Customer Experience CX Brand Strategy

Innovation without compromise: 5 ways to future-proof your CX strategy

By Matt Naeger, Global chief strategy officer/chief marketing officer



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January 31, 2023 | 7 min read

Matt Naeger of agency Merkle tells us that your CX strategy must permeate everything you do – and it needn't cost the earth.

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In 2023, brands must learn how to innovate thoughtfully / Elena Rouame via Unsplash

The stakes are high for today’s brands. They must contend with the usual modern challenges: competition, fickle and fragmented audiences, digital transformation, prodigious amounts of data, and privacy regulations – all while absorbing the shock of the past three years. There’s, quite simply, more of everything, and much to plan for, and targets keep moving.

When faced with uncertainty and the pressure to succeed, it’s tempting to try to buy your way to the finish line. New technologies spring up weekly, promising to solve every conceivable challenge. But when staring down KPI demands, as well as time and budgetary constraints, how can you innovate thoughtfully?

Take stock of skillsets

We’re here to tell you that you can weather these challenges – and grow – by taking a step back and interrogating how you currently do business. Take stock of what you already own and the skillsets your team has; the magic combination may already exist.

To scale your customer experience (CX) operation, consider whether your company has a clearly articulated vision for customer experience that has C-suite buy-in and is shared from the top-down. Make sure all your brand’s data is stored centrally in a cloud-based environment and you have the technical expertise to optimize technology investments. And that these skillsets are embedded into marketing.

Finally, seek to innovate with the resources you own before investing in new ones, and adopt a total customer experience mindset in which every interaction is a path to a commerce experience.

Articulate your CX vision

This sounds simple but is curiously absent at many large organizations. Has your C-suite set a vision for how they want customers to experience your brand? How do you want them to feel; what actions do you want them to take; how would you describe your brand to friends and family? If the goal is to build lasting relationships with customers, you must treat your brand as one-half of that relationship.

What can you give to your audience to compel them to feel positive and act in ways that encourage future engagement? This needs to be clearly described and shared throughout your organization. It has to permeate everything you do.

Store your data in the cloud

Every company, big and small, has customer data. Multinational organizations often host data in silos, whether across regions, departments, or both.

Customer experience doesn’t exist within the confines of marketing. Adopting a shared CX vision from the top-down means sharing data ingested from various channels (including call center data, website data, sales data, business intelligence, advertising, loyalty, retention, and customer communications) and using it to form complete, nuanced portraits of customers.

Cloud-based environments are flexible. They enable centralization and should easily integrate with other pieces of technology that allow for data activation. They provide ways to secure data that needs to be kept separate, while also linking it through hashed connections inside the cloud.

IT can talk marketing (and vice versa)

You’ve articulated your CX vision. Marketing has devised a strategy to present this vision externally. You have assembled a tech stack. How do you translate your CX vision into a technical reality?

Technical and marketing acumen among your employees are indispensable assets. They ensure your company can be sold in on your CX vision, help collect and segment your data (and optimize your technological investments), and dissolve silos between IT, marketing and sales.

Innovate with what you have first

Perceived threats to your brand can be mitigated if you harness what you have. For instance, you may have all the information you need about your customers to create personalized marketing, but find that this data is stored in different places. Or you may have invested in something like a customer data platform (CDP), but find that you aren’t feeding it the right information, or haven’t clearly defined its purpose. Or, in the case of retailers, you could be sitting on valuable brand data about how consumers use products – data that has yet to be monetized.

Whatever the case may be, innovation doesn’t have to come with a price tag. It can also be the product of small, incremental changes to your strategies that connect you with customers in new ways.

Take a 360-degree view of commerce

You can’t have CX transformation without a commerce transformation. Every moment you devise with your customers must be in service of commerce, even if it doesn’t directly involve a purchase.

The connections between physical retail and performance marketing or your CRM and experiential in-store interactions may not seem obvious, but they are the building blocks of the perception one has of your brand. These experiences inform one another, learn from each other, and create new ways to think about the next experience. So your systems must work together, too.

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Merkle is a leading data-driven customer experience management (CXM) company that specializes in the delivery of unique, personalized customer experiences across...

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