teslaA car that you order online, edgy stores within a store, brands owning colors (e.g. Target owns ‘red’), online fans going in-store to touch, feel and experience, and organic community/social media fan bases are a few demonstrations of what is working today. These innovative advancements in 2013 are changing the way businesses are using technology to create a greater customer experience.
Due to the swift velocity of technological advancements, “innovation” is an increasingly popular term. Technology and innovation go hand in hand, although without a couple other crucial ingredients, companies miss the true opportunity to keep up in the sprint to the top of best-in-class companies.
The missing piece? Truly focusing enough attention and effort on strengthening the bond between a store’s human capital, its brand story, and its customer relationship will create the ultimate customer experience by nurturing devoted customers who come back time and time again.
Jim Tierney, Loyalty 360, noted that 94% of retailers surveyed indicated the future of in-store customer experiences is reliant on technological developments. Yet, only 35% have adopted relatively established technologies, such as incorporating the use of tablets in-store, and only 22% have taken advantage of creating a video wall with brilliant media.
Kerry Bodine of Forrester Research, in an article in Harvard Business Review, referenced Forrester’s Customer Experience Index: 73% of interviewees say they plan to launch innovative customer experiences in the upcoming year – and two-thirds of interviewees believe that they already have. However, only 8% of these companies received a top grade from their customers.
What does this mean for 2013? People agree that technology is vital for transformation, but without a clear purpose-built design of the space, process, experience, and vision, the results will be less than expected. After all, the best creators of the ultimate customer experiences are now coming from industries who know how to move people emotionally, namely, movie studios, theme parks, and other great story-tellers.
How about established companies who’ve already reached in? Pretty much everyone is talking about the critical issues and growing demands for customer-services and experience, and many companies have already taken the steps to accomplish this magic, namely, Apple, Tesla Motors, Target, and AMC.

Apple: From Apple’s inception, Steve Jobs drove relentless vision for an atmosphere that would attract an actual fan base to Apple and intuitive human design, as opposed to Microsoft’s purely functional design. An article on ITproportal.com said, “According to a recent customer satisfaction survey published by Vocalabs, Apple has the most loyal fans [2012].” Customers produce organic feedback that can then be purposed to tune and consistently improve and develop the company.

Tesla Motors: Tesla has been focused on change by opening stores in busy malls with the sole purpose of targeting customers on their experience without the pressure of a dealership. Some people (competitors) had cynical thoughts that it wouldn’t work. Was this a good idea for their customer experience?
So far this year, Tesla shares have increased by more than 300%.
Revenue for the quarter also came in higher than expected at $405 million, with the street estimate ranging between $385 and $403 million (until this week).
15,000+ Model S reservations have been made in-store and online.
Tesla Model S named “Motor Trend Car of the Year” 2013 (January 2013 issue of Motor Trend)
“Tesla topped $20 billion in market value this week, winning quality awards while destroying safety tests.” (Sept. 3, 2013 Businessweek.com)

Target: Target’s successful marketing campaign blows the competition out of the water not only with their reputation for affordable products but with their new fashionable mini-shops that bring the boutique experience into their stores. Their innovative designs and use of technology not only bring in customers to shop online but also drive them to shop in-store. Furthermore, the color red is now primarily recognized with Target in North America (instead of the former titleholder, Coca-Cola) – probably since Target owns the color red. However, Aleksi Tzatzev of Business Insider said, “Target can’t sue Coca-Cola for using a similar red, because they are not selling competing products. Target claims the color red as a principle feature of its logo and lettering.”

AMC: Another great example of a successful company setting new standards is AMC Theatres. Their newly designed movie theaters are strictly developed for the best customer experience. Amctheatres.com said, “Today, AMC continues to look for new ways to delight guests by expanding its concessions stands beyond the traditional favorites and providing options like AMC Dine-In Theatres and MacGuffins bars. The company is also constantly upgrading the movie presentation, including a conversion to digital projection, 3D movies and more large-screen formats like IMAX and AMC’s proprietary ETX experience.”
Why do some companies know what’s working and what’s not? Why is Kleenex the primary name used for tissues? Why do people step into interactive stores like Brookstone and Bose? Why are certain companies encountering new dilemmas in 2013? Sears, Kmart, JC Penney and Fresh & Easy are looking for ways to a turnaround – but how?
The answer is simple, yet elusive. It requires fearless leadership and vision to innovate the customer experience by investing in a long-term commitment to expressing the brand story in a new way, creating a new and loyal relationship with the customer, and understanding how each store fits into the local community where it lives and breathes. The path to success also means starting small with a test store or two, and then adjusting in roll-out, unlike what JC Penny has tried to do.
By staying ahead of the curve, creatively taking customer feelings to heart, producing smart holistic designs, and taking advantage of talent, companies can use technology and innovation to Create Unique Customer Experiences.