THE 4TH DIMENSION: THE NEXT FRONTIER OF CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE

In terms of Customer Experience and eCommerce strategy we could, and should, be doing a lot better. We seem partially stuck in old ways, many businesses only slowly adapting to new consumer demands and eCommerce potential, or indeed requiring events like a global pandemic to be forced into a future we already knew had arrived. We are moving too slow, and I can prove it. I like a good proof.

I love mathematics. There is something delicious about working on a maths problem line-by-line to the point of proof. Q.E.D. and all that. I was recently working on line equations with my daughter (well when I say ‘working’, I was helping her with quadratic equations for school, and when I say ‘helping’ I mean re-living my own high-school youth and taking over her homework … I know … I have a sad existence…). Anyway, back to the line equations and dimensions.

Even before you have a line, you start with just one dot on a page. This one dot is called a POINT and is known as the ZERO Dimension (0D).

dimensions of a cube in retail

In business terms, this is the consumer before we reach them, a single point, an independent entity to whom we would like to connect our brand/service. But without any way of connecting, they will remain a single point, as will a business the customer doesn’t know exists or cannot reach. In this 0-dimension, there is no relationship between customer and brand and no way of the two finding each other.

0D – Lonely and Alone

Clearly the 0-dimension isn’t a place for doing great business. Customers unable to find products to meet their needs perhaps turn to a DIY solution (my mother hollowed out turnips in the 1980’s long before the more American Hallowe’en pumpkins were grown and sold in Ireland. She could not buy what she needed so she made her own). Businesses often failed as they remained invisible to potential customers (something that still happens today if your eCommerce strategy is ineffective).

If you personally lived in the 0-dimension you would just be a single irrelevant point, without height, width, depth or weight. You would just be a dot. I guess zoom out in this universe enough and that is all any of us are anyway. A grim reality check there, but let us not fall down a philosophy rabbit-hole so soon. Back to maths.

0 DIMENSION RETAIL

Our next dimension is the LINE. This is where we connect two points, and in so doing we enter the 1st dimension (1D). A line has no height or depth. It is a simple affair, efficient in what it does, connecting the two points.

A Linear Marketplace Model – 1D

This was our marketplace model for the bulk of consumerist history. One point on this line is the customer, the other the brand or business. Both meet at some point along this line to buy/sell from one another. For thousands of years, customers and traders met in town and village squares, setting up trading posts, eventually permanent stores. While the stores and streets grew both in number and size, the model did not.

A brand shipped their product along this line to a store. The customer left their home along this line and visited the store. The ‘transaction node’ was a specific point, a store, along the line of this 1-D connection. Simple, efficient, obvious. This is one-dimensional retailing, connecting a product and customer along a single line (physical stores). It was the dominant global model for consumerism up until the 2000s. If 1D retailing was a computer game, it would have been Atari’s Pong.

1 DIMENSION RETAIL ATARI GAME

Life in Two Dimensions

So, what came next? Well sticking with our exploration of the dimensions, after a POINT (0-D) and a LINE (1-D) we get a PLANE, entering the world of two-dimensions (2-D). A shape that has width and length, lines running in two directions, like a square (I know, this is exciting. Remember to breathe). If 1D was Pong, 2D was Pacman. Fun but had its limitations.

2 DIMENSION RETAIL

In terms of marketing, CX and retail, this is a world many brands are still trapped in. In a 2-D world, there are still the same two points (customer and brand) but now there are two different directions they can connect. On the one hand a customer can visit a physical store to buy what they need, or they can buy online and have it delivered.

In this new 2-D world we have to be a bit more creative as marketeers, reaching out to customers across both directions, having uniformity of offering across both end-points. For many brands this still describes their omnichannel challenges and situation – a 2-D model, trying to manage both channels consistently.

3d cinema consumer

But as we all know from wearing those glasses in the movie theatres, 3-D is much more fun. We move into three-dimensions when we add depth to the previous 2D, the moment a square becomes a cube. In gaming terms this is Call of Duty or Fortnite in glorious 3D.

Beyond 2D

In business and customer touchpoints, this is the moment you realise that our 2D omnichannel or marketing strategy is no longer fit for purpose. The points of connection for the modern consumer are many and varied, something a 2D square can certainly not portray.

3 DIMENSION RETAIL

Now the potential ‘nodes’ of interaction could be a physical store, a brand website, app, social (mCommerce) swipe-up shopping, click & collect, inside metaverse virtual environments, third-party merchants and so on. Simply put, the old 2D model is no longer fit for purpose in a world that offers so much CX ‘connection’ potential. The issue is that most businesses are running 2-D retail, CX and marketing strategies. It is time to move from 2-D to 3-D. This is not the 1980s or 1990s anymore.

