Out With The Old, In With The New And Not So New: 3 Trends to Consider In Customer Experience Delivery


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Are you ready for conversational commerce, digital gifting, and secondhand markets?

Great customer experience brands are constantly tracking macro-changes in consumer behavior and trying to determine if an emerging trend is simply a fad (hot for the short run but soon to fizzle) or a meaningful pattern worthy of infrastructure investment.

Here are three trends you may wish to consider as you explore technology, service, and product development:

1. Conversational Commerce – Increasingly customers are ordering products using voice commands through an interface like Amazon Echo. Starbucks and other brands have been leaders in developing technology to capitalize on this trend. Recently during a shareholders meeting, the Starbucks chief technology officer, Gerri Martin-Flickinger, suggested that consumer behavior is changing so rapidly that the days of customers using “one finger and point and click” to order online are waning and that the future will exclusively involve voice ordering.

2. Digital Gifting – In my book Leading the Starbucks Way, I discussed an early investment Starbucks made to allow customers to gift through social media – that initiative was called the “tweet-a-coffee program.” Tweet-a-coffee has been expanded to enable customers to send a Starbucks gift card via iMessage within a conversation using an iPhone or iPad. The person receiving the gift card simply redeems it on their Apple device using Apple Pay.

3. The Secondhand Market – According to a recent article in the Fashion Network, the largest online consignment shop (thredUp) reports millennials (30%) and women over age 65 (32%) are becoming more actively involved in thrift or secondhand shopping.

According to thredUp, 50% of their customers report that secondhand purchases are being made as an alternative to buying from stores like Marshalls or Nordstrom Rack.  While this finding currently is limited to clothing purchases, Fashion Network offers a possible explanation as to why the secondhand trend might be relevant to other industries when it comes to millennials and women over the age of 65:

“Having grown up during economic recessions, the two generations are more mindful of their purchases. More than half of these women have shopped secondhand in the last 12 months or say they will in the next 12 months, while the majority of millennial women say they consider the resale value of an item before they purchase something new.”

According to the Fashion Network article, shoppers with incomes greater than $125,000 are also passing up Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue to buy second-hand goods. As an example of positioning in response to this trend, I recently shopped at a high-end jewelry store that also sold “lightly used” designer handbags. 

So what do you think? Are these customer experiences fads? Alternatively, are they worthy of your consideration?

Let’s pretend that conversational ordering, digital gifting, and the secondhand market signal future true consumer preferences. How might you begin to invest in technology, service delivery, or product development that supports this changing consumer landscape?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Joseph Michelli, Ph.D.
Joseph Michelli, Ph.D., an organizational consultant and the chief experience officer of The Michelli Experience, authored The New Gold Standard: 5 Leadership Principles for Creating a Legendary Customer Experience Courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company and the best-selling The Starbucks Experience: 5 Principles for Turning Ordinary Into Extraordinary.


  1. Integration of voice into every facet of customers online experience is a critical initiative to capturing early adopters and creating loyalty. Consider that if consumers can’t use voice commands to complete tasks they will move another provider that can. Thanks for the insight.

  2. Great question, Joseph. Knitting together the underlying theme of these three trends leads me to wonder if there is a bit of a “backlash” from too much high tech and not enough high touch creating a desire for more of a local market/town square/neighbor-serving-neighbor experience. I have thought the current challenges of big box retail is less about e-tailing competition and more about the quest for more personalized shopping you might get from a speciality store. My wife reports the experience buying lingerie at Macy’s versus say a Victoria’s Secret next door is not the same; handbag shopping at the Coach store down the mall is not the same as perusing handbags at JC Penney (even when the product is the same). In our quest for the latest golly gee whiz technology, we might be sometimes forgetting that customer service is its strongest and most enduring when there is a modicum of a relationship in the mix. The New is finding an effective blend of high tech (e.g., digital gifting) with high touch (“within a conversation”). Hope your post starts a dialogue!

  3. Great summary. Putting aside the secondhand trend, in part because the auction sites, beginning with eBay have been at this for years, anything organizations can do to demonstrate social consciousness while, at the same time, building relationships (your trends 1 and 2) will truly benefit customers, employees, and the company bottom line. Books like Firms of Endearment and Conscious Capitalism offer deep, long-term proof, i.e. real (not alternative) facts and financial results, re. how successful, stakeholder-centric organizations create and sustain experience value.

  4. Chip, I love your take on the the differentiation in retail (large and small) is personalized service. I worked with a retail client who shall remain nameless that tried some whiz bang augmented reality and we reversed course because it got in the way of the intimacy of the sales conversation. I am 100% in agreement that future is high touch AND high tech (positioned at the most timely moments).

  5. Michael – yes to longer term proof of secondhand trends. There may be some value in the recent work looking at the trends relevance to Millennials. I love the “non-alternative” facts sources you’ve cited as evidence of what people like you and I dedicate our lives to – helping others drive wins for customers as well as wins for the businesses who care for them well.

  6. Joe, I like your question. It seems to me that the technology you describe is just the beginning, as companies begin to expedite their focus on the Customer Experience and how to enhance it. Faced with challenges such as quicker, easier, my way, etc., the door has opened for more provocative tools for the customer. And, I suspect, we will soon see all ages embracing technology more freely to enhance life style and experiences. Good, thought provoking commentary.

  7. Dennis – AMEN! the conversation commerce is just the beginning. Thanks for emphasizing the quicker, easier demands as well.


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