Customer Experience Can Now Be Tailored to Customers’ ‘Marketing DNA’
Only a few years ago, brands thought they were providing a good experience to their customers if a product was sold with a friendly smile and wasn’t returned the next day.
These days, there’s so much data on what the customer wants, doesn’t want, or likes — and what zillions of similar customers like or don’t like — that brands can do much more than smile.
In this age, when a click can instantly take a user to a competitor, customer experience (CX) — the sum total of how a customer perceives all interactions with a company — is turning out to be the key differentiator.
In 2017, a “Customer Experience in Marketing Survey” from research firm Gartner found that 81% of companies said they expected to compete mostly or entirely on their CX within two years.
It’s like crime-solving, before and after the launch of DNA testing. Hunches have now been replaced by data, lots of it, and the clues are just sitting there, waiting to be revealed. Except that, for marketers, it’s not just a loose hair strand left at the scene. Instead, it’s a river of data that shows the paths taken by each visitor or customer on your site or app, what they searched for, what they downloaded, what they bought and when — even their favorite physical stores.
In other words, marketers no longer have to guess about whether Customer A likes this or that. They have Customer A’s marketing equivalent of DNA.
The aim of today’s CX, and its key advantage over previous understandings about how to please the customer, can be summarized in three words:
Unlike any other time in the entire history of selling things, marketers can now create unique experiences in volume, precisely tailored to the needs and desires of targeted individuals or groups.
That kind of large-scale customization is possible when data is collected from every possible channel into individual profiles, such as in the customer data platform. These profiles can then be employed to direct site content, advertising, product offers, timing of offers, and so on, for an individual user or for a group of users, such as hockey fans aged 18 to 34 on the West Coast.
These mountains of customer data can be mined using machine learning and other kinds of artificial intelligence (AI) that sift for hidden patterns. This intelligence, unavailable to earlier generations of marketers, might reveal that the targeted West Coast hockey fans respond best to offers for sports publications right after a NHL game featuring their hometown team — a pattern only revealed through an AI-powered comparison of tons of interactions and profiles.
Like the hidden secrets in nature, the patterns exist in all that data that users generate. Then why don’t all brands have fantastic, personalized customer experiences?
Because not all brands understand how to best use data management, analysis, and utilization.
Handling, Analysis, Action
First, there are many channels and kinds of data, some structured into neat categories, like purchase histories, and some jumbled in unstructured form, like posts on social media or phone call transcripts from call centers. For marketers, the first order of business is making sure the data feeds are relevant and can be properly handled by the platform.
Then, there’s the need to properly analyze that profiled data into meaningful insights that your brand can use. It doesn’t matter to you if West Coast hockey fans also like baseball-related products, if your brand can’t somehow use that insight.
And, finally, those insights need to be turned into action — quickly.
This can be accomplished by a customer data platform, which can collect, assemble and analyze data for utilization by customer interaction platforms. This includes solutions that can actually bring real-time change to some kinds of customer experiences, like ad targeting.
These are ambitious goals, but the data is there for the picking. And the rewards are worth it.
Loyalty and Experience
A 2018 report by Qualtrics’ XM Institute, for instance, found a very high correlation between customer loyalty and good customer experience, including a high propensity to buy again and a higher Net Promoter Score, which measures a customer’s willingness to recommend the product or service to someone else.
A 2018 report from professional services firm PwC found that a good experience — including speed, convenience, knowledgeable help and friendly service — will lead customers to pay more. Forty-three percent of respondents said they’d pay more for greater convenience and 42% would pay more for a “friendly, welcoming experience.” Sixty-three percent said they’d be willing to “pay” more in terms of offering more personal information to a company that provided a better experience.
Brands have long dreamed of being able to provide the kind of personalized service that, say, the corner diner provides when it greets a customer by name, serves the customer’s favorite order without being asked, and knows exactly when to come by with more coffee.
Now, thanks to data and the tools to make sense of the data, every brand can become the corner diner — for each of its many customers.
Related story: 1 True Path to Sustainable Marketing Success — Keep Promises