From a time when customer experience (CX) was a useful tool in a marketer’s arsenal, today this field has become a vital component of business strategy. That's according to findings from Adobe and Econsultancy's Experience Index 2020 Digital Trends report, which asserts that brands leading the way in customer experience are three times more likely to have significantly exceeded their 2019 business goals.
The success of the early and aggressive investors in CX supports the essential case for a customer-led approach; good experience leads to higher retention and advocacy, according to the report. "In turn marketing can point to a higher revenue contribution that’s more profitable and predictable because repeat customers are less expensive and easier to predict," the report states.
Ten years ago, the industry was trying to figure out how to tailor content to mobile devices and use social as a sales channel. ‘Earned media’ still needed quotation marks, and the television versus digital debate raged.
"The topics sound antique but the promise of digital was the same. Interactive channels could give people what they wanted, wherever and whenever they wanted it," the report adds. "Today, that promise is much closer to reality, as the strategy, technology and processes for customer experience and marketing have matured and aligned."
The challenge today is managing the complexity of marketing to the individual. Many companies still lack a unified customer profile as they struggle to manage disparate data sources. Without that ability to centre easily on the individual, the top priorities of 2020 are likely to be challenges as much as opportunities.
Even as companies rush to bolster their offerings, there are several other hurdles their marketing chiefs need to overcome. Internal issues can kill efficiency, slow product evolution can stand in the way of digital transformation.
Workflow is where marketers slog and inefficiencies can slow the entire organisation, the report continues. Half of respondents at larger companies, those with over £150 million in 2019 revenues, report that outdated workflows slow their processes, in comparison with only 32% of CX leaders.
Another area that can bog down radical shifts in CX is inevitably budgets. Nearly one-third of CX leaders report that inadequate budgets are a barrier to creating digital experiences, but that’s significantly lower than at other companies, large and small.
Even as CMOs seek to improve their CX capabilities, they see finding and keeping the right talent as a challenge. This emphasis on people drives CX leaders to look at learning as a strategic function that can add capabilities and feed into change management.
The traditional approach to adding talent is often to hire it directly or as part of an agency relationship. "But as first-party data is increasingly viewed as a key strategic asset, organisations have brought customer experience related functions in-house, building teams that take advantage of institutional knowledge and shared data," the report reveals.
As data and technology takes centre stage in companies’ marketing plans, personalisation to the individual is a priority, challenging marketers to evolve not only their ability to manage customer data, but use it to deliver experiences in real time that are matched to the consumer and their context, the report adds. Evidently, this is easier said than done: the infrastructure to personalise offerings is in place at only 38% of the largest companies, and the strategy to take advantage at fewer still.
With finicky customers having an assortment of technology at their fingertips, they expect easy, valuable experiences that marketers a decade ago could scarcely imagine. The modern customer journey is complex and unpredictable; it can only be understood and managed in real time, putting customer data at the centre of marketing.
This emphasis on data and technology is a trend that the report identifies as a key element of building a successful CX strategy. The past few years have seen consumers becoming increasingly aware of their data and how it is being used.
Today, a changing regulatory environment and consumer technologies are further defining digital relationships. "Leading companies are attempting to adapt to a new marketing dynamic, demanding that they lean into privacy, demonstrate transparency and continue to build trust with consumers," the report states. The research shows that organisations with a highly integrated, cloud-based technology stack are 65% more likely than their peers to suggest that the focus on data protection has had a positive impact.
The ability to rapidly analyse and act on data defines the ceiling for customer experience. Large organisations’ use of automation for data analysis jumped by nearly 20% in this year’s study, rising from 55% to 64%.
Marketing departments met AI first with the launch of Siri on the iPhone; today this technology concept has gone mainstream and budget-starved small businesses risk losing out because they can’t afford to invest in these tools.