Operation “Surprise and Delight”

Published: Jan 08, 2018
Author: Forrest Carr

It was just eighteen months ago that Pokémon Go captured global attention, and people of all ages were out in the streets, loading up on pokéballs, and trying to catch and evolve their Pikachus and Charizards. Word from creator Niantic is that a Harry Potter version of the experience is forthcoming in 2018. The game took augmented reality (AR) to a new level, overlaying virtual characters and locations on a real-world map and integrating GPS and proximity features to send players on a global scavenger hunt to “catch ‘em all.”

The gaming space is an ideal fit for the magic of VR and AR tech, and there was a time when few could envision applications beyond it. But the core value of these technologies, especially augmented reality, is their ability to merge the virtual world with the real one. Capitalizing on that unique capability is what gives it broad application outside of gaming.

Pulling the virtual world closer to the real world is exactly what today’s tech-savvy, mobile customers will connect to. Millennials are immersed in that magic every day through social channels and filters. In the retail industry, the overlay of these solutions has great potential and utility to engage customers both in store and online to trigger product discovery and exploration—to “try on” clothes and makeup before buying, to visualize furniture and décor in at-home spaces, to suggest do-it-yourself projects, and to bring in-store digital experiences to life. And it meets the greatest need brick-and-mortar retailers are striving for. By creating virtual magic in their stores, they are able to transform shopping into dreaming.

To create that outcome for customers, retailers need to be the first ones to dream. They need an innovation framework to architect solutions that truly deliver ideal outcomes. Answering the question, “What will surprise and delight my customers?” must be part of the early exploration that defines those ideal outcomes, but only a few answers to that question will be both buildable and deliverable. Getting something off the ideal world of the whiteboard and into the real world of development is the challenge of any innovation approach.  That’s why the framework through which those ideas are blueprinted is critical.

We work with companies every day who want this kind of digital transformation but are struggling with the timeline. They’re looking for strategies and partners who can help them gain traction to outcomes—help them accelerate the innovation process. We pull alongside those companies and walk them through a process for quickly sifting through and prioritizing desired outcomes and then identifying the right framework for building, vetting, and scaling it: 

  1. Identify outcomes. We start with not only enumerating specific key objectives, but also leveraging marketplace advantages and existing technology investments.

  2. Select a framework. Of the repository of innovation frameworks that we’ve built and utilized ourselves, we help these customers identify a best-fit framework to accelerate the innovation they want to build.

  3. Build prototypes. Based on the framework, we then produce a few rapid prototypes which can be visualized, interacted with, and tested for business viability.

  4. Pilot the capability. We build and launch a pilot of the top prototypes based on the best potential to drive the predetermined business outcome.

  5. Operationalize. Based on the success of the pilot, we turn that pilot into reality through rollout stages across the organization.

We apply that approach to both business transformation outcomes (better experiences, improved operations, new revenues streams) and IT transformation outcomes (enabling the business, improved efficiencies, tech evolution), but early prototyping partnerships have focused on some of those VR/AR engagement solutions for the retail space mentioned above, and the outcomes have been stellar. There’s a great deal of white space to innovate within when it comes to the tech-enabled consumer shopper.

Forrest Carr is the Director of Business Innovation & Digital Experience at Verizon Enterprise Solutions.