MARIO 2D VS MARIO 3D

Now this blog is entitled The Fourth Dimension, and some of you are thinking ‘hang on’, then what is it? Well for some in the science community the 4th dimension is TIME but for others it is a 4th SPATIAL dimension. If we are to extend our point > line > plane > cube metaphor, 4-D is a TESSERACT (a cube within a cube).

4 DIMENSION RETAIL

In keeping with the gaming analogy, this is VR. You are no longer just watching the screen, you are INSIDE the screen/game.

Increased Connection Complexity

With the Metaverse and increased societal levels of digital immersion heading our way, it should be quite clear to anyone that modern marketing is heading towards a 4-D Tesseract model. The number of layered touchpoints to connect brands with customers is going to continuously multiply. As we add virtual environments to the mix, a brand is going to need more than a social media and omnichannel strategy to stay relevant. 4D is the future.  Layered complexity of consumer connection.

4D RETAIL METAVERSE

Another reason the we need to push toward 3D and 4D models is because they have DEPTH. 1D and 2D are beautifully simple models, efficient, but they lack any depth. The new frontier for customer experience is ‘depth of connection’, particularly relevant for eCommerce strategy.

Think about some of the biggest eCommerce platforms in the world. Think of Amazon, Alibaba, Walmart or eBay.  They are all transaction platforms. Terrifically efficient, delivering on instant and our ‘one-click / one-swipe’ expectation. They are wonderful examples of digital convenience. But that was so last decade when it comes to CX. Digital convenience is now just a hygiene factor, an expected ‘plane’, a 2D delivery.

The future of eCommerce, CX and digital strategy is to create DEPTH OF CONNECTION using technology and thus scale. If it is customer loyalty and customer lifetime value we seek, then we need to be mining this depth of connection in digital environments.

The timing of this conversation is perfect as Metaverse prepares to present this depth of digital connection. But you do not need to wait until the technology or customer adoption is high to deliver depth of digital connection. You can do it today.

The digital tools we have at our disposal would make any marketeer in the 1950s pee their pants. The ability to reach into a customer’s pocket, aware of who they are, what they have last bought, where they are at this very moment, what they are browsing or considering buying… we have more data than ever before. Sadly, few brands utilise this data to add any real value or depth to their customer experience.

Connection takes creativity but is often simple. Every time I donate blood, about 2-3 weeks later I get a simple SMS message from the transfusion service letting me know that my donated blood has just been used, why and in which hospital (not exactly to whom obviously, that would definitely be a privacy issue).

Last time it went to a cancer patient, before that as a transfusion post-surgery. It is a very simple message that connects the donor to the use, a message that makes me feel good, feel that my donation was worth it, a message that locks me into future donations. In a sad world where only 3%+ of a population are regular blood donors, donor retention matters.

Using digital to connect with your customer base in ways that make them feel special does not have to be clever or complicated, but it does have to make them ‘feel something’. Most brand digital interactions are informative, commercial, or transactional. They lack any depth of connection, any emotion, any empathy or ‘feels’. This is the next frontier for CX – delivering the customer ‘feels’ at scale using technology.

Enter the Fourth CX Dimension

The 4th dimension for marketing, CX and eCommerce is therefore about two things:

  1. An increase in the SCALE of connections. Think cube and tesseract instead of line, 3D/4D instead of 2D
  2. An increase in the DEPTH of connection. Think about solving all 6-faces of the Rubik cube instead of just one or two.

The brands that move their thinking and approach into higher dimensional planes are ready for the more complicated future of consumer expectations and CX. Authenticity and depth of customer connection are axes we need to start measuring.

OK. That is all for maths class today. Next time we will be looking at how best to use a compass to annoy the student sitting in the desk in front of you, something we all spent most of high-school maths class doing.


This blog is an exert from Ken’s latest keynote speech Love is a Verb: The Next Frontier for CX.  Connect to our team to Book Ken to speak at your next event. To learn more about quadratic equations, click here (seriously, you didn’t think I was actually going to supply that link, did you?).

Ken Hughes is now considered one of the World’s leading speakers on the subject of customer experience, consumer values, organizational change, leadership and agility. His virtual and live in-person keynotes are famous for their high-energy, thought-provoking content as well as their impactful and inspiring delivery.

Ken Hughes, known as The King of Customer Experience on the International Conference Circuit, studies emerging consumer behaviour and helps businesses and brands establish deeper and more relevant connections with their customers.

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