CX as a Powerful Strategy for Growth: A Q&A with The North Face


Today’s consumers demand and expect a seamless omnichannel experience. And, as mobile devices have gotten more sophisticated and become more immersive parts of our day-to-day life, mobile has increasingly impacted the evolution of customer experience and customer engagement.

Given the continued importance of customer experience and the impact mobile has on CX, we at FutureCX sought out Shay Miles of The North Face to discuss some of her thoughts on the advantages of going mobile and utilizing CX as a “powerful strategy for growth.”

Shay, the Digital Manager for The North Face, is scheduled to speak at the Mobile Marketing Exchange in January. While there, she will discuss next generation mobile and digital content replacement for UPC tags, and enhancing the consumer’s brick-and-mortar shopping experience.

Here’s what Shay had to tell us about CX, going mobile, and her upcoming speaking engagement:

RS: How do you feel customer experience and customer engagement has changed in the ten years you’ve been within the field? How pivotal has the impact of social media and other new customer engagement channels been on experience and engagement?

Shay Miles: Mobile is no longer an afterthought if a company is truly focused on winning. 

Let’s take a trip down memory lane.  My career in digital began when the Blackberry was still hot – the days when having a Blackberry 6000 or 7200 series was a status symbol.  Today, based on speed, OS sophistication, utility, and the lifestyle requirement to be in-the-moment – it is iPhone and Android that are bringing sexy back.  With that said, mobile has made a significant impact to the evolution of customer experience and customer engagement. 

Customer experience has evolved into a powerful strategy for growth, but its purpose has relatively remained the same, meaning that it precedes CRM, CLV, CLM, and so on.  It starts with the basics – focusing on the immersive or traditional experience as a highly-satisfied consumer.  I approach the challenge of acquiring a highly-satisfied consumer, by meeting their expectations to address all-relevant environments in ways that are effective and user-friendly. 

Where we’ve encountered tremendous growth in the past decade is within the customer engagement hub.  Not too long ago – but a lifetime ago in the digital space – customer engagement consisted of a blog (e.g. TypePad the predecessor of Tumblr), email, and a photo/video gallery on a company’s website.  Today the smartphone and tablet are teens, the social icons (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube) are tweens, and in-store digital marketing and analytics (e.g. Nomi and Brickstream) are child prodigies.  A few years ago, the industry was a champion for SoLoMo (social local mobile), to respond to the aggressive demand for omnichannel, customer experience, and customer engagement. 

But myself along with other visionary marketers, were limited by the SoLoMo template.  We then coupled the authentic purpose of customer experience with customer engagement tools as a solution to create a more dynamic customer engagement hub, for both, digital commerce and digital brand presence to intersect with the customer experience journey.  The customer engagement hub has made a pivotal impact.  As of today it consists of digital media players, mobile apps, social apps, web apps, desktop apps, responsive web/email, messaging, beacons, virtual reality, in-store digital marketing, shoppable windows, interactive OOH, rich media, and clienteling.

RS: Previously you’ve spoken about the huge focus that is now needed for Mobile engagement, not just as a means of commerce, but also as a means of customer experience and engagement. How important do you see a vendor’s need to get with it and be mobile? What benefits and challenges do you foresee?

Shay Miles: After attending the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain it shined bright spots on “what’s next” by 2020 for mobile advancement and innovation.  This prompted me to smartly innovate with analytics, champion successful strategies for managing The North Face’s mobile enterprise, and elevate our digital/mobile best practices and technology investments.

My steadfast philosophy of “mobile-first” has shifted to “mobile-always,” with an emphasis on next generation mobile.  Just ask yourself how often do you interact with your mobile device or engage with others on your mobile device (with the exclusion of verbal communication).  Your interaction is so innate and your engagement is so frequent that you probably have not realized how important and convenient your mobile device has become to your lifestyle.  The interesting thing is that it’s no longer a status symbol (I’m sure iOS users will side-eye this sentence).  Accessibility has reached the masses, which means a company’s opportunity to discover and acquire new customers has significantly grown, and it will take a dynamic customer engagement strategy/hub to retain them.

