[Interview]  Paul J. Walsh, Global Chief Digital Officer of Lenovo

[Interview]  Paul J. Walsh, Global Chief Digital Officer of Lenovo

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Cognitive Commerce. Vanishing Technology. These were the words spoken by Paul J. WalshGlobal Chief Digital Officer of Lenovo. These resonated like a wake-up call for the four thousand retailers who like me attended his Keynote, at the end of February, at the eTail West conference in Palm Springs.

A pandemic later, his words are even more acute. Consumer demand for a technology that is invisible – that is called touchless, contactless, care, emphatic, anticipating needs and recognizing the customer – is even stronger.

It’s about creating fluidity between online and in-store experiences. In this conversation, Mr. Walsh discusses how brands can meet consumer expectations.

Paul J. Walsh joined Lenovo at the end of 2018 (after serving as an IT, Innovation and Marketing leader at Visa, Dell, Amazon, Quest and Microsoft). He is leading the company’s digital transformation, responsible for improving the entire customer journey by developing innovative tools and exploiting disruptive technologies. As part of their transformation, Lenovo is looking at all customer points of contact. Here, Mr. Walsh explains more.

:: How would you describe a good human experience in 2020?

Paul J. WalshRetail stores need to be creating a truly personalized experience for their customers across all channels, including in-store. 

We need to deliver new levels of convenience to the customer in an atmosphere where everything is connected – inside and outside of your businesses. This means bringing the personalization that can be achieved online into the store for an omnichannel, hyper-personalized customer experience.

Conference Etail West, February 2020, Palm Spring – Credit : Lenovo

Here’s an example of what that could look like. Let’s say you visit a clothing store you where you often shop. 

  • You walk into store
  • The store knows who you are, including your preferences and purchase history
  • You receive contextual messages on your phone:
    • The store’s app immediately sends coupons to your phone that are good for that visit
  • The salespeople know whether you prefer that they to talk to you or just let you shop
  • An associate recommends some merchandise based on your taste
  • He or she adds some items to the dressing room in your size if you want to try them on
  • Because you’ve booked a beach vacation in two weeks, the salesperson suggests a couple of bathing suits and some flip flops, and offers to ship them to your hotel upon your arrival

This entire interaction would be slightly different if you walked into the store with your spouse or kids, factoring them in for a truly personalized, contextualized experience.

«Digital transformation isn’t simply about implementing advanced technologies. It also requires rethinking an organization’s business model, processes, and culture to improve customer and employee experiences in a meaningful way». Conference Etail West, February 2020, Palm Spring – Credit : Lenovo

:: How do you apply this principle of “a good human experience” in Lenovo’s stores around the world?

Right now in China, we are transforming Lenovo’s 8,000 retails stores to deliver an omni-channel experience that drives customers to stores. We’re also working to optimize our operations. 

First, we integrated our Customer Loyalty Program with our retail database, which added 11 million new customers to our Loyalty Program. Now we are applying meaningful big data to engage those customers, drive them to our stores, and generate more conversions once they are inside.

We also launched a new omnichannel e-commence platform that leverages social-media marketing to reach customers. The platform also gives each store its own, unique online presence and helps them reach out to customers directly.

In our stores, we have deployed tools to help our managers and sales associates provide optimized customer experiences. Sales associates have an all-in-one app in their pockets they use to access current sales and promotions, inventory updates and demo tools they can share with the customer. It also lets us deliver training remotely so associates can learn wherever and whenever is convenient for them.

For managers, we’re working to help them do their jobs more effectively. We provide daily sales and inventory data, automatic inventory restocking, heat maps that show how customers navigate the store, and shelf sensors that tell them how customers are interacting with products.

Each of these limited, manageable improvements add up to a big advancement in our customers’ experience.

:: Which retail technologies do you see having a big impact in retail for the near future?

Overall, I think retailers need to be looking for opportunities every day to make customer interactions easier and more intuitive.

If I were to suggest three things to focus on right now, I would say:

  1. Create an in-store experience where devices can be left behind
    1. No phone, no wallet, no devices
    2. The customer is their own ID – with (opt-in) facial recognition for check out
  2. Ensure you can identify personalized patterns within your data
    1. Share data across all of your channels; break down silos among your brand
  3. Ask: Who are you partnering with to drive a better experience across brands? 
    1. You can deliver an even richer experience by leveraging each other’s data to drive optimal outcomes (with customer’s consent).

Conference Etail West, February 2020, Palm Spring – Credit : Lenovo



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