At first glance, the athletic active-ware brand, Under Armour, and resort property developer, Grupo Vidanta don’t appear to have much in common.
Under Armour is a premium athletic brand well known for performance athletic apparel, footwear and accessories as well as innovative philanthropic community outreach. Its Connected Fitness platform powers one of the world’s largest digitally connected health and fitness communities. As its website clearly illustrates, the brand is as focused on providing athletes premium performance products as it is in developing and supporting a wide range of community initiatives. This summer it was awarded the 2019 ESPN Sports Humanitarian Corporate Community Impact Award for its program fostering relationships between youth and police.
Grupo Vidanta is a developer of luxury resort properties in Latin America that began in 1974 with a small hotel in Mazatlán. Its luxury vacation brand, Vidanta, includes resorts along beaches in Mexico, and it has developed a slew of luxury resort hotel brands, including Grand Luxxe and The Grand Bliss. Its real estate division built and sold more than 2,000 vacation homes in Mexico and its construction group developed Mexico’s first privately-built and owned airport, Mar de Cortes International Airport as well as the Cirque du Soleil Theater.
Both Under Armour and Grupo Vidanta are successful and growing and both are crafting a robust customer experience built on strong customer engagement.
At Under Armour the strategy is simple yet comprehensive. It includes the all-critical community aspect, that is core to the brand’s philosophy, as well as incorporating everything relating to the customer, according to Christiana DiMattesa, director of in-store and experiential marketing, North America.
For Grupo Vidanta, the focus is equally comprehensive as it involves understanding and knowing the entire guest journey, from when a vacation is initially booked to when the guest has returned home, according to Grupo Vidanta CIO Len Dudis.
The two brand leaders shared details, best practices and tips on their successful CX and customer engagement strategies during a panel talk at ICX/CONNECT: The Mobile CX Summit, that took place this June in Dallas, Texas. (The annual event, sponsored by the ICX Association and Networld Media Group, is also host to the annual ICX Association Elevate awards.)
The session, “Building experiences to drive stronger engagements,” was sponsored by NEC and moderated by Richard Ventura, senior vice president, strategy and solutions development, at NEC.
How Under Armour is building customer experiences
At Under Armour, there isn’t just one group focused on CX. There are four teams focusing on the shopping experience, in-store experience and customer journey, as well as experiential marketing and “field” experiences, explained DiMattesa.
The field experience team is just that. For example, just three months ago, 35 field specialists went out into the stores and the community to educate consumers, enhance consumer insights for the brand and activate the community around its products and the brand itself.
“All four teams touch the customer and everything we do is customer-first. Every detail matters,” said DiMattesa.
The retailer’s CX approach is to ensure its consumer experiences is all about the community as well, she added, explaining that her teams map out a concept, as well as an objective, audience, strategy, product, tactics and partnerships on every CX initiative.
One example is an Oakland Under Armour store that not only features digital signage for every new shoe drop it launches, but also serves as home to a video game station where local kids can hang out and interact in a safe place.
Such store features, she said, celebrate the local community and also illustrate how technology can empower both customer, and community engagement. Yet, she quickly added, that doesn’t always mean technology is at the forefront of Under Armour’s CX strategy, as sometimes it’s not the best solution.
“It’s about how can we use technology to bring people together and engage with the customer,” she said. “You have to think of how tech will impact human behavior and then we have to see how it impacts the customer experience.”
And don’t go looking for perfection, she warned.
“There is no perfect solution. You should look at it this way: It is brand experience and business,” she said, adding that the top element [in crafting CX] is data.
And it’s a lot of data.
DiMattesa’s teams talk to customers before, during and after an event, to gain insights and feedback. The data, said DiMattesa, helps Under Armour learn from customers and “brings our minds together so we can rock the customer’s world.”
Yet, while knowing the customer (what they want, don’t want, like and don’t like) is invaluable, analyzing that data is just as crucial.
“It’s pretty simple: Take the time to put the customer hat on, step back and look. Ask yourself, ‘What’s drawing my attention? What is my experience?'” she said.
How Grupo Vidanta is driving strong customer engagement
Grupo Vidanta takes a very similar customer experience approach and it also values customer feedback as well as technology as a tool for an engaged CX interaction. It begins soliciting customer insights from the moment a potential guest inquires about its properties, continuing to and through the resort stay, as well as after guests have return home.
One reason for such diligent customer data mining is that the luxury resort enterprise is a 24/7 operation, explained Dudis.
“The days of store hours are absolutely gone and that’s a challenge for all of us. We’re a 24/7 business, so how do we incorporate that into our strategy as customers expect us to be there [24/7],” he said. “Every day is day one.”
The focus, since the early years, has always been on the resort experience — from creating it, to selling it. to providing it to the guest.
“It doesn’t happen by accident,” said Dudis. “We do a deep dive in providing a VIP experience: What is that for the guest? What are their priorities? What makes it VIP?”
His team’s approach is to map out the customer experience as a story board — complete with graphics — and ensure no aspect of the experience goes unchecked. It’s about telling a story and getting people involved in the experience, he said.
“We go over it and over it, from the arrival experience to the room experience to the dining room experience. All the details are all very important — you have to keep focused on the details,” he said.
And that’s no easy task given all the “experiences” a guest can have at a resort, starting at travel from the airport to travel back, and all the events and activities in between. Staying at a resort, explained Dudis, creates a very personal interaction between a guest and the resort. And technology, while seemingly impersonal in many ways, can deepen that personal interaction.
One example he shared is the app provided to guests for room service needs, as well as spa and golf course reservations.
“In giving guests that option we are seeing a big return, including more reservations with spa use, golf course,” he said. For the guest it’s providing much greater convenience and ease in engaging in resort activities. That is then providing greater reward to the guest,” he said.
The resort enterprise is also testing greater use of digital signage within its properties, and currently running two different pilots in lobby areas. The signage goal, said Dudis, is to get deeper insight on what customers are experiencing as they go through their day.
“We’re learning lessons. If you don’t listen to the feedback, you won’t know if you’re delivering what the customer expects,’ he said.
Group Vidanta is also tapping a non-digital, old fashioned tool for data mining as well — the traditional customer survey.
“When it comes to the data, first you need to identify what you’re trying to do. Why are you collecting the data?” Dudis advised. “And then you need to mine that data and see what customers are saying.”