NRF: Would digital experiences be even better with a human touch?
While retailers are increasingly experimenting with fully digital experiences, Jeremy Duimstra, co-founder and CEO of MJD Interactive, sees more potential in a “co-creation” model in which technology puts a retailer directly in touch with customers. He explored this concept in a session at the 2019 NRF show in New York City.
“Technology should be an enabler of people, not a replacement,” said Mr. Duimstra. “What you want is digital tools that help one-to-one co-creation with your customers.”
Mr. Duimstra pointed to The Container Store as a major success in the co-creation space. The retailer has an app that allows customers to take pictures or videos of their living space, explain their needs and send that information to the retailer, who sets up an in-store associate at the store’s flagship to collaborate on a solution that works.
Mr. Duimstra then explored how a sampling of brands could succeed with a co-creation model in a series of “how cool would it be” hypothetical scenarios:
- Patagonia could implement a digital tool that would let customers consult with real human beings to help decide what charities to work with and volunteer for;
- Nike could implement an element of co-creation by allowing app users to get responses to their questions from real coaches, rather than digital coaches;
- Procter & Gamble could launch a digital subscription model that allowed customers to consult with experts along a regular schedule about specific health-related issues, like allergies, so that they could learn about and order products that meet their specific needs.
Mr. Duimstra acknowledged potential concerns with implementing a co-creative model, such as difficulty demonstrating ROI, operational hurdles and skepticism about the possibility of making it happen. He suggested that it is important to prototype, test, work out the details and figure out what it will take for something to scale during the development cycle.
“Great retail is human-centered and the digital tools let you get there,” said Mr. Duimstra.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What do you think of co-creation — using technology to connect customers to in-store staff to collaborate on a product or solution — as a paradigm for tech success? How might retailers implement co-creation in a way that provides acceptable ROI?