw from the customer’s buying history and social media behaviour. The counter offer could ask the customer to keep the item in exchange for a future discount, special cross sell opportunity or third party offer (so eliminating the return cost and refund while driving future sales).

However, this disruptive approach to returns will need additional safeguards to mitigate risks of customer fraud or ‘gaming the system’ for unintended benefit.

Sharing insights with competitors to deliver unfulfilled customer orders same day

With the growing threat of digital disruptors like Amazon offering same day delivery on everything including groceries, customers are increasingly becoming more disappointed when other retailers can’t match such an experience. One example is Sainsbury’s acquisition of Argos was in part driven by a desire to access Argos’ supply chain capabilities that offer fast track delivery.

To combat this challenge, high street retailers could use a cloud-based platform to share local inventory information, fulfilling orders immediately for each other when the chosen retailer is out of stock – a faster, more convenient personalised customer experience than their online rivals. This approach to supply chain collaboration would also enable retailers to potentially increase the range of products they physically offer in store without needing to carry additional inventory.

However, for this form of coopetition to be successful it would need to have clear bottom line benefits for all participants given the risks to their market share involved.

If you would like more information about how Sopra Steria can help your organisation benefit from personalisation please contact the Sopra Steria Digital Practice.

Personalisation of the retail returns experience: a new form of competitive advantage?

UK retailers are losing billions of pounds a year from managing reverse logistics costs for returned items across their physical and digital channels. Because of the multiple touch points involved margin can often deteriorate to a point where writing off the item as a loss is a better outcome than resell.

A key area of risk is online women’s fashion retail where customers may order multiple sizes or variations of the same item and then return those that don’t meet requirements. It’s estimated on average a returned clothing item costs a retailer an additional £15 to process back through its supply chain regardless of channel – extra cost that significantly reduces margin at full price (and much worse when further price discounting is applied).

But could personalisation (the application of big data analytics to pro-actively meet an individual customer’s changing needs) deliver a better outcome for both customer and retailer? Could such an approach incentivise a customer to self-manage the reverse logistics process or even be persuaded to keep the unwanted item (so reducing, or even eliminating, the additional £15 cost)?

For example, rather than a customer filling out a paper form using a nondescript reason code for a return, he or she could use a loyalty card smartphone app that captures their reasons as spoken voice text. Not only would this be more convenient (and user friendly) than form filling, it also provides the retailer with richer data about a customer’s preferences to enable better targeted personalised offerings in the future.

Secondly, the app could lever cloud big data analytics to make an on the spot personalised counter offer to the customer alongside the standard return. This could draw from the customer’s buying history and social media behaviour. The counter offer could ask the customer to give the item to charity in exchange for a future discount (so eliminating the return cost and refund while driving future sales and positive brand reputation). Alternatively it may make a third party offer for a ‘no return’ outcome (so driving cross- or up-sell opportunities with little cost impact).

Fundamentally, the counter offer approach is primarily driven by the need to preserve and, ideally, grow a retailer’s margin – the economic case. In addition, by gathering better data about an individual enables greater personalisation to build and retain their loyalty and reduce the volume of unwanted items (for example, future purchasing of clothing items online may include specific recommendations for an individual customer about size and colour based on this gathered insight). The app could also utilise a retailer’s existing core systems (e.g. databases) and new digital technology (such as cloud analytics or machine learning) together successfully – the opportunity to use the best of both worlds to create disruptive competitive advantage.

If you would like more information about how Sopra Steria can help your organisation benefit from cloud analytics please contact the Sopra Steria Digital Practice.

Teachable Brand AI – a new form of personalised retail customer experience?

Within the next five years, scalable artificial intelligence in the cloud – Brand AI – could potentially transform how retailers use personalisation to make every store visit a memorable, exclusive customer experience distinct from anything a competing digital disruptor could offer.

Arguably the success of this engagement approach is contingent upon a retailer’s ability to combine a range of data sources (such as social media behaviour, loyalty card history, product feedback) with its analytics capabilities to create personalised moments of delight in-store dynamically for an individual customer that drives their decision to purchase.

But could the truly disruptive approach be one where a customer is continually teaching the Brand AI directly about their wants or needs as part of their long-term personal relationship with a retailer?

Could this deliver new forms of customer intimacy online competitors can’t imitate? Here are some ideas…

  • Pre visit: Using an existing instant messaging app the customer likes (such as WhatsApp or Skype), he or she tells the Brand AI about their communication preferences (time, date, etc) and what content about a specific retailer’s products or services (such as promotions or new releases) they are interested in. This ongoing relationship can be changed any time by the customer and be pro-active or reactive – the customer may set the preference that the Brand AI only engages them when they are located within a mile of a retailer’s store or one week before a family member’s birthday, for example. Teachable Brand AI empowers the customer to be in complete control of their own personalised journey with a retailer’s brand.
  • In store: The Brand AI can communicate directly with in-store sales staff about a customer’s wants or needs that specific day to maximise the value of this human interaction, provide on-the-spot guidance and critical feedback about physical products their customer is browsing to drive a purchasing decision, or dynamically tailor/customise in-store digital experiences such as virtual reality or media walls to create genuine moments of customer delight. Teachable Brand AI has learned directly from the customer about what excites them and uses this deep insight to deliver a highly differentiated, in-store experience online competitors can’t imitate.
  • Post purchase: The customer can ask the Brand AI to register any warranties, guarantees or other after sales support or offers for their purchased good automatically. In addition, the customer can ask the Brand AI to arrange to return the good if unsatisfied or found faulty – to help ensure revenue retention a replacement or alternative is immediately suggested that can be exchanged at the customer’s own home or other convenient location. The customer can also share any feedback they want about their purchase at any time – Teachable Brand AI is driving customer retention and also gathering further data and insights to enable greater personalisation of the pre visit and in-store experience.

If you would like more information about how big data and analytics can benefit your organisation please contact the Sopra Steria Digital Practice.