On Thursday evening, our team tuned into a wonderful presentation on how to maximise every touchpoint within a customer journey. I will blog about it soon. Here is a guest post by Paul Johnston, consultant with the UK MSS practice on how companies should not dish out new age channels while servicing them using old world models
Web applications for smartphones have opened up a new channel for Companies to interact with their consumers but how will this new channel impact the customer experience that is designed to be managed through traditional channels? This thought struck me on a train journey last week whilst I was looking through the app store on my iPhone and discovered an application from Ocado, the home delivery part of Waitrose. Now mobile apps themselves are of course nothing new and have been part of the mainstream since Apple introduced the iPhone and the App store. Hardly a week goes by without news of another major handset manufacturer collaborating to create apps for their handsets. But I looked through the Ocado app and I thought to myself that this is something new, beyond the world of news, maps, sport and social networking that many apps are associated with. The growth of these apps in the web 2.0 world has resulted in a change in our behaviours, with constant updates on what we are doing through Facebook and Twitter, through to instant access to breaking news stories. Could online shopping apps have the same effect on our shopping habits? With Ocado offering the opportunity to shop ‘by phone’ whilst travelling, Amazon offering improved access to the Kindle e-book through an iphone reader and Pepsi Max with their marketing campaign using a QR code there are clearly benefits to consumers, but will the customer experience through this channel remain at the level that we expect? Despite significant investment by the major players, online grocery shopping has struggled to take off amongst consumers, with only 4% regularly using home delivery for grocery according to a 2008 UK Department of Transport survey. When we look at the obvious advantages - saving time at a supermarket, avoiding the stress of a big weekly shop, together with getting away from the queues to park and the frequent checkout meltdown, it seems a surprisingly low figure, but discussing this last week I was told by a number of people that searching through a website is ‘too much effort’ and they enjoy selecting their food in person. Whilst a phone application will do little to overcome the latter, could the ability to search a catalogue by phone (no need to be connected) convince us all to do our shopping online, perhaps whilst travelling, or on those occasions when students are sat bored at the back of a lecture theatre? Clearly mobile apps should be integrated into any multi Channel strategy rather than be treated as a standalone touchpoint. By offering an ‘on the go’ application, companies such as Ocado and Pepsi Max are quickly getting ahead of the game, with increased access and a closer emotional tie. The risk of brand damage should the application experience fail to satisfy is something that Companies must be wary of. The concept is still in its infancy and a suitable level of investment is essential to ensure any application is upto the standard of any other channel. Despite these concerns, the risk of being left behind the competition means that a growing number of Companies will start to engage with consumers through their smartphones as more and more increasingly tech savvy consumers will have access to a new potential channel for companies to engage through. Meanwhile, I just hope my groceries turn up this week.