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-How does W. Capra view technological adaptation for brands? Is it a necessity in today’s market?
History is littered with once prosperous organizations that failed to adapt. Anticipating and reacting to changing consumer expectations is critical to ongoing success. Technological advancement plays a role in influencing consumer expectation evolution and every brand must contend with it to some extent. Digital outlets cannot be overlooked in any vertical, and while an e-commerce subscription site will inherently require a different digital approach than a grocery chain, they each must adapt and adopt to stay competitive.
Technology has enabled the brand/consumer relationship to evolve into a continuous dialogue, sparing no interruption regardless of channel of trade or point of consumer interaction. In today’s market, a great in-store experience, an optimized online experience or the latest in engagement technology approaches alone is no longer enough to stay competitive. A loyal consumer integrates their favorite brands into their lifestyle, and this requires a ubiquitous experience across every point of interaction, which is rife with technological challenges to achieve.
-Which industries have struggled the most in adjusting to the shifts in technology? Where does the struggle stem from?
We’ve witnessed many challenges, and helped numerous organizations, in implementing state-of-the-art technologies in the retail petroleum space. The challenges that the retail petroleum space face are unique for two primary reasons.
First, a large percentage of the sector has a highly complex operating model whereby major oil brands specify loose technology standards and launch brand-wide consumer facing programs, but individual retailers own and operate the locations and have ultimate authority over many facets of site technology. Naturally, challenges exist in managing across the stakeholders and establishing a ubiquitous consumer experience.
The second challenge which applies to both branded and unbranded retailers is the complexity of transactions taking place both in the store and outside at the forecourt and the associated hardware/software involved. The most nimble and progressive organizations don’t let this stop them from launching innovative technologies (i.e., mobile payments at the pump, integration with the dashboard, etc.), but the structure of the forecourt certainly presents an additional hurdle to conquer.
-Is there one industry in particular the firm is seeing adjust well to the new technology available within the market? Are there any specific brands you’ve seen carrying the torch in this regard?
The Quick Serve Restaurant (QSR) sector has consistently displayed a willingness to test new technology and, once operationalized, rollout at scale with considerable pace. Across the vertical, we’ve noticed brands embracing the notion that the relationship to their consumers must be seamless across all points of interaction. The key differentiation in the QSR sector is that they’ve successfully introduced technology, but also evolved operational processes to maximize the positive impact on the consumer experience. Dominos, in particular, has become a technology-first company in recent years, from their order tracker to their proprietary voice assistant, Dom, to their Hotspot ordering platform that allows for delivery to parks and tourist locations. Chick-fil-A is another brand that has created a remarkable mobile experience. Recognizing that the nature of their business calls for speed, their mobile experience is designed to also increase efficiency of in-store operations. Ultimately, this is when technology is at its best—when it rewards a consumer’s participation with an upgraded brand experience.
-What are some of the biggest mistakes you see from brands in terms of technological adaptation?
There will always be the challenge of balancing where a brand identifies in the spectrum of the innovation adoption lifecycle with the reality of investment in both time and resources. However, one mistake we try to counsel our clients against is the propensity to go “all-in” on a concept too early. Just because something appears innovative, or another brand has implemented it to success, doesn’t mean that it’s a good fit for every brand— and if it is a good fit, then it still has to be implemented in a fashion that reasserts the fit for that specific brand. To do this right usually requires meaningful testing, whether via research, pilot markets, or prototypes. Develop your solutions in a manner that allows for iterative releases that account for key learnings.
-Where does W. Capra see the digital landscape heading in the next five to ten years?
We certainly see the convergence of digital and brick-and-mortar continuing. For the past five to ten years, we have heard every year will be the “year of mobile,” but we don’t believe wide-set mobile adoption will occur until the in-store experience demands it. The truth is that digital-hungry consumers aren’t yet the majority. Though they influence the innovators, the holistic market isn’t demanding revolutionary market-wide innovation today. When models like the Amazon Go store or the Starbucks cashless concept become everyday experiences, when the ecosystem exhibits a widespread understanding that the digital is not limited to experiences outside the store, but should overarch the entire brand experience regardless of where the consumer is accessing the brand from, then the market will demand that consumers adapt.
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