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The Touchpoint Experience

Volume 142 NO.5 September/October Furniture World Magazine
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Article Summary: Multi-touchpoint analysis leads to a new era of branding.


by Florian Volmer, Info Retail

Today's customers expect authentic, relevant, and meaningful brand interactions wherever and whenever they come in contact with your retail furniture store brand. At each brand “touchpoint”, be it an interaction with a display, a salesperson, an email or a special offer, it’s necessary to have carefully thought out how their individual experience is likely to be received.

Many retailers have not noticed it yet, but power is shifting from talking to customers, to having a dialog with them. In a sense then, we are seeing the reversal of the traditional balance of power. What used to be a B2C relationship turned into a C2C relationship with the establishment of social media. Social media is definitely a force to reckon with, but true individual engagement goes beyond that. We are now living in a world where brands have limited influence on shaping expectations. We are now seeing a C2B relationship form, where customers hold a lot of power over brands. 





The two Journey Map diagrams (marked Path #1 and Path #2) above depict simplified customer journeys starting with the purchase of a home. Squares with red dots identify Touch Points where retailers can intervene to influence or change a customer’s experience. Images lacking a red dot depict customer actions, feelings and emotions on the customer side of the journey.
It is easy to see how more detailed journey maps can form a tree or rhizome with branching and interconnecting points.

Additional touch points that might be included in a more detailed journey map are store displays, credit, delivery, follow-up, service, ownership, coupons, returns and add-ons.

Creating a Journey Map is a good starting point to identify places where applying the concepts of information, immediacy and integration mentioned in this article can result in a better customer experience.

Relevance and speed play a major role when customers interact with any of your touchpoints. A touchpoint can be:

  • Analog or digital (i.e. a traditional store or an e-commerce website). 
      
  • Physical or virtual (i.e. an information booklet or location-specific text message.
      
  • Transitionary or permanent (i.e. a conversation with a sales associate or a take-home brochure). 

The science is to design each and every touchpoint with brand consistency and the individual experience in mind. Replicating is not enough; the execution of every one of your store’stouchpoints needs to be appropriate and relevant for each of your customers.

Multiple Retail Furniture Touchpoints

Today there are more smart phones than feature phones in the hands of U.S. consumers. Empowered to seek information, customers access reviews and comparison-shop websites and apps – before, during, and after the purchasing decision. The social aspect of image sharing with the likes of Pinterest and Instagram is an ever-growing aspect of the shopping experience.

Smart brand managers are working overtime to engage customers by offering an integrated experience amongst brand touchpoints. For example, Mini (www.miniusa.com) carries a fun, unexpected, and category-challenging tone and attitude on it’s website, in the dealership, at trade shows, special promotions, etc. The experience is accomplished by different means, but carries a consistency in tone and originality.

Furniture Customer Journey Maps

User empathy and a focus on customers as individuals are key points you should consider if you want to achieve this level of integration. Like urban planning for a city, designing for multi-touchpoints benefits from a masterplan: In this case, it’s called a customer journey map that delivers a high-level overview of a customer experience.

The creation of a customer journey map can be as simple as arranging a series of sticky notes and adding white board comments. Making a plan for how the sequence of the brand interaction should take place is the most important aspect of it (see sample diagrams below). This can be accomplished in-house if you have the requisite time and expertise, or with the help of outside agencies that focus on service design.

Seamless Touchpoint Integration

We’ve established that integration among a multitude of formats these days is key, but it’s a moving target. Getting a handle on all of your existing touchpoints may be difficult. But there are also new and emerging technologies you should consider such as Google goggles on the horizon. And, we can safely assume that we are looking at an ever-growing number of possible brand touchpoints.

Smartphones that allow us to access dynamic & social information are accessible everywhere at relatively low cost. The ubiquity of the devices makes smartphones the central hub of many brand interactions.

Touchpoint Experiences

The future of designing successful multi-touchpoint experiences can be summarized with the 3 I’s: Information, Immediacy and Integration.

Information. The relevance of the information you provide at each touchpoint is the currency of a successful brand strategy, and it will be thoroughly tested by your customers at every physical and digital interaction. Technology, now more than ever before, allows you to display just information that is relevant to customers at each step in their purchasing path, through social networking, review sites and even simple search.

Immediacy. Speed is king. Customers expect to have access to what they need without delay. This is as true for touchpoints accessed on their digital devices as well as in their physical interactions with your sales, customer service, credit and delivery departments. How do you achieve this? In the digital sphere, rely heavily on usability testing, with the objective of making an interface as simple and fast to use as possible. Be ready for a surprise: the initial solution is often not the most effective. And, be ready to iterate: it may take a few tries until you and your design/ programming team get it “just right” on every possible device and in every imaginable situation.

Integration. The true value of touchpoint analysis is in integration of each customer interaction into a seamless, holistic path to get them from where they are to where they want to be. This includes the integration of customer experiences during the purchasing journey, as well as throughout their ownership experience.

Conclusion
The relationship between consumers and retailers is in a state of rapid transition. Information that used to flow passively one way, now flows any which way – giving furniture manufacturers and retailers less control over their own brands.

Now is the time to use touchpoint analysis to so you can analyze and intervene in a proactive, integrative, and iterative way.



About Florian Vollmer: Florian Vollmer is Senior Vice President Design and Principal at Info Retail. Originally from Essen, Germany, Florian’s extensive education history includes Georgia Institute of Technology, Fachhochschule Köln, Kunsthochschule Berlin Weißensee, and University of Central England, BIAD Birmingham Institute of Art and Design.
An avid reader and photographer, a yoga practitioner, and cyclist, he has a passion for getting consumers what they need from retailers and manufacturers, and making sure design is always at the forefront of business.

His company, InfoRetail, is an experience integration firm, helps clients create engaging and effective customer experiences. Understanding the needs of manufacturers, retailers, and end customers, Info Retail enables meaningful innovation through three practice areas: Strategy, Design, and Solution Management. Clients such as The Home Depot and Tempur-Pedic turn to Info Retail to build lasting customer relationships that lead to sustainable growth. The seasoned and multidisciplinary team supports enterprises from strategy to design to production, service, and support – creating value by delivering relevant brand engagements at multiple touchpoints. Find out more at www.inforetail.com.

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