The consumer landscape is being reshaped. Transition to recovery requires brands and retailers to navigate and manage several priorities simultaneously - track changing consumer preferences, identifying, and prioritizing pockets of growth, adjusting commercial strategies - and become much more agile to pursue opportunities.
It is an intensely competitive market where companies are working hard to maintain strong relationships by recognizing who is buying and what they want, and are constantly striving to improve their browsing and buying experience for their customers to come back. Nevertheless, it is a buyers’ market and if companies don’t provide a truly exceptional experience, customers don’t have to go far to find someone else to meet their needs.
But what is the customer experience? It’s the sum of all the interactions and relationships that a customer has with a brand; and it includes the feelings, emotions, and perceptions of those interactions along the way.
Therefore, I believe that a great customer experience should be personalized, timely, relevant, effortless, seamless, remarkable, memorable, and consistent. Always and every time.
Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case.
The Rising Importance of Customer Experience
It is a hardball game for attention, attraction, conversion, and loyalty.
While consumers are becoming more comfortable with virtual platforms, they do not tend to see brands in silos. They establish multiple touchpoints and expect a seamless experience between each touchpoint.
Every customer has their own decision and buying journey across multiple channels. Many retailers on the other hand still operate multi-channel. Having independent operations between digital and physical channels, each with its strategy, goals, and ownership of the results, seems outdated. Very few have established a proper omnichannel operation. There is a major difference in the experience through - omnichannel combines these touchpoints so that type of the journey taken doesn’t influence the experience, and it can always be consistent and unified. Omnichannel personalization thus requires companies to rethink their organizational structure, capabilities, and incentives across the digital and physical parts of the business.
Keeping Customers Close and Engaged
Building the commercial capabilities needed to win and to permanently adopt agile decision making, requires the development of comprehensive strategies, rooted in the needs of the customers of the future.
Many decisions affecting customer experience and the effectiveness of the engagement revolve around the following principles:
Acting in a customer-centric way
The adoption of a customer-centric approach is an organization-wide strategic shift, that has significantly changed the scope and ways how we approach our customers. Consequently, marketing is being transformed into a revenue-generating engine, having a strong and measurable contribution to the company’s value and the offering. Knowing its customers, understanding their behaviors, intent, what they value, and why, identifying their needs and expectations.
Making analytics-driven decisions
Data and analytics have become more critical than ever to accurately forecast demand. The biggest challenge is not anymore, the data itself but rather how to transform this data into useful insights, to engage with potential customers, and to support strategic decision making.
Companies should harness a wide range of data sources as inputs. Analytics should not track only historical sales trends but also integrate offline and online data - like an up-to-date snapshot of the category, brand, and competitive dynamics, consumer sentiment, social listening, search trends, and dozens of macroeconomic variables like consumer price index, etc. Finally, technology using machine learning and AI techniques can be leveraged to identify the underlying customer trends.
Translating insights into flexible and effective scenarios
Since there are still degrees of the unknown, we must navigate multiple scenarios to address the changing and growing customer expectations. Recognizing and evaluating CX patterns will provide a base for a shift from gut-driven activities to data-driven campaigns with measurable outcomes that determine and define success.
Agile decision making, while using a test-and-learn approach, can help sustain the organizational strengths while frequent revisions will contribute to refined, more precise scenarios over time. Agility here also means putting in place new operating models, built around the customer, and supported by the right processes and governance.
Relevant and valuable content
It is not easy to stand out in today’s noise. Therefore, content, conversations, and storytelling techniques are re-gaining weight. Consumers don’t want to be spoken at, they want brands to reach out with personalized, relevant, and interesting interactions. That is why brands are essentially becoming more human - to be able to connect and relate better to their customers.
Relevant and valuable content is needed for consumers to make their purchasing decisions. Content can be an incredibly powerful way to deliver value, increase conversion rates, and improve customer engagement.
Delivering a positive and engaging experience
Today’s connected consumer expects a personalized experience optimized across channels. Marketers must therefore effectively connect the dots of the customer journey across channels and touchpoints, not only to understand customers’ actions but also to predict what they might do or expect next. And not to forget that a good experience, along with a good value, also includes reliable product delivery and returns service.
While technology is changing the way brick-and-mortar stores operate, customers are also increasing their share of online shopping. Companies need to cement the positive changes they have already made and continue to learn what works and what doesn’t.
To sum it all up...
A predictive growth plan needs to be supported by a customer-centric, analytics-driven, and comprehensive approach to achieving top-line revenues profitably. This means that companies and brands need to first understand their customer preferences and habits to better meet their ever-evolving expectations. And they need to build trust by providing value first and become a reliable partner in the transaction process. Improve activation for new and existing customers to win and remain relevant.