According to a 2014 Gartner survey on marketing’s role in customer experience, 89 per cent of marketers expect to compete primarily on the basis of customer experience by 2016. They believe that customer experience is the new battlefield for competition. That number is not too far off from the recent Forrester’s finding; 73 per cent of companies say improving customer experience is a priority.
But how do you measure something that’s qualitative like customer experience (or “sum of discrete moments” as Gartner calls it)? When you say it’s a great experience, how great was it, exactly? Can you give a precision metric, say 13.475 per cent greater as compared to your previous experience? And what is the basis of that number? Truth is you can’t.
Experience is personal; much of it is based on emotions. And unfortunately, it’s not as straightforward as we want it to be. That’s mainly because we are both unique and diverse at the same time. We all have multiple dimensions that build up our identity as an individual. In other words, we all have numerous hats to wear at any different time. I’m a marketer by profession, but at the same time a big part of me is a spouse, a father, and a customer. And, when a brand is relating to one aspect of my identity, chances are it’s touching the other dimensions of my life too, directly or indirectly.
Every organization and brand must keep this in mind when it comes to the topic of customer experience. Once they do, only then they will be able to deliver personalized experience, having understood their customers’ unique needs and wants. And, the need to do it all without breaching the privacy of the customers.
The world has changed and it’s not going backward
In the past, customer experience was easier to control with fewer channels and limited networks. It came through our in-person interaction with the organization/brand. Sure, word of mouth travelled, but nothing like the speed with which it does today, thanks (or no thanks) to the Internet and social media channels.
What we know as customer experience today is really just the customer service of the past. As the world opened up and the lines that determined how service should be delivered disappeared, customer service has evolved as a business priority of an entire organization, known as customer experience.
Technology has caused massive disruptions and changed the game in almost every area of our lives. For customer experience, it simply means the “experience” is no longer limited to what happens inside the four walls of brick-and-mortar stores. Today, customers can have pre-purchase experiences through social media that can make or, sadly, break the deal. That is the reality and organizations/brands are now under intense pressure to get it right every time.
Going back to simple: Embrace technology
One of the biggest challenges that organizations/brands have to deal with is data. Not because they lack it, but because the opposite is true—they have mountains of it. Yet analyzing that data and translating it into meaningful insights doesn’t always come automatically. And how many brands today really get this and use it to their advantages? 1 per cent.
This is why I truly believe technology is one of the important innovation elements that can overcome challenges caused by—you guessed it—technology. As much as I could argue how things were much simpler before the invasion of technology, the opposite is true: technology has made my life easier.
Take, for instance, a conversation I had with my driving instructors last year. With an exception of one, all of them told me I should have taken lessons to drive manual cars instead of automatic cars, because that way I’d be able to drive both types. My defense was simple. I asked them if they would ditch their smartphones to go back to analog 2G mobile phones, and of course they said no. Like other inventions, cars are getting more advanced, thanks to technology.
But coming back to customer experience and data insight, take a simple thing like forms, for example.
Fashion brands that ask for my job title, the company I work for, and country of residence when I am completing an online purchase can take a simple step to deliver me personalized offers. After all, this is what marketers should be empowered to do. By leveraging technology that allows them analyze that data and do re-targeting/re-marketing, they can use the insight of where I live (not much need of winter coats) and what my work life is (nothing that is too revealing) to then send me a fashion-trends newsletter tailored to all my preferences, and offer me similar items they have in their online store. That will increase the likelihood of my purchasing the items from them and keep me coming back to buy from them.
Beyond customer loyalty
While customer experience is something that can’t always be tangibly measured, leveraging the right technology makes it possible to measure the some aspects that build up a great customer experience. You can measure repeat purchases, increased sales revenue, increased engagement and what they are saying about your brand online.
And while you want to keep your customers, what you really want is to create brand advocates who feel connected to your brand, buy (almost) everything you sell, and evangelize for your brand whenever and where ever they can. Delivering a contextual marketing looks like the right first approach to start this journey.
Nicholas Kontopoulos is global head of fast growth markets and marketing innovation with SAP hybris