Today’s customer is hard to pin down. He’s connected. He’s social. And he follows the path of least resistance – switching his focus effortlessly between people, platforms, and content in real time. In a world best defined by short attention spans and tons of choice – where the difference between mattering and ‘just marketing’ is a casual swipe – meeting his expectations at every stage in the customer journey cant’ be left to chance anymore.
While retail brands have felt the sting of shifting attitudes and behaviors most acutely, marketers in every category – from FMCG and CPG, to financial services, communication, and even pharmaceuticals – are waking up to the realisation that when every interaction has the potential to build brand equity or detract from it, and loyalty is fickle and instant, Customer Experience (CX) matters. A lot.
So how are brands coping? Not well. Despite an emphasis on data collection and cross-channel marketing, just 10 per cent of marketers (and 8 per cent of agencies) worldwide claim to have tied together customer data across channels, tools and databases. (EConsultancy in association with Ensighten.)
Faced with inadequate customer intelligence, organisational structures that don’t allow them to act on it holistically, a lack of urgency to move beyond the status quo, or a culture that has yet to embrace the role of partners in driving innovation, brands are struggling to keep up. And they’re losing prospects and customers because of it.
Today’s most successful brands understand that CX is everyone’s job and share three key traits – three ways of putting customers first – that set them apart from their peers, helping them realize higher levels of acquisition, retention, and advocacy – where other brands falter:
They’ve said ‘so long’ to silos, and approach CX as an enterprise-wide responsibility with cross-functional departments and teams;
They’ve blurred the lines, combining their digital and physical experiences in new and innovative ways, to the mutual benefit of both;
They’re partnering strategically, playing to their strengths and filling gaps in competency with best-of-breed partners; CX leaders aren’t afraid to look outside for expertise, guidance, or help executing.
Let’s examine these in more detail.
‘So long’ to silos
Customer-powered technologies are transforming industries and markets worldwide. Social media is now bigger than broadcast. Taxis are taking a back seat to Über. Hotels are being displaced by Airbnb. Brands need people more than people need brands. It’s a fundamental shift in the balance of power – and increasingly, it’s customers who are in control. And they have high expectations.
Today’s leading brands get this and are adapting to the changing needs of their customers. The brands that are on the CX front foot have opted for cross-functional teams, tight integration on agendas, initiatives and outcomes, and a shared responsibility for the end-to-end customer journey. They’re investing heavily in next generation technology architectures designed to give them a 360° view of their customer’s profile, preferences, order and contact history, while working hard to integrate it seamlessly across all touch-points along the path to sales, services, and support (in-store, web, mobile, social, email, call center, and more).
Luxury Italian brand Furla is a great example. It recently migrated its customer data to the cloud, giving it a full worldwide picture of sales, stock and customers across its 400 stores. In addition to providing an ability to reallocate stock based on demand, the new POS integration will also enable the brand to build a more robust portrait of its customers and how they behave across channels.
CX leaders – companies who’ve stopped thinking about digital and physical as ‘competing channels’, and instead focused their efforts on how click and bricks can be used to enhance and reinforce one another – are seeing real returns. According to recent research by Deloitte, mobile devices used before or during in-store shopping trips converted or helped convert nearly $600 billion in US in-store sales in 2013, or 19 per cent of total brick-and mortar-sales.
Early 2015 saw beauty brand, Shiseido partner with IBM to empower the brand’s 10,000+ consultants in Japan with the help of a new mobile app. Beauty Tablet (built on IBM’s Mobile First platform) allows the brand’s beauty consultants to talk to one another, manage schedules, and more. And a virtual community lets them share their work and experiences, and give each other tips using photos and comments.
With mobile as the enabler, leading CX brands are turning billboards, buildings, and the spaces and places in between into showrooms, they’re partnering with third party loyalty leaders to deliver personalized offers and curated rewards to targeted consumers. They’re combining precision (data), and empathy (insight) to deliver real value, to real people, in real time. Today’s leading retailers are reimagining every facet of the ‘store’; they’re blurring the lines between online and offline, and in doing so enhancing the experience of interacting with both.
Today’s most progressive brands understand that they can’t go it alone. They’ve established key partnerships to bridge fragmented competencies, and they’re harnessing disruptive digital technology to envision new customer-centric business models, value propositions, products, and services. So while they understand the necessity and importance of bringing the CX solution to life, they have the foresight and commercial acumen to know that one company probably can’t do it alone.
Think about the last experience that exceeded your expectations. Chances are it was with a brand that’s made caring about you – really valuing your money and your time – everyone’s job.
CX leaders beat the odds because they’ve eliminated the silos, turf wars and egos that ham-string great customer experience. They’ve asked themselves ‘how can we shift from marketing to mattering’ at every touch point. And they’ve realised higher levels of acquisition, retention and advocacy – where other brands falter.
Whether you’re at the bottom of your company or the top – you have an important role to play in putting customers first. Where and how will you choose to make a difference in your organisation?
Roger Gagnon is head of customer experience strategy at RAPP.