ZX.YCN is a new initative, launched in patnership with ZX Ventures — a global group of designers, technologists and marketers backed by Anheuser-Busch InBev — to examine the ways that technology, and the proliferation of digital communication, is driving changes in consumer behaviour.
For our launch we invited a complemetary quartet of panelists — Appear Here Founder Ross Bailey, John Lewis Innovation Manager John Vary, COOK Head of Customer Marketing and eCommerce Jemima Ferguson, and DICE Founder Phil Hutcheon — to share their perspectives and to take some questions from the floor.
Below is a short film, some images from the evening and some learnings we took away.
We began by discussing each speaker’s unique approach to building a great consumer experience — across both on and offline channels.
As Jemima explained, COOK’s challenge is to bring data to life for staff, to allow them to deliver a personable, personalised service in store or when delivering to people’s doors. By holding customer interviews, she’s also been able to bring fresh eyes to feedback on the online experience COOK is creating, and setting goals for future plans in relation to those insights.
Similarly, by rapidly prototyping new products and features, John Lewis (through it’s JLAB incubator) and DICE are able to invite real customers to regularly test their products and offer feedback to inform consequent iterations.
As we learnt from a welcome interjection by Aaron Gelbard, Founder of online flower delivery brand Bloom & Wild, online-only brands are also cleverly using physical stores to gather valuable feedback about products, directly from users. The letterbox flower delivery service recently used one of Appear Here’s concession spaces in Topshop’s Oxford Street Flagship and found that, being able to ask people about their experience of the product in-person offered insights more valuable than a lot of online data.
“Digital retail is going offline,” proclaimed Ross, referring to the host of online-only brands that are using Appear Here spaces in this way — to reach new audiences, engage existing ones, and unearth new insights about their products and services too. “Retail is a new customer acquisition channel,” he explained, often offering brands better returns than traditional digital marketing campaigns.
Listening to music is about discovery, and one of the best and most beloved features of the DICE app is its tightly-curated listings, and the rich editorial content that accompanies them. DICE has built a highly desirable audience of users: young, urban and culturally-attuned early-adopters. The app is slowly introducing brands into the space, with partners selected discerningly in the same way that gig listings are curated.
Retail landlords should instead start to think like magazine editors, carefully curating the brands within their spaces to provide exciting, new and ever-changing experiences for a generation of shoppers who are seeking to make memories, rather than accrue more stuff. ”The audience is the landlord’s most valuable commodity, not the rents collected,” Ross said.
Ross and John also discussed the challenges they encountered when trying to shake up traditionally staid industries. As well as challenging traditional rental models, that saw contracts signed for 10-year periods, it was tricky to convince landlords to adopt tech in order to engage with the platform.
Similarly, John discussed how he’s worked to engage John Lewis’ partners at every level — from shop floor staff to executives and key stakeholders. An established and large business, it was difficult to shift the internal culture to support the innovations being pursued by the start-ups at JLAB and by the team in Room Y. Again, rapid prototyping has helped John showcase the work being done, demonstrating their value in a tangible way that people can really engage with.