CMOs are under more pressure than ever to deliver. In 2017, marketing leaders will be expected to control the explosion of data, predict the next disruptive technology, and determine which tools will transform the way their teams go to market. And their biggest challenge is also an area in which they can generate huge value—creating seamless and connected customer experiences.
Creating superior CX doesn’t just satisfy increasingly demanding customers, it also boosts the bottom line—a trend that has been spotted by CEOs.
Forrester has six years of data showing that CX leaders grow revenue faster than laggards, and, according to PWC, chief executives now expect the number two outcome of digital investments to be the creation of better customer experiences (second only to growing revenue).
But in today’s increasingly complex digital ecosystem, CMOs need to figure out where to focus their efforts to deliver the greatest CX impact. Below are the five pillars to prioritise this year.
1. Fit-For-Purpose Measurement
Quantifying customer experience is critical—until you know what’s underperforming, you don’t know where to invest.
Creating a truly holistic view of CX
To report on true customer experience, organisations should be measuring the offline/in-store experience and customer service channels as well as multi-channel activity on key digital properties.
Current methods don’t work
The bad news is that current methods such as Net Promoter Score (NPS) are flawed.
A colleague of mine recently made a purchase from an independent seller on Amazon and was surprised when the ecommerce giant (who was responsible for fulfilment) let him down at the very last minute. My colleague was understandably annoyed and engaged Amazon’s customer service team to arrange compensation.
When he received an email the next day asking him to rate the seller, he scored them one out of five. This only serves to indicate how my colleague felt about the experience at the time of asking and is not an accurate reflection of Amazon’s intuitive search functionality, the great content created by the seller, or the seamless way he was able to add the product to his basket and then check out.
Single score metrics such as NPS work well if you want a snapshot of brand perception, but are too simplistic and emotionally focused to measure the real complexities of digital customer experience.
CMOs with the ambition to create great CX (and prove they have) need to use performance indicators fit for 2017 and beyond.
2. People And Platforms Pulling Together
The ability of organisations to deliver CX requires people and platforms working together to facilitate the easy flow of data and rapid creation of new content.
CMOs will benefit from connecting teams that are in regular or real-time contact with customers, ensuring that all employees understand the impact their actions have on the customer experience. And these groups must be incentivised to share customer insights and openly collaborate on new cross-functional ideas.
In its coverage of the recent acquisition of Karmarama, Business Insider noted the Accenture Interactive team had “100% aligned incentives” and that no separate founder incentives existed for Karmarama, or any other recently acquired businesses. This approach incentivises teams to work together and can be further enhanced through the use of similar or overlapping KPIs.
As we move to a more data-driven future, technology platforms need to be better integrated. Only when this happens can brands engage customers consistently across multiple channels and accurately attribute success.
With machine learning becoming increasingly mainstream, it is now incumbent on CMOs to use these new tools to identify patterns in data and use them to make predictions. Cognitive systems using natural language and/or machine learning have greater processing capabilities than traditional algorithm-based ones. Open source code libraries and databases already exist, making it easier for marketers to experiment in 2017.
3. Give Customers Consistency
As customers effortlessly hop between channels and try new communications tools, they expect brands to provide consistent, joined-up experiences.
Create a Single Customer View (SCV)
The unprecedented levels of data available to brands, plus the interoperability of ad tech, on-site optimisation, and CRM platforms mean that creating (and taking advantage of) a true SCV is now possible.
Having this capability will make it easier for brands and marketers to create content that is personal and highly relevant. Which means customers can be offered experiences based on the context of their engagement with the brand—past, present, and future. Increasingly savvy consumers are already turning their backs on organisations that aren’t using this data to enhance experiences.
A number of smaller, nimbler alternatives to the enterprise set emerged in 2016. These are enabling CMOs to build the future at a fraction of the cost and implementation time.
4. Enable Effortless Engagements
Customers are extremely fickle—one in four Brits deletes apps on the same day—so marketers need a laser focus on making core tasks easy, particularly on mobile.
The year 2016 proved to be the much-predicted tipping point for mobile commerce, with mobile devices taking a lead over desktop in online retail commerce. In a recent customer experience study, for example, users were more likely to successfully complete fashion transactions on a mobile than on a desktop. When it came to purchasing a recommended matching item in particular, there was a 5% greater completion rate for mobile—a clear indication of the move to mobile.
Brands as friends
Some 69% of Snapchatters would add known brands as friends—