RS: You’ve mentioned next generation mobile and the need for companies to embody that. What do you mean by next gen mobile? Where do you think businesses need to take next generation mobile engagement?

Shay Miles: Mobile is not just commerce; it has an ecosystem as part of the Internet of Things.  From my point of view, next generation mobile also eliminates the battle between ecommerce and brick-and-mortar because it is all-inclusive: mobile without boundaries.  It is important that mobile is part of a company’s digital transformation plan.  Whether an aggressive or incremental plan, a mobile strategy should be present within an existing multi-year roadmap.  As a multichannel marketplace, The North Face must continuously invent ways to improve its multichannel business model, and emphasize points of difference for its premium outdoor products, in both, the traditional retail environment and digital commerce. 

The North Face ecommerce, retail stores, and wholesale accounts all play leading roles in building customer loyalty and supporting financial performance, which requires adapting to the Age of the Customer, understanding the need to extend digital investments to brick-and-mortar, and the ability to maintain an effective customer engagement strategy/hub over time.

RS: For some the trend is moving toward location, location, location. Does your theory on next gen mobile also encompass things related to location based technology like targeted marketing efforts and tools to increase in-store sales? Do you see any import in strategies like geo-targeting and real-time marketing? What are the benefits and challenges of such efforts for a retailor like The North Face?

For next generation mobile, location is an important trend to remain focused on.  When a customer is “in-the-moment,” it’s imperative for a company to be “at-the-moment.”  Adopting a next generation mobile or “mobile-always” plan will help company’s accomplish this over time.   

A recent Accenture Retail Report states, “While customers expect to shop, pay and interact more via their mobile devices, retailers are not ready yet.” 

For The North Face mobile apps, mobile web messaging like IBM Xtify, cross-device retargeting like Drawbridge, and content personalization/segmentation all augment our geo-targeted marketing efforts.  Whilst our subtle multichannel solutions like QR Codes on hangtags, and Nomi and Brickstream are deliberately focused on elevating The North Face’s in-store/event experiences.  The immediate and long-term benefits are:  they take the effort out of omnichannel, and optimize knowledge effectiveness and self-service effectiveness.  The challenges The North Face had to overcome within these targeted marketing efforts leaned on the side of the company’s need for:  ample resources and technology investments/integration.   

RS: In January you are listed as one of the featured speakers at the Mobile Marketing Exchange.  How will you be discussing mobile engagement and how it relates to and impacts customer experience? What is the main point you would like to convey to conference attendees for your session?

During the Mobile Marketing Exchange, I will discuss my vision around next generation mobile and share the case study for The North Face’s Global Hang Tag Dematerialization Program; in short, it is digital content replacement for UPC hang tags.  These mobile action codes are combined with the UPC sticker, and the landing page result is responsive and in six languages.

The Google Shopper Marketing Council Report on Mobile In-Store Research shows:  1 in 3 consumers prefer to use their smartphone to find information rather than ask store employees.  The Accenture Retail Report shows shoppers want greater mobility options for a number of services while in-store:  85% want to scan products; and 71% of shoppers would like to use their mobile device to help them identify what they should buy.

The purpose of the Global Hang Tag Dematerialization Program is to provide shoppers with greater mobility and respond to the evolving business needs within direct-to-consumer (e.g. retail and wholesale).  Our goals are to address mobile behavior while in-store; enhance the in-store shopping experience at point of purchase, whilst capturing data to understand consumer preferences; better assist end-users (e.g. customers, associates, and field representatives) who seek help; support performance at brick-and-mortar; and enhance the multichannel business model with the inclusion of sustainability and retail mobile marketing technology. 

For more information on Shay’s upcoming appearance at the Mobile Marketing Exchange – go here and to register to attend – go here.

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