Innovation rarely happens in a vacuum. It usually starts with an individual brave enough to contribute an idea and a team inspired enough to make it great. This blog provides a forum for all Centrons to contribute ideas, make suggestions, ask questions and inspire others. There are no boundaries. To participate, all you need is the desire to build great products.

Looking Back at Solstice FWD

FWD is Solstice’s annual Client Symposium, an innovation summit for leaders in CX, Digital, Commerce and Product that are tasked with exploring, “What’s Next?”

Solstice FWD banner graphic

Solstice FWD provided a blend of thought leadership, tech-splash solutions, and information we can use now to start planning for the future. Rather than focus on cool things like Solstice’s IoT enabled beer vending machine (who doesn’t want to ask an Amazon Echo for a Modelo?), I noticed particular trends that many of the speakers touched on in their presentations:

  • Modern consumers are empowered
  • We need innovation in user experience
  • Disruptive businesses will defeat the incumbents

The Future of the Digital Customer Experience

Customer experience is the number one differentiator between a company that succeeds and fails in the next 10 years. J Schwann, CEO Solstice Mobile

J Schwann, CEO of Solstice Mobile, believes a rise in experiential technologies will cause users to reject transaction based systems and embrace new systems of experience. He predicts that companies that can create a emotional connection with their end users are going to shake things up for companies that have been founded on building personal experiences with their clients. Digital startups are nailing the customer experience in niche environments and in almost every industry physical product spaces are being disrupted by digital.

Julie Ask, VP Principal Analyst at Forrester Research, spoke about “The Future of the Digital Customer Experience.” With 200 million smart phones and 30 billion mobile moments happening every day we can’t just view Mobile as another channel, but rather as a unique experience. By looking past applications as strategy, we can win and retain business with better service and better culture by partnering, engaging, and listening to our customers.

Meet Vender, Solstice’s IoT enabled vending machine
Meet Vender, Solstice’s IoT enabled vending machine

Mike Boush, Chief Digital Officer at Discover, talked during the “Experiential Commerce” portion of the event. Mike had a lot to say about the changing influence of marketing and engineering in the future of tech and advertising (this really hit home for me as a Centron). Large portions of the Internet only exist due to a subsidy from advertising. This model resides in the mobile and desktop space, but in the future it could exist in virtual reality, IoT, or in unimagined medias. Because commerce is changing we need to rethink the customer experience so that our methods of delivery are not a nuisance. Advertising is most effective when it falls inline with what people are already trying to do.

Human Centered Design

Many of the speakers at Solstice FWD spoke of the need to focus on Human-centered Design. Scott Wilson, the Founder and CEO of MINIMAL, thinks that designing for emotional innovation will create product experiences that matter. Companies like Nest are able to take a product no one cared about and give it a 360-degree experience. Small companies focusing on product and market fit will be able to disrupt similar categories by creating unique user journeys.

Just like a top chef, the best designers can take the same ingredients everyone is using and put them together in a new and special way. The world has changed, and we are in now in the “Experience Age.” Having a purpose-built experience will make your product more essential to the user.

J Schwann kicking off Solstice FWD.
J Schwann kicking off Solstice FWD

Companies that are able to cater to human and user-centered design will have a competitive strategic advantage. Brian Hunt discussed how he has helped Orbitz Worldwide do this in his role as Sr. Director of User Experience. Orbitz has moved human-centered design as far up the product lifecycle as possible, bringing it into the strategizing phase.

Too often products are driven by business needs, rather than user needs and we need to design for their preferences, not ours. This can be done by having an agile approach to experimentation, and constantly testing and rethinking your work. Observe users using what you build and what you create. This will bridge the gap between what you think you know, and what the user is actually doing.

Brian believes that there is always enough time to prototype, test, and measure, even if this prototype exists as a napkin drawing. Having an agile testing and development framework can help companies and products to mitigate long term risk.

Enterprise Innovation

Incorporating these ideas and workflows into enterprise environments can be difficult, especially at large companies. Hope Arenas, Head of Mobile Center of Excellence at Bosch has been deploying enterprise innovation across a 290,000-person company. She does this by creating an active test bed for development and feedback, and tries to make existing technology tangible for all associates by actualizing value from connecting cross division products and data.

Bosch’s size and large range of products creates an interesting situation where, “Bosch doesn’t know what Bosch knows.” Their current goal is to have all of their devices connected by 2020. This catalyst will move innovation out of silos and allow them to showcase market-ready solutions to both customers and the media.

Conclusion

I had a great time at Solstice FWD, and learned that the Internet and especially Mobile has empowered consumers, and opened the doors for disruptive businesses to create unique and innovative user and customer experiences. As technologies continue to change they will open up new avenues for disruption and better experiences. For businesses to be successful they must create honest experiences that are important to and focused on their users.

Solstice’s write up of the event is available on their RWD site.