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3 Ways to Adapt to Customer Expectations in a Blended World

Jenna Harvey, Global Manager, Emerging Industries
July 20, 2018

The idea of blended experiences ñ situations in which the physical and digital worlds converge into a single entity ñ is gaining prominence as more industries adapt to contemporary IT capabilities. In response, the entire retail sector is being upended.

Retail Spaces pointed to a new Samsung store in New York City to illustrate this point. The venue features concerts, movie screenings, virtual reality demos and similar experiences. There are also products spread throughout the store, but they aren't directly for sale ñ users go online or use mobile devices to complete orders.

"The ability to combine digital capabilities with physical assets can transform experiences for both employees and customers."

According to the news source, this store highlights how digital and physical experiences are being blended to engage consumers in new ways.

Whether you're in manufacturing or in retail, the ability to combine digital capabilities with physical assets can transform experiences for both employees and customers. Consumers especially stand out. As blended experiences become more common, consumers are going to want to engage with brands in new ways. A customer may go to a bank's branch location to seek advice, for example, and then actually complete a transaction via smartphone. Creating cohesive customer journeys within such blended experiences is critical.

Three ways you can adjust your business processes to deal with these shifting expectations are:

1. Automate Data Sharing in a Central Platform

One of the problems with blended experiences is the need to ensure all customer interactions get to stakeholders regardless of where they are working at any given time. If a customer calls you to make an account change only to have it not reflect the next time he or she logs in online, you're going to have a problem.

Your service representative on the phone will likely be updating a customer relationship management system when the request is made. If that CRM doesn't integrate with your web platform, you have a gap. This problem is accentuated as you blend physical and digital interactions, as the need for real-time data sharing is critical.

For example, if an engineer updates plans for a product but the change doesn't get shared to your production teams, those users will end up creating a product incorrectly. With physical and digital processes intersecting, companies need to be able to share data seamlessly across user groups.

"Blended experiences are heavily reliant on ensuring users can switch between physical and digital interactions."

Manual processes are prone to delays. Automating data sharing between disparate systems, on the other hand, closes up any gaps in customer or user experiences, making it easier to blend physical and digital interactions.

The Appian platform can serve as a central data hub, automatically attaching relevant data to processes so users leveraging siloed software end up having the information they need all in one place. The result is a smooth customer journey.

2. Eliminate Device Barriers

Blended experiences are heavily reliant on ensuring users can switch between physical and digital interactions freely. For example, consider a retail store in which products are on display and available for demo purposes, but only sold online.

Organizations need apps available so users who like a product in person can immediately make a purchase without having to go to another location. Similarly, your distribution and fulfillment teams must be able to assess the sale and identify if any specific shipping strategies need to be enacted based on your current strategies.

In the same way, an employee who uses augmented reality glasses alongside a desktop PC to design something should be able to go out into the field and use that same augmented reality system via mobile device.

Constant access to data is critical for blended experiences. Application development platforms allow for native development for iOS and Android without having to duplicate work. This is possible because the platform itself is native to the various operating systems ñ and available via web and desktop systems ñ so each app is automatically configured to work in those settings. Powerful mobile apps are essential as digital and physical interactions converge, and low-code development platforms are proving critical in response.

3. Upend Traditional Work Methodologies

As blended experiences become more accessible, organizations have opportunities to change how they operate. Here are a few examples:

    • Manufacturers can train maintenance employees in blended augmented reality labs so they'll have a clear idea of how machines work before they actually interact with them.

    • Retailers can use location-specific events to grab customer attention, engage users and offer special sales opportunities for attendees.

    • Financial services firms can employ artificial intelligence, image scanning and similar technologies to interact with customers in personal ways via mobile platforms, letting them engage in more advanced fraud prevention and identity verification practices.

    • These types of capabilities rely on a variety of technological systems coming together, but they ultimately depend on how organizations can converge these separate systems into actionable data and process flows.

Appian provides a cohesive ecosystem where all these solutions can coexist, letting organizations establish new processes, automate repeatable tasks and create the kinds of digital experiences that empower employees to build stronger relationships with customers, partners and colleagues.

The blending of digital and physical interactions isn't just about efficiency. Instead, the added convenience can allow people to spend more of their time enjoying the interpersonal interactions and powerful experiences that are valuable and fulfilling. When businesses create such situations for employees and customers, users can be left more engaged and connected to what they are doing, strengthening a brand and generating revenue potential.