Social CRM in Retail

The Edelman Trust Barometer indicated that we trust CEOs and experts more than last year, and that trust in “people like me” slipped down the list. But, when it comes down to it, who do you turn to when you want to know how a dress looks on you – your friends, or the brand’s CEO?

Thomas Wieberneit wrote a post last week with a similar title, and we started a good old-fashioned discussion through email to see how Social CRM thinking could enhance the customer experience. One of the key thoughts is that people will turn to their strong ties for advice and discuss options, and their ‘hire’ the brand (which is basically a weak tie) for service delivery in the for of goods, services,and knowledge. Furthermore, rather than “consuming passively”, people are now participating activily in meeting their own desired outcomes, including shaping the service they want using what I label Customer Enablement Technology.

To give you an idea of what this could all look like, I thought up a scenario, and Thomas added to it and I’d like to share it with you here:

Jenny, a Marketing Assistant in her mid-twenties, wants to look good at a cocktail party organised by her employer the following evening. She ask her friends for ideas on dresses through Twitter and a FaceBook status update. Someone suggests she’d have a look retailer JolieRobe’s catalogue. She decides to click through to the website as some of the catalogue photos that her friend showed looked really great. Whilst sitting in front of her TV she pulls out her iPad she goes to the webstore drag & drops a couple of her close IM friends onto the that she thinks have good taste and who can provide her with sound advice.

The webstore has picked up from FaceBook that she wants to attend a Cocktail Party and adapts the interface with an appropiate ambiance and selection based on her preferences – as well as on what the company knows about her and and her friends. With her friends she co-browses a number of dresses and pulls up a 3-D model of herself on which the dress is projected to give her an idea of what it would look like. Through webchat with her friends she decides on a dress and posts the model up on FB, where she get 8 likes and 5 encouraging comments within a couple of minutes. She doesn’t want to buy it online, as she wants to ‘see how it fits and feel the material’ before buying so she decides she’ll pop into a store the next day. The webstore indicates the one nearest to her and indictes the availability, and also offers to put one aside in her size for her to try out.

She thinks she could also do with a haircut and connect her iPad to her favourite hairdesser’s site (she pays them a monthly subscription fee for advice) and starts a call using her Bluetooth headset and 3G connection by tapping on an On-Screen button on the web page. She is greeted by one of the personal stylists (a ‘repurposed’ Customer Service Rep) and shares what she wants to do whilst giving access to to her 3D-model and dresses she is looking at. The agent listens to her and suggest 3 different hairstyles that would go well with the dress, as shows them on the iPad projected over Jenny’s picture that she just took with the iPad’s built-in camera. She again shares this with her friends, who think the one she has chosen is fabulous, and the the agent takes the make an appointment the next day before disconnecting.

The next day, she goes to the local JolieRobe Retail Outlet. The Foursquare App on her iPhone indicates that one of her close friends is in the vicinity and she invites her to come along. In the store, the shop assistant is alerted by the store’s dashboard that Jenny has come in with her friend and checks on what she is looking for through her own Smartphone. Jenny’s profile pops up, together with what was gathered through Social Network Monitoring, as well as other interests that were determined through datamining.

She approaches her with a personalized greeting and walks Jenny to the part of the store that has the cocktail dresses, and hands her the one she was looking it. She tries it on at it fits her well, and is comfortable as well as good-looking. She’s not to sure about the colour, so she walks up to one of the interactive mirrors – basically a 70″ LCD screen stood up on the short side with a Kinect motion detector. The screen reflects her own image, but by moving her hand in a circle, she can modify the colour of the dress. Jenny wants a second opinion and finds that Jane, her best friend is not nearby but online. She usually goes shopping together with Jane and trusts her opinion very much so she invites Jane, who is in front of at her office computer’s webcam onto the store’s screen to share the picture.

The assistant then uses the same screen to show a some pairs of high heels to go with the dress, as well as suggest make-up to complete the picture. After having made sure the dress and heels look good on her “in real life”, she checks it out through the NFC code reader and pays for it through the store’s web interface, thanks her friend and the shop assistant and heads of to her appointment with the hairdesser, who is waiting for her, picture in-hand and ready to dress her hair.

Now Jenny’s all set to make a good impression!

There are many othe possible scenarios we could think of, including letting Jenny and her friends design the dress, provide input to the venue where the cocktail party is to be held, or connect with people who will be going as well to find out what their interests are (small-talk facilitation…). What is important is not so much that we provide the service (which is of course important), but rather that we understand where it fits within what the custoemr job-to-be-done, and how we can create an economics surplus in the value we co-create with the customer in helping achieve her desired outcomes. And if you want to read up on what types of value beyond monetary that you should be concerned about, I suggest you have a look at Wim Rampen’s post on taking customer service seriously.

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