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Syniverse: 3 brands using digital to engage customers better than most

thinking digital thinking digital
Photo credit:

Dino Reichmuth

Syniverse's Mary Clark summarizes how Argos, Specsavers, and BBVA Compass are constructing their strategies around omnichannel to better engage their customers.

In part one of our series on how mobile is enabling brands to transform their approach to business, we saw how companies like Wendy’s, Peninsula Hotels, KAYAK and Aviva are integrating mobile in more and more innovative ways. In part two, which like part one also includes a yearlong series of Hot Topics interviews sponsored by Syniverse, we continue our report.

If an insurance company like Aviva is thinking digital, what about banks? You could argue, the question is even more fundamental since mobile could migrate entire banking operations from branch to pocket.

BBVA Compass is aware of this. It has won awards for its app, which was among the first to offer features such as ‘remote deposit capture.’ This lets a customer take a photo of a check to deposit it.

Jennifer Dominiquini, CMO of BBVA Compass, says: “We use mobile to help our customers stay in control throughout their financial journey with us – bringing banking to them, as it were.”

Clearly, banks are still pondering the right balance between ‘bricks’ and ‘clicks’. And the same goes for traditional high-street retailers. For many, the answer is ‘omnichannel’. It’s become an overused word perhaps, but it reflects a desire among retailers to combine digital search and ordering with physical customer service and collection.

And it’s not easy to master. In the UK, Argos has succeeded better than most. Argos is unusual. Its customers shop from catalogs in-store and collect their items when their number is called. The company recognized early the advantages of adding digital ordering and collection to the model. It allocated $144 million (£100 million) to make it happen.

Stephen Vowles, marketing director at Argos, says: “Experimenting with retail mobile marketing is essential because if you’re not, that ability to keep up and learn quickly is severely impaired. The UK retail industry moves fast and has low margins, so in order to stay on top you have to be willing to learn early on or face the consequences.”

Of course, this was not just a question of designing customer-facing apps and sites. It also required a rethink of the back end. So Argos created a ‘hub and spoke’ distribution network that supports the same-day collection of 20,000 products.

It’s worked. As of late 2016, Vowles estimated that 70 percent of his customers engage with Argos digitally.

While it’s true that mobile-first consumers are demanding change from big brands, less savvy customers can benefit from digital ideas too. A good example of this comes from UK optician Specsavers.

The high-street firm introduced a Virtual Dispensing Toolbox Measuring (VDTM) tool. It lets staff access customer records and dispensing tools from an app running on tablets. Though it was introduced to improve the in-store experience, Specsavers quickly realized that VDTM gives staff the freedom to go anywhere. So it’s now using the tool to reach customers who are homebound.

Richard Holmes, Specsavers’ marketing director, says: “We’re rapidly developing a domiciliary business, whereby we have opticians traveling around the country visiting people who are homebound. So we’re using the power of digital technology to create and facilitate new businesses.”

The use of mobile by these companies shows that no matter the brand, sector or target customer, mobile is without a doubt driving big changes in the ways brands do business. It will be critical to keep an eye on how this transformation continues as consumers are increasing tethered to their devices.