It is well established in the marketing space that positive customer experience (CX) must consistently be a priority, with regular innovations to maintain a competitive edge. With this in mind, marketers have been focusing on using omnichannel strategies to create seamless experiences across channels and devices. This approach has played a major role in campaign success over the past several years. Strong omnichannel programs enable consumers to engage with unique, targeted messages across touchpoints that are informed by where they are in the buyer’s journey and their past interactions with the brand.
However, brands can’t stop there. The challenge with maintaining avenues for positive customer experience is that consumer desires are constantly evolving, with engagement platforms and channels coming in and out of favor. Thus, the way marketers deliver on customer experience expectations must be proactive, changing just as quickly.
The Current State of Customer Experience
This ability to adapt when it comes to delivering on consumer desires has been where many organizations fall short. Forrester notes that customer experience innovation remained stagnant in 2018, as it had for the previous two years. This is based on their CX Index that measures how successful organizations have been in developing experiences that create and maintain loyalty, such as how effectively and easily they deliver value, how likely consumers are to engage with them again, how likely consumers are to refer products / services, and more. The index shows that over half (62 percent) of organizations rest in the middle of the CX scale, with little differentiation.
This is because many brands are not making the necessary investments required to take big steps in CX. CX programs are long-term investments that require the adoption of new tools, and the collaboration of multiple stakeholders. Forrester notes that rather than make these investments, many organizations seek to work around CX by cutting costs as a differentiator. However, ultimately CX will remain a more important standard, as 86 percent of buyers are willing to pay more for a great experience. These brands will then be playing catch up when they return to a CX driven strategy.
Where Marketers Must Focus CX Efforts Today
To avoid falling behind on CX initiatives and to begin to excel, marketing teams must gear their efforts not only towards delivering on today’s consumer expectations, but also their future expectations. This includes preferences around data use, channels, customization, and more. Some key developments in how marketers approach CX include:
Voice and Visual Search:
Marketers have long been optimizing their messaging to improve their rankings on search engines. This ensures that when their target customers are ready to engage, branded content is highly visible, and thus more likely to earn a conversion. However, the way consumers search is changing. With devices like Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home becoming more commonplace, more people are conducting voice searches, in which only one or two results are read aloud. Google is also working on including more visuals in search results, such as images and videos, to better provide consumers with the answers they seek beyond just text. This is key as visual search becomes more popular, with consumers using images to search for a specific product or products similar to those displayed in the image. With this is mind, marketing teams will have to update their SEO and content strategies to incorporate multi-media results and voice optimized answers to remain visible as consumer change how they want to search.
Artificial Intelligence (AI):
Marketers should plan to leverage AI to improve CX. There are several key ways that AI creates positive consumer experiences:
- AI can be used to analyze consumer data to understand the intent of the shopper and their stage of the buyer’s journey to make more accurate product recommendations or provide tailored advice to the consumers’ needs or interests.
- AI can be used to automatically create custom content and personalized offers based on buyer journey stage, boosting loyalty.
- AI can also help solve customer service issues faster and provide answers consumer questions. This has been a popular use of AI within chatbots, using natural language processing to allow consumers to have natural conversations with bots online to solve challenges.
AI will continue to be a crucial component to positive CX in serving consumers with the information most relevant to their needs in real time, while reducing the amount of effort required.
Optimize for Mobile and Real-Time:
When a consumer decides to act on a desire for a product or service, or even when looking for preliminary information, they do not waste time. Often, they will conduct a search the moment a need arises on their mobile device. For a strong CX that provides visibility to your brand, optimize your content and offers for mobile, with personalized, dynamic messaging available in real-time. This allows marketers to be proactive in the buyer’s journey – demonstrating value to consumers from the outset.
Prioritize Data and Data Privacy:
Consumers want personalized experiences. In order to deliver these, marketers need to prioritize the use of marketing analytics platforms that can parse through every interaction to reveal preferences on messaging, device, channel, and more. Leveraging data analytics platforms and voice of consumer tools give marketers insight into what consumers like, and what feedback they may have, allowing teams to take actionable steps to improve experience.
However, there is another side to the use of this data. When giving brands access to their personally identifiable information (PII) consumers expect to receive immediate value in return. Additionally, they expect that brands will collect only essential information and keep that information secure. This is especially true as guidelines and regulations, such as GDPR, are regularly being introduced to help protect consumer privacy.
Offering the best customer experience will mean finding the balance between using necessary data for personalization, while deleting unessential data, the collection of which could pose a risk for consumers down the road.
Despite agreement that CX is one of the most important components of overall brand success, many organizations are not investing the time and resources in making their brand stick out through the value they offer customers. With the importance of strong CX showing no indication of dwindling, marketers must make investments in targeting key consumer desires, from personalization to data privacy, and avoid shortcuts in order to remain competitive.