At the recent week’s Adobe Online Solutions Forum, two retailers from very different ends of the spectrum shared their insights into how they are adapting their businesses to offer a better customer experience.
For customers browsing the luxury home and body products in a Rituals store, the experience is all about sleek design, wellbeing and indulgence; tire maker Bridgestone’s workshops are a more practical, essential – and perhaps less fragrant - destination. Both companies began a digital transformation around two years ago, and both are using Adobe technology for the customer experience aspect of these projects.
When Rituals opened its new flagship store in Amsterdam in October 2020, this coincided with the launch of more than 500 new premium products, both in store and online. While the retailer needed to focus on the physical build of its House of Rituals, which offers a spa and restaurant as well as its wellbeing and homeware range, this had to go hand in hand with a website upgrade to showcase the new products.
One of the most complex aspects of the digital upgrade was the House of Rituals Talisman perfume collection, consisting of 25 new fragrances that customers can personalize with their choice of luxury bottle and charm. As Sandra Karis, Head of User Experience Design at Rituals, explained:
With a large part of these 500 new premium products being customisable, which means they have multiple variations in terms of products or packaging, it really was a bit of a challenge to bring this to the digital space. What we really focused on when building a digital journey for Talisman was making sure that all these options are available and visualized in real time.
With 800-plus options to choose from for just a single bottle of perfume, the digital Talisman product pages use a mix of traditional photography and video, but for the first time Rituals also used computer-generated images (CGI), enabling what the firm calls the configurator. The customer chooses from 25 different fragrances that each have their own color, four bottles, two versions of the cap, four amulets and two types of boxes.
When focusing on a digital journey, it's really important that all these options are available visually as well as in terms of the customization. The options are not photography, we really made the move to computer-generated images, which was a big step for us. For the amount of images we needed and created in this journey, we produced over 5,000 different variations.
An additional challenge for Rituals around its digital strategy is that some countries launch as digital-first, without a retail presence there. So focusing on bringing the in- store experience to customers in those locations is key, as is keeping a consistent brand experience throughout the growing number of channels and platforms.
Digital is driving the need for content. What we really want to ensure is that we stay relevant for our customers and every time that they interact with our brand, we can offer them something new.
We have so many beautiful products, so we really take that product as the hero. The way we treat a product page is the same as we would treat our homepage. That product-centric thinking is really key to us, and then we really focus on creating content that enriches the story behind the product.
Personalization of products and journeys is also becoming core to the firm’s digital strategy, especially the ability to combine that with data insights. Merging information from Rituals’ loyalty program with its customer profiling will see the digital product experience become a very personal one for customers. To ensure its personalization ambitions become reality, Rituals is aware it needs to use the entire value chain of its business.
It's not a marketing game, it's not a technology game. It's really a content transformation and we realize that we're just at the beginning. The involvement of every person within your business is key.
What has proved crucial for Rituals in managing its transformation is starting small.
The Talisman is the most complex product we offer to our customers. But we really used this case in building the entire chain from the content creation to the way the content is uploaded and distributed, and we really made sure that the technology was supporting this.
My advice would be to just take one product and really focus on the end-to-end chain.
After the successful launch of Talisman, Rituals is now in the process of creating digital twins - the digital version of all its product offerings. On the back of that one Talisman digital project, the retailer is now ready to implement personalized products and personalization in the journey at scale.
On the road
Bridgestone is on a similar mission to overhaul its e-commerce operations. The company may be most well-known as a tire manufacturer, but it also runs a large network of garages offering tire change, repair, maintenance and body shops for cars, trucks, off-road vehicles and motor bikes.
The business operates across 36 countries through 17 different brands, with a network of about 6,000 stores. The retail network has recently been going through a massive transformation, accelerated by the pandemic. Christophe de Valroger, VP Retail EMIA and the CEO & President of several Bridgestone brands, explained:
The pandemic has impacted us as you would guess: reduced mobility means less kilometers driven, means less repair and less tire change.
But beyond the pandemic, we've seen already for a number of years mobility going through quite a fundamental transformation. The relation of people to their cars is probably less emotional, the repairs are more complex.
For Bridgestone, this means that every customer is precious, leading to a need to accelerate its digital transformation to provide better value, better solutions and a more contextualized offer for customers. However, as a more traditional business, digitalizing the customer experience brings a number of challenges.
The first is that the product is not a very emotional product - customers have to replace their tires or shock absorber, it’s not the same as choosing to use a service like Spotify or Netflix, or visit a store like Rituals. The second is that it’s often a distress purchase, not something that is really planned but something you have to do.
Finally, Bridgestone doesn't see its customers very often, so creating a link with those customers when there is little interaction is tricky.
In the end, what our customers want is a quick service, and a service that is easy, transparent and gives them a very seamless experience. That's really what we are trying to build with this transformation, and that creates a lot of challenges but also lots of opportunities.
When the firm started its transformation journey around two years ago, its goal was to become the most trusted, innovative and sustainable repair network.
If we take the most important world here – trusted - it means absolute customer centricity. We are really taking that very strong shift towards improving that customer centricity to our customer. That means big innovation, retail transformation, investment, and investment more particularly in our digital commerce capabilities.
We expect our customer digital commerce to deliver a seamless experience for our customers who are an omnichannel, digital network powered by data. That's ultimately what we want to do. It's about making this experience just a click away for every customer. And this is also what we call internally a concierge experience.
In order to achieve this seamless customer experience, the immediate next step for Bridgestone is bringing its e-commerce capability to the minimum level needed.
We have some catching up to do in some markets where we've been a bit behind and lagging.
However, the firm is confident that the investment it is making and the transformation it is undertaking will help accelerate the e-commerce upgrade - it has a target to offer this new customer experience across more than 20 countries over the next two years.