For consumers, the cellphone is more than a supremely personal object: thanks to its connectivity, it plays an essential role in the customer relationship. Above all, it provides the interactivity that characterizes today’s new consumption modes, and it often serves as a gateway between different sales channels.
M-shop, m-payment, m-promotion, m-loyalty, m-assistance, m-care... the smartphone is becoming the epicenter of the CRM strategy of many brands. It provides the formerly missing link between physical stores and the web.
Practical and agile, relational and transactional, it makes life easier in many situations and rehabilitates practices that were starting to worry brands. Darty and La Fnac are even encouraging the common “showrooming” habit, in other words consumers checking out products in a shop then buying them online, which they now recognize as a driver of in-store visits and therefore of potential sales. Darty has even equipped 95 stores with WiFi and reports that 30% of purchases made on darty.com are now collected via its “Click & Collect” mobile-to-store service. The Hointer clothing store in Seattle, USA, is spicing up the in-store experience with an app that allows shoppers to scan the QR code on a pair of jeans, for example, then enter their color and size preferences. The app then displays the number of the fitting room where the garment is waiting to be tried.
Loyalty programs are transforming the smartphone into a “loyalty wallet”. The “FidMe” app accepted by many chain stores and downloaded by more than 3.5 million European mobile internauts gathers all loyalty cards (barcodes, stampcards), dematerialized coupons and special offers on the user’s phone which is then presented at the check-out.
Regarding mobile payment, the situation is contrasted. Most of 1,000 Shell petrol stations in Britain will propose an m-payment system from spring 2016, in partnership with Paypal. But a Deloitte survey in November 2015 found that 59% of French smartphone owners are not interested in this kind of service.
Phone geolocation (which requires the user’s opt-in) can be exploited to individualize the “industrial” customer relationship.
The “PhoneAddress” app from the Belgian operator BASE makes the geolocated smartphone the actual place of delivery of an order: the delivery man and customer recognize each other thanks to photos exchanged earlier. The cleverness of such a service was confirmed in late 2015 by a MetaPack survey which found that a positive delivery experience spurs 89% of British, 84% of French and 83% of German consumers to shop with the retailer again.
Indoor and in specifically delimited zones, geofencing (virtual perimeters) and beacons open up great possibilities for geomarketing and individualized messages: welcome message on arrival in a shop, guidance and assistance. The smartphone can become a kind of compass: EasyJet is testing beacons to guide its passengers in three large airports. Visitors to the Chateau of Versailles can use their phone as an audioguide, thanks to Orange Beacons.
Solutions like Amazon’s “Mayday” one-click video chat assistance service give the impression of having a “good genie” by your side. Mayday, available 24/7 for Amazon Kindle HD X and Fire smartphones, puts the user in contact with an advisor in less than 10 seconds. This expert can even take remote control of the device. More than three quarters of all queries from Kindle and Fire users now reach Amazon via Mayday. Questioned by Nuance3, 72% of consumers say they have a better impression of companies that offer a customer service application. Smartphone innovations are also driven by a desire for simplification, even automation, of the purchasing act. For example, Domino’s Pizza in the United Kingdom offers its “Easy Order” button (a physical button in a mini pizza box) that talks to the Domino’s app on your phone over Bluetooth. Choose your preferred pizza in the app then order it by pressing the button (which glows red when the order is ready!).
The good old SMS service introduced 22 years ago is by no means a has-been. Despite its rusticity, it is resisting well and is increasingly used by businesses. Its coupling to USSD in Africa has led to some inspiring innovations, such as the “Nandimobile” customer care service in Ghana, “Icivil” birth declaration system in Burkina Faso, “My Healthline” healthcare hotline in Cameroon, and free Wikipedia thanks to partnerships with local telcos. The outlook for texts still looks good in Europe too. SMS is unrivaled for its routing rapidity and reading rate (for messages of interest to the recipient): 98% of texts are read (generally within four minutes of reception), compared to only 29% of tweets, 20% of emails and 12% of Facebook posts. T-Mobile, Virgin Media, Shell and SFR Business Team have used the “NICE Fizzback” SMS solution to poll customers just after an interaction with a vendor or teleadvisor.
SMS is widely used for queue avoidance (Starbucks, O2, etc.), which is an important issue in the light of an IFOP study for Wincor Nixdorf in 2014 which revealed that a third of consumers change their mind about a purchase if there is a long check-out queue.
Cellphones and smartphones now have undeniable impact on the way people buy and their expectations in terms of support. Many brands are realizing that mobile presence is just as imperative as presence on the Internet. This necessity is underscored by Google’s new “Mobilegedon” policy of punishing mobile-unfriendly sites by excluding them from the search engine.
However, we should not forget that the cellphone is perceived as a very personal device, which makes owners sensitive to intrusions. Brands would be wise to concentrate on inventing apps and services that create real value, paying particular attention to maintaining an identical level of service across all their channels. The best customer-centric approach is one that assures fluid, seamless mobility, rather than focusing on the phone itself.
The bricks-and-mortar shop has traditionally been the main customer relationship vehicle, and it continues to fulfill this important role today. Even the most digital enterprises have understood this: following Apple’s lead, Microsoft and more recently Google have tardily taken the initiative of creating special spaces to express their brand values and make closer contact with consumers. We try to deeply personalize the customer relationship in our Orange Stores that we see as an invaluable asset and one that we are now evolving to respond to consumer aspirations and to complement the development of other sales channels.
Our Smart Store concept, one facet of this evolution, is characterized by maximal personalization of the welcome experience and “useful waiting time” in thematic, connected spaces that allow visitors to test our brand innovations such as connected objects and financial services. Our new Smart Stores also fully integrate a “mobile first approach” giving the smartphone an essential role and lots of practical services, starting with simply locating the nearest Orange Store. Visitors can use their phone to make an appointment and manage their queuing and their buying path (showrooming, online purchase then in-store pickup, etc.).
These new stores, already numerous across Europe, have very positive impact on customer satisfaction, which is why we are opening others at a steady pace with obsessive attention to detail. As with our new brand identity, we are rapidly adapting these modern outlets for our African and Middle Eastern markets. We already have a store in Jordan and others are planned for 2016.