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Legacy brands are responding to the DTC threat by appointing chief customer experience officers

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As new direct-to-consumer brands like Dollar Shave Club, Warby Parker, and Casper upend categories from eyeglasses to mattresses, legacy brands are rethinking not just how they approach retail and advertising, but the customer experience.

A growing roster of established brands including Mastercard, MetLife, and Marriott, have appointed chief experience officers dedicated to building closer relationships with customers.

“DTC brands are the disruptors that are providing a wake-up call for a lot of the other brands,” said Nancy Kramer, chief evangelist at IBM iX. Kramer has helped brands including Sherwin Williams and Coca-Cola transition from being in the product business to the services business.

As of 2015, 6% of companies in the S&P 500 Index had a chief experience officer, according to Forrester analyst Harley Manning. He estimates that number to be at 11% to 12% at present.

“At a time when traditional brands are taking a step back and asking how they are going to compete, looking at DTC brands gives them proof that competing on customer experience is working,” he said.

DTC brands have turned customer experience into a real competitive business advantage

DTC brands are different from traditional brands in that they are digital natives, own their first-party customer data, and rely heavily on performance marketing on digital channels to grow.

Their rapid growth can also be attributed to their focus on direct consumer relationships and more agile supply chains that can quickly adapt to consumers, according to a 2018 report from the Interactive Advertising Bureau.

“DTC brands have done an incredible job building on the premise that people care about experiences, not products,” said Sam Appelbaum, general manager at performance marketing agency YellowHammer, which works with DTC brands. “They make emotional connections, which manifest through data-driven marketing.”

These brands believe that having top customer experience gives them a competitive advantage. Casper, for instance, lets customers order a mattress online, try it for 100 days, and return it if they don’t like it. It also frequently sets up pop-ups to tout its new products, and plans to set up nore permanent retail outposts.

“Casper’s success, since the early days, can be distilled down to two simple things — a unique product, delivered with a unique experience,” said Eleanor Morgan, Casper’s chief experience officer. “Experience is a differentiator for us, and one that we invest in.”

Legacy brands have started taking a page out of the DTC playbook

To be sure, such customer-centric roles have been around in industries like banking and hospitality for years. But the rise of DTC brands has prompted established brands to take a page straight from the DTC playbook.

Read More:To compete for customers, luxury brands are borrowing a tactic banking and hospitality have been using for years

For Mastercard, that’s meant dedicating an executive, Donald Chestnut, as chief experience officer, starting this month. His role goes beyond the traditional chief marketing officer role and involves ensuring consistency in the company’s interactions across all the touch points the company has across its business lines, from employees and issuers, to merchants and consumers.

“Whether you’re running a business or you’re a person shopping, you are looking for a simple, secure, convenient and intuitive way to go about your daily life — and payments are no exception,” Michael Miebach, chief product officer at Mastercard, told Business Insider. “These same needs cut across our brand, products and services and also inform how we interact with and support the banks that issue our cards and the merchants that accept them.”

Other marketers have taken steps to learn more about their customers by collecting personal information and data about their purchasing habits and online behavior.

Consumer packaged goods giant Unilever, for instance, set up a pop-up store for its skincare brand St. Ives in New York City in 2017 and 2018, where customers could create personalized facial scrubs and body lotions. St. Ives used the pop-up to collect contact data and consumer preferences, amassing more than 25,000 email addresses in 2017. Unilever used the data to develop products and target customers with personalized content.

“Investing in experiences helps brands to not only build connections and drive brand recall, but also allows them to drive addressable sales and eventually, return on ad spend,” said YellowHammer’s Applbaum.

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OTTAWA — Major companies and government partners are lending their support to Carleton University’s newly established Women in Engineering and Information Technology Program.

The list of supporters includes Mississauga-based construction company EllisDon.

The latest to announce their support for the program also include BlackBerry QNX, CIRA (Canadian Internet Registration Authority), Ericsson, Nokia, Solace, Trend Micro, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, CGI, Gastops, Leonardo DRS, Lockheed Martin Canada, Amdocs and Ross.

The program is officially set to launch this September.

It is being led by Carleton’s Faculty of Engineering and Design with the goal of establishing meaningful partnerships in support of women in STEM.  

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Serious Labs seems to have found a way from tragedy to triumph? The Edmonton-based firm designs and manufactures virtual reality simulators to standardize training programs for operators of heavy equipment such as aerial lifts, cranes, forklifts, and commercial trucks. These simulators enable operators to acquire and practice operational skills for the job safety and efficiency in a risk-free virtual environment so they can work more safely and efficiently.

The 2018 Humboldt bus catastrophe sent shock waves across the industry. The tragedy highlighted the need for standardized commercial driver training and testing. It also contributed to the acceleration of the federal government implementing a Mandatory Entry-Level Training (MELT) program for Class 1 & 2 drivers currently being adopted across Canada. MELT is a much more rigorous standard that promotes safety and in-depth practice for new drivers.

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The Government of Alberta has awarded $1 million, and Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA) is contributing an additional $2 million for the simulator development. Commercial deployment is estimated to begin in 2024, with the simulator to be made available across Canada and the United States, and with the Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) helping to provide simulator tests to certify that driver trainees have attained the appropriate standard. West Tech Report recently took the opportunity to chat with Serious Labs CEO, Jim Colvin, about the environmental and labour benefits of VR Driver Training, as well as the unique way that Colvin went from angel investor to CEO of the company.

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While the world comes out of the initial stages of the pandemic, COVID-19 will be continue to be a threat for some time to come. Companies, such as Zen Graphene, are working on ways to detect the virus and its variants and are on the forefronts of technology.

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