Online retailers can improve their digital customer experience by using a checklist to assess what is working, what's missing, and what needs improvement. See how a recent experience at Target highlighted some missed opportunities.
My 4 year old nephew is an avid fan of Nickelodeon Paw Patrol. Last weekend I was on a mission to get him an “Everest Snow Blower” to complete his collection of Paw Patrol Rescue Racers. Target appeared on top of my search results on Google.
The Target product page greeted me with a “'Shipping temporarily out of stock” message. Target has a neat 'buy in store' feature. So I found out that the toy car was available at my local Target on aisle E4. I was pleased. This is true unified channel experience that we often talk about.
Soon I was at aisle E4 at Target. I glanced, I looked, I searched.... ”Everest the Snow Blower” was nowhere in sight. I could see several of “Tracker the Jungle Pup” and “Rocky the Recycling Pup” but no Everest in sight. I went to the customer service desk and showed the agent the product page on my phone. The agent quickly scanned a code on my phone to his desktop, and confirmed that Everest should be there on aisle E4. He got a store associate to help me.
The store associate reconfirmed Everest's availability using his handheld device. Within a few seconds of reaching aisle E4, he pulled out a “Tracker Jungle Pup” from the shelf with a triumph on his face. I showed him the picture of the white eared Husky pup on my phone, and explained how it is different from the brown fur one in his hand. He was puzzled!
The associate scrolled down on my phone screen and showed me the DPCI number on my screen and then the one on the Tracker package - they were identical. I pointed at the UPC which was totally different between my screen and the package. He looked at the DPCI on the other toy cars on that shelf, and they were all identical. The associate seemed to understand the problem, he blamed it on his system saying that it allows search only by DPCI. DPCI, I learned later, is an internal Target stock keeping unit identifier.
Long story short, I had to return without Everest!
Target met several criteria from the “digital customer experience” checklist.
In-store agents with a variety of devices to suit the context
Yet it failed to meet my expectations as a customer! The incident reminded me of some of the messages we strive to provide our clients.
Understand catalog data intricacies
Build a catalog structure that meets the nuances of your product variations. If you are offering multiple brands, keep in mind that different brands might have different ways of organizing data. Have data validation rules in place. Ensure your business applications understand the nuances of your catalog data. The Target catalog seemed to have the same internal code for different stock keeping units, but their business applications didn’t seem to realize this. I think this is what dampened my experience, and also set the store staff on a wrong chase.
Provide the right message to the customer
The difference between - "We have Paw Patrol Rescue Racers" in our store and "We have Paw Patrol Everest Snow Blower Rescue Racer" in our store could be significant depending on the customer intent. Unless you know you can figure out the exact intent of the customer at all times, settle for a message that will be right in all the contexts.
Integrate data learning into business process training
Empower your people by providing them access to required data, and teaching them the basic rules and limitations of your data. You don't want your people blindly trusting data so much that they ignore easy visual cues available to them.
Building a true digital customer experience requires attention on several fronts. Getting the right data, and knowledge about the data, flow through all your business applications and processes is critical. Until that time, the seekers of “Everest Snow Blower” and the like may remain disappointed!
Lakshmi KP is an experienced Digital Product Manager with a diverse background in eCommerce, financial services, insurance, healthcare, and data analytics. She has successfully led several of Object Edge’s client engagements for building digital products. Lakshmi has also been instrumental in setting up frameworks and guidelines for the Object Edge Product Team to be efficient and successful in their client engagements.