Features, NPD

The Seamless Customer Experience

NPD’s “Future of” report series explores how brands are innovating to make way for a smoother customer experience. The advancement of IoT into the kitchen, the creation of device-agnostic content in gaming, and the retooling of apparel offerings to match shifting consumer lifestyles exemplify how today’s industry leaders are offering consumers a more seamless experience.

The Connected Kitchen

In the growing category of IoT, our data shows that, while three percent of U.S. consumers currently own a smart appliance, 26 percent are interested in owning one in the future. The infographic below illustrates how smart appliances could transform every step of the decision-making process in our approach to food and eating, from smart appliances recommending recipes based on our culinary preferences to new online shopping opportunities, to smart ranges and dishwashers.

To move this category more squarely in the direction of consumer engagement, some manufacturers of IoT appliances, kitchen and otherwise, will have to readjust their thinking. Simply creating an app to make their device “smart” and getting them to talk with other devices is missing the point: manufacturers need to think of how their products will make the lives of their customers easier. To this end, integrating consistently with open platforms such as voice-activated speakers-which 20 percent of U.S. internet-connected households own-will be crucial.

Content Alliances

Companies in the gaming, tech, and toy industries are benefiting from forming content alliances-not only between competitors, but across platforms. The rise of cross-play gaming-that is, the ability to play online with gamers regardless of platform – is demonstrating that mobile, console, and PC can cooperate, because the content can now move seamlessly between these modes. This means that gamers who play on their mobile phones can now switch to consoles or PCs with minimal disruption to their gameplay; and those who own a PC but not an Xbox, for example, can play with their Xbox-owning friends-a huge win for consumers.

Brands are co-existing rather than competing in the tech and toy sectors, as well. Tech will probably experience a bump in PC sales as a result of cross-play gaming; and other consumer electronics sales are also on the rise-in 2018, headset sales have increased 83 percent. Toys are also moving toward gaming content, with many licensed figures and accessories tied directly to games such as Pokémon and Roblox. More consumer experience-oriented alliances can be seen between toy and apparel brands, as they bundle product sets around particular game content and movie characters-we’ve seen that kids not only love licensed products, they love to wear them too.

Shifting Apparel Demands

The apparel industry is also shifting along with consumer tastes and trends. Consumers are choosing to spend more on experiences over things. They have also adopted a casual workplace-and-lifestyle approach. The industry is responding with products featuring moisture control, stain resistance, wrinkle-free fabrics, and odor resistance. And sales of apparel with these attributes grew by double digits in the first quarter of 2018 over the same period last year.

These are just a few of the approaches that are driving success for brands today. By delivering more seamless consumer experiences – with new products, new partners, and new technologies- they show how brands cannot just survive, but thrive in this shifting and uncertain retail environment.

For more information, see the full paper: 3 Ways to Foster a Seamless Consumer Experience in the Future.

About the Author

Marshal Cohen is chief industry advisor, retail, at The NPD Group, Inc., and is a nationally known expert on consumer behavior and the retail industry. He can be reached at Marshal.Cohen@npd.com. The author wishes to thank NPD’s Joe Derochowski, Mat Piscatella, Juli Lennett, and Stephen Baker for their contributions to this article.

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