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The 4 Cornerstones of Digital Customer Experience

Rather than pushing customers through predetermined funnels, marketers must lay the foundation for a great digital experience PHOTO: Serge Bystro

Routing individuals through pre-defined paths, funnels and segments never worked very well. But in the digital age, it has become a liability. 

The reason is simple: more than ever, the connected customer controls their own journey. They interact with brands on their own terms, flow across channels, and take unpredictable routes to a fluid destination. They expect the brand to understand them, even before they change direction. 

Each interaction provides the brand with data they must collect and leverage immediately — both to keep pace with the customer, and keep ahead of competitors vying for attention. 

This requires CMOs to create new strategies, tactics and technology — which are constantly evolving, critical to the business and owned by marketing.

Marketing in an Always-On World

When encountering any type of misaligned or disjointed experience, customers quickly disengage and move on. Businesses have to work much harder to stay top of mind, so marketing has become the “always-on” layer through which organizations interact with the world.

Enabling personalized, real-time experiences is no longer a choice, it’s a requirement for building a sustainable business. But at what cost and benefit? What are the keys to making this actionable? 

Four key components make up a great digital experience. And like any strong foundation, each one constantly overlaps, supports and builds on the others.

4 Cornerstones of Digital Customer Experience

1. Relevance: Talk to customers about the things they care about, not just what we want to sell

Relevance is a critical component of experience. If you can’t get this part right, the rest doesn’t matter because you’ve lost their attention. You’ve heard the saying, “If you can’t say something relevant, don’t say anything at all.” You’re wasting a customer touch.

Unfortunately, segmentation won’t get you there. It’s impossible for a large organization to categorize millions of customers into segments and still map to those customers’ unique interests. Instead, include more advanced predictive analytics (propensity and likelihood models) as part of your toolbox to identify the “right” offer or message. 

But those models aren’t usually built for digital use, and the scores they create get stagnant fast, so they’re only the first part of the puzzle.

2. Timeliness: Interact when the customer is ready, not when we want to push a message

Traditional marketing campaigns often generate response rates of one percent or less because they’re pushed out on the brand’s timing, not aligned with the customer’s. 

Campaigns are valuable, but a digital experience can generate 10 times the response if it flips the equation and delivers the offers and messages a customer needs, when they’re looking for them.

Given that, real-time analytics becomes a must. Each time a customer interacts with your brand, you have to apply the information you’ve collected, analyze your options and shift the message/content in time to maintain their interest. 

For inbound channels, this means personalizing web, mobile and agent-driven content during an interaction. For channels like email, it’s about customizing content when it’s opened by the customer, or as close to that moment as possible.

3. Context: Adapt to the customer’s situation, which often isn’t about making a purchase

Customers don’t engage because they want to be sold to, they engage because they have a problem. 

Sometimes we can solve that problem with a product, but often we need to pivot and focus on providing service. 

That’s a fundamental requirement of doing business today and a primary way great organizations differentiate — they make themselves easy to do business with.

For example, customers use digital channels first when they have questions about an invoice, have outages or are having trouble using what they’ve purchased. They may simply be coming to the end of a contract and need to understand their options. 

Progressive organizations are reading this customer context in real-time, shifting to prioritize the problem, and earning long-term loyalty by providing a great experience. The selling opportunities present themselves if the customer feels heard, respected and has their problem resolved.

4. Consistency: Enable the customer to interact across channels, without losing context

This is where digital experience becomes difficult. 

Consistency is about building a progressive series of experiences: always building on the previous, whether the channel is inbound or outbound, owned or paid. Regardless of whether they use the app, browse the website, chat with an agent or receive an email, those messages must align and account for what that customer has “told you” in the past. Don’t give them the opportunity to think, “What a mess. They’re all over the place. They don’t know me.”

Organizations often face constraints that make this difficult: data and channel silos, shared customers, multiple account IDs, disparate technologies, etc. But some organizations have completely rewired their experiences by centralizing their customer analytics and decision making. They’ve aligned their channels, integrated artificial intelligence and machine learning, and are personalizing every customer interaction (several billion each year), leading to huge gains in customer satisfaction, retention, conversion rates and ROI.

Overhauling a digital experience is never a simple task, but break the effort down into consumable pieces, and you can reengineer your relationship with your customers, one interaction at a time.

Matt Nolan is a director of product marketing at Pegasystems. Matt has worked in the MarTech sector for the last 17 years, serving in a variety of senior product management, marketing and analytics roles.


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