Reinventing the customer experience.
Customers have evolved. It’s time for marketers to catch up.
Today’s ultra-connected consumers are interacting with brands more often and in more places than ever. In fact, the average customer comes in contact with a brand at least five times before buying — whether it’s a Google search, an in-store visit, or downloading an app.1
Web, mobile, in store — it’s all the same for customers. Marketing experiences are mashups that blend seamlessly together. And mobility is at the forefront of it all, with mobile devices and wearable technologies increasingly blurring the lines between our digital and physical worlds.2
Consumers are more in control than ever before — and they also expect more. No matter your industry, the customer experience has taken center stage. Master it now, and you’ll set yourself apart from competitors and increase your chances of survival in the unforgiving business world.
Here are six ways to reinvent your customer experiences — and revolutionize your marketing.
Get inside your customers’ minds.
You’ve got seconds to catch your audience’s attention on a smartphone, and even less — just a glance — on a wearable device.
If you know how to appeal to what your audience is thinking and feeling, you can help guide their actions a bit more. People forget 90% of what you show them, says Dr. Carmen Simon, cognitive scientist and founder of Rexi Media.3 It’s your job to gently guide them toward the 10% they need to remember.
Ask yourself what you want your audience to keep in mind. Look at your message from the customer perspective and distill it into something simple, memorable, and crystal clear. It all boils down to what Leah van Zelm, a vice president at Merkle, calls the “single selfish benefit” (SSB) for the consumer — and it’s different for each person. To determine the SSB, look at your customer data — what individuals are searching for, where they’re going on your website, and what they’re calling about. Link that 10% message to the single selfish benefit.
Make the customer the center of your universe.
The days of pushing out large-scale “batch and blast” campaigns to broad audiences are over. Today it’s about wooing and captivating your prospects with authentic experiences that naturally foster a relationship of trust.
According to Forrester, “The only source of competitive advantage is an obsession with understanding, delighting, connecting with, and serving customers.”4
Data is key to understanding what your customers want and then developing your products and services to meet those expectations. And with tools that enable social listening, you can keep your ears and eyes continually open to opportunities for innovation. Some of the best ideas surface from the simplest customer comments.
Focus on the experience, not your product.
In today’s experience-based economy, where most products and services are merely commodities, brands must do more than develop shiny new objects. Instead, they must create better experiences around their products.
While some companies deepen their experiences by using what they know about customers to personalize offerings, others focus on the complete span of potential interactions, developing a variety of ways for customers to connect along every step of the journey. High-performing brands do both.8
The key is to think broadly about what your product is, stretching your focus to include the experience you want to create around that product. Find out what consumers need and build encounters that consistently meet those needs, whether you’re recommending new features within a product or suggesting new ways to stay connected after a purchase is made.
Let the customer define the journey.
There is no yellow brick road that leads to a magical place of cemented brand loyalty. That’s because consumers don’t stroll through a predictable journey one step at a time. They enter at random points, and in different channels.
Your job is to capture the customer moment wherever the individual enters — through an app, a brick-and-mortar store, or a website — and deliver value in that instant. It all hinges on how well you can dive into the context of what he or she is doing at that point in time. To reach a customer in that moment, you need to be able to deliver highly relevant information with more speed and brevity than ever — before your competitor does.
Tap into analytics to know exactly which mobile applications and web pages are attracting customers right as it’s happening. Look at when, where, why, and how customers are interacting with your digital experiences. The process should be engaging, convenient, and satisfying. Know when it isn’t by identifying the exact point when customers are leaving.
Be hyper-personal without getting ultra-creepy.
Customers expect relevant, personalized marketing. But at the same time, they’re sensitive about brands overstepping their privacy and personal data.
It’s up to you to make sure the experiences you deliver are meaningful and inviting — not creepy. Personalization is about striking that perfect balance of spot-on relevancy as individuals move through their journeys, without becoming intrusive at any point along the way. It’s a fine line.
What’s more, the line is different for everyone. What one person may find creepy might not bother another person at all. For instance, research shows that millennials are less concerned about privacy than Gen Xers and older generations.11 To send the right messages to these very different audiences, you have to be nimble, pay attention to the signals, and truly understand your customer segments.
Just by observing the paths that individuals take to shop, you can learn about their intentions and further tailor the interactions. The best personalization happens as part of the user experience. It’s subtle and relevant, and delivered precisely at the right time.
Unite the promise makers and the promise keepers.
A successful customer experience is usually the result of every part of the company working together. It’s nearly impossible to bring a unified experience to your customers — from product discovery and purchase to download, support, and ongoing usage — if you work in silos.
To truly transform the customer experience, leaders must understand how marketing links with every other function within the company.13 Marketers are the “promise makers” of customer experiences and the rest of the organization are the “promise keepers.” This requires internal and external alignment to deliver the consistent interactions consumers expect.
Zig when others zag.
The path to innovation requires continually testing new theories with fresh approaches. Act quickly to shrink the time between identifying your next big idea and acting upon it. By always being aware of customer behaviors and motivations, you can continually fine-tune processes to build more relevant, personalized experiences.
As an example, look at Coca-Cola, which has found a way to stay relevant to new generations of consumers for the past 128 years. Lorie Buckingham, chief development officer for the company, says the secret is to consistently surprise and delight individuals — no matter where they are — with unique interactions, while weaving in that familiar brand promise that fans have come to love and expect.