Most people don’t think about their luggage when travelling. The goal is to focus on the experiences themselves instead of the product that’s carrying your clothes and supplies. Samsonite is a staple in the travel world. As Chief Digital Officer Charlie Cole says, the goal is for customers to talk about the vacation and not about what they’re packing. A good suitcase quietly gets the job done without adding headaches to the trip.
The growth of the experience economy in recent years has led to more people traveling than ever before. Samsonite has updated its approach to customer experience to reflect a new wave of travelers. The company may be 110 years old, but it has a fresh digital approach.
One of the reasons for its current mindset is the fact that Samsonite pays attention to changing trends and technology. Cole says it’s important to embrace change instead of resisting it. Samsonite acknowledges things that are changing and then decides how it will attack them, which can either be by reallocating internal resources or adding an outside acquisition to its diverse portfolio. Samsonite is actually an entire portfolio of travel products and websites, including Tumi, American Tourister and Ebags.com. Staying brand-aware and constantly self-assessing helps Samsonite recognize what it needs to do to change and stay ahead of the industry.
Samsonite leverages data to provide a strong digital experience. Cole says the importance of data will continue to evolve. Samsonite aims to use data in a way that helps the organization be more efficient and customer-focused. Staying in tune with what customers are looking for helps the company create the right products and market them to the right people.
Another impactful trend for Samsonite has been the growth of D2C businesses. Samsonite has strengthened its own D2C role in recent years to match other D2C companies. It built out its entire D2C capability, from systems to people, to create a powerful way for customers to get exactly what they need straight from the brands. At the same time, Samsonite maintains its wholesale relationships with suppliers like Amazon and Kohls to keep another arm in the industry.
Samsonite bridges the gap between a long-lasting company and an innovative startup that is constantly evolving. Leveraging data and creating a strong brand portfolio helps the company be prepared for whatever happens next as it continues to build a strong digital experience.
For years, customers have traded their personal data for digital services, rewards or promotions. In order to gain access to a new program, get discounts from a company or connect with friends on social media, we’ve given up much of our personal information. But is it a fair trade?
Data privacy issues have been growing in intensity for years, leading to a world where customers aren’t in control of their own data and trust between customers and companies continues to erode on a daily basis.
Countless questions face technology and business professionals today, but perhaps none are more important than those surrounding data security, fairness and trust. Data used to not be worth anything, so customers gave it away freely. They didn’t think anything of giving out their email address or personal information in exchange for services and information. But over time, companies like Google and Facebook turned personal data into currency. Now, that information we used to give away freely is incredibly valuable, but customers are no longer in control of it.
Stephen Messer, co-founder and vice chairman of Collective [i], says it all comes down to the tradeoffs customers are willing to make. In general, customers love the personalization that comes from data, but they’re concerned about how their data is used and shared. Most people are willing to share their data with Netflix if that leads to personalized show recommendations, but they likely aren’t as willing to share their data with an unknown e-commerce company just to get a small discount. Each person’s tradeoff value is different.
Many of those tradeoffs involve not understanding how companies collect or use customer data. A major contributor to the lack of trust is that companies aren’t transparent or careful about how they use data. Messer says trust is the hardest thing for companies to earn, and it’s nearly impossible to gain back after it’s been lost.
But how can companies regain trust and help customers feel secure about their data? Messer says it starts with companies being open about how they’re using data and the safeguards they use to protect it. Google, for example, anonymizes its data. It doesn’t care who the data is from; it simply wants customer data to make its products better. If more customers were aware of those types of safeguards, they could possibly be more willing to share their data. Customers need information so they can make choices and have control over their own data.
Tom Wilson, president and CEO of Allstate, believes trust should be considered in terms of relationships. Wilson suggests having a global standard of three data sharing agreements, ranging from restricted data use to open data use. Depending on what the data will be used for, customers can opt in to different levels based on their comfort level. If a customer wants to be in complete control of their data, they would select the restricted option, but if they’re willing to share data in exchange for certain recommendations or perks, they could select the controlled or open options. Another solution would be for companies to charge customers to control their data. A small monthly fee could potentially allow customers to opt in to protected data on social media sites.
Wilson and Messer agree that data privacy and trust are complicated issues. No matter the solution, it starts by being transparent and giving power back to customers. Providing them with resources and information can create more informed customers and make a large step towards regaining trust.
There’s a lot of talk about innovation in the business world. But innovation is more than just a buzzword—it should be the culture and mindset of customer experience professionals. The best customer experiences push beyond the norm to provide creative, unique and memorable experiences and services for customers.
According to best-selling author Josh Linkner, customer experience is a platform for creative expression. Every single person is creative, and one way we can manifest it is through finding creative and innovative customer solutions. Innovation will ultimately drive value for the brand. Linker recommends thinking of customer experience as a blank canvas and finding new ways to win.
In order to do that, brands need to examine every touchpoint they have with customers and look for ways to improve the interaction and outshine the competition. Creativity doesn’t always mean trying something out of left field. In many cases, innovation happens with simple ideas that challenge what’s always been done. Linkner gives the example of a company in Korea that started packaging its bananas based on ripeness so that customers could work their way through the package and have a ripe banana every day. The simple, innovative solution led the company to charge three times more and crush the sales numbers.
Many companies fall into the rut of focusing on efficiency instead of encouraging innovation, but efficiency can only get you so far. In our fast-paced world, we can’t rely on models of the past. Customers crave innovation and new solutions. Creativity is the one thing that can’t be outsourced or automated. It can become a powerful competitive advantage.
Many companies overestimate the risk of trying something new and underestimate the risk of standing still. Leaders and employees at all levels need to encourage creative ideas—both good and bad—to get people talking. Removing judgement and building resilience can create an environment where innovation thrives.
An innovative mindset can also help companies evaluate existing processes and mix things up from what’s always been done. Ben and Jerry’s does this by holding a funeral for retiring flavors and literally burying them in a casket. It isn’t a mark of failure that a flavor didn’t sell well, but instead a celebration of what the brand accomplished and a signal to start fresh with a new idea. All it takes is one person to look at something they’ve seen 100 times with a creative point of view to find a new solution.
Innovation is the root of customer experience. Stale and stagnant experiences don’t build strong relationships with customers and will get overlooked for innovative ideas from the competition. To lead the pack and best serve customers, Linkner says individuals and companies must bring their creative souls to the surface and see what amazing results ensue.
How does a company that has been around for more than 100 years still provide innovative and customer-focused service? For Nordstrom, it comes down to understanding customers and evolving the experience to meet their needs and exceed their expectations.
Shea Jensen, Nordstrom’s SVP Customer Experience, says the brand’s goal is to make customers feel good and look their best. But what sets Nordstrom apart is how the brand meets the customer where they are. Many other companies think of themselves as channels, but Nordstrom provides a complete omnichannel experience by considering itself a brand, not a channel.
Nordstrom’s digital transformation revolves around finding ways to win with customers in a digital world. The seamless experience between channels allows customers to get the great quality they depend on from Nordstrom no matter how they shop.
However, digital transformation didn’t mean completely abandoning physical stores. Instead, Nordstrom updated its physical locations and added extra services to make the experience as convenient and easy as possible. The goal is to provide access to the brand and its products at a time and place that works for customers. Nordstrom stores are for discovery and inspiration. Jensen says 35% of online purchases begin with moment of discovery in store and around 85% of customers who shop in store started their journey in some digital capacity. The company currently operates three Nordstrom Local stores that serve as service hubs with personal stylists, online order pickup and alterations that are right in the neighborhoods where customers live and work. Nordstrom Local customers spend twice as much as customers who don’t shop at Nordstrom Local. Jensen says the convenient touchpoint becomes part of their daily lives.
Nordstrom Local and traditional Nordstrom stores also use well-trained employees as personal stylists, but the services are often augmented with AI and new technology. The Style Board function allows salespeople to curate an assortment of products for a customer, send it to their phone and then be available for a live chat. When the customer is ready to purchase, it’s as simple as shopping on Nordstrom.com. The experience moves between channels in a way that makes sense for customers.
At Nordstrom, customers are in control. They choose how, when and where they shop, and Nordstrom works to provide a high-quality and personalized experience every time. The shopping journey is no longer linear, but creating a digitally driven omnichannel experience puts customers in the drivers’ seat and gives them control.