It has been predicted that by 2020, price and product will no longer represent a brand’s biggest advantage for standing out in a crowded marketplace. Instead, the key differentiator will be a brand’s ability to deliver the best possible customer experience.
From initial customer search to an in-store purchase, the significance of this statement is undeniable. However, considering the fact that 89 percent of marketers expect to compete primarily on the basis of customer experience this year, it looks like we won’t need to wait until 2020 to validate these predictions.
The reality is that customer centricity has been on the radar of brands for some time now thanks to connectivity; social media platforms and a mobile-first culture have changed the ways consumers engage with brands and their expectations of those brands. These new interactions have proved to be instrumental in shaping both consumer buying behaviors and their expectations surrounding those experiences, so much so that today’s customers are no longer brand-loyal—they are experience-loyal.
If your brand can’t measure up to expectations, it risks abandonment from customers, who can—and will—find another nearby business that meets their needs. In order to stay competitive in the era of experience loyalty, brands must restructure their strategies and make local customer engagement a priority. Here are four areas to focus on.
1. Connecting Across Channels
Customers today are omni-channel—that is, they take their shopping from desktop to smartphone to retail location (sometimes more than one at the same time) and back again, and they expect their experience to be seamless and personalized from start to finish. With local traffic increasing from a variety of smart devices, overall brand success depends on satisfying moments of local purchase intent.
Brands that lag behind in the engagement race are the ones that continue to chase broad demographics rather than recognize the individuality of customers. From segmenting audiences to localizing and contextualizing messaging, personalized engagement relies heavily on individualization.
To effectively harness customer experience, brands must stop thinking “big picture” and start building their strategy around understanding the customer’s needs and an individual’s path to purchase. This means redefining what role their brand seeks to fill in a customer’s life, and discovering what it takes to deliver that experience consistently across all devices.
2. Strengthening Strategy With Technology
Brands like Amazon and Starbucks continue to be industry leaders because their strategy prioritizes constant innovation into digital tools that improve the customer experience. But all brands have the ability to use technology to their strategic advantage.
For example, using native mobile functionalities to provide customers with value based on their real-time activities (such as offering a coupon using location data) helps personalize the buying experience and showcase the brand as one that genuinely understands their customers’ needs, no matter where they are.
Organization-wide acceptance and implementation of these experience-focused technologies is necessary for strategy to be truly effective—that includes the marketing department, sales, customer service, and beyond. Universal buy-in will also help to ease the process of reporting and tracking these tools across multiple locations and departments.
Additionally, businesses trying stay on top of rapidly changing platforms will benefit from appointing a Chief Location Officer (CLO), who understands the tech space as it relates to customer engagement. The CLO acts as the bridge between various departments in an organization, actively translating the value of the individual customer’s journey and relevant data to these different organizational departments.
3. Using Data to Make It Personal
At the heart of engagement is personalization fueled by layers of user data. Technology (such as beacons and the IoT) is enabling companies to gain greater access to accurate location, proximity, and contextual information about their consumers that helps drive truly personalized experiences across devices.
Personalization, however, really begins with the collection of these data layers, which brands should utilize to map and personalize the customer journey. This process enables brands to view the journey from the perspective of their customers and ask questions that characterize engagement at every key touch point: what are the steps my customer has to go through to reach me? What do they expect from this interaction? What are the points of customer friction they are experiencing that adversely impact their engagement, and are there any ways I can improve that experience?
Even if it’s just simple Post-Its on the wall, plotting out this journey will help brands hone their strategy and develop tactics that integrate with real-time data and technology to meet the highest customer experience expectations.
4. Focusing on Simple Metrics
It’s no wonder that 47.3 percent of customer experience professionals surveyed think that their organizations are either “ineffective” or “very ineffective” at measuring the business impact of customer experience—engagement is a notoriously difficult thing to measure.
While a variety of factors contribute to this, brands often struggle with data overwhelm resulting from a virtually endless number of digital strategies. Instead of getting lost in all the possibilities, marketers should focus on identifying specific goals and utilizing data obtained from simple metrics to achieve success: Did this ad drive sales? Did this coupon increase location visits? Can we attribute an in-store visit to an online search?
These questions provide a starting point for breaking down the data into digestible and actionable KPIs that will help continuously refine strategies and tactics into ones that are most effective.
Many brands know that customer experience is the new battleground for businesses, but there’s still a major disconnect as to how genuine engagement can be achieved and leveraged for growth. To succeed, brands today have to dive deep into all aspects of their consumer/brand interactions and identify the elements that sustain an effective engagement.
Strategy and technology serve as the foundation for these efforts, while customer data signals helps to drive personalization that engages customers and influences them to take action. It’s the combination of these factors working together that enables brands to master customer engagement and realize the true potential of delivering an exceptional customer experience.
For more insights into how leading companies are leveraging data and technology to engage customers, download the whitepaper The Engagement Stack.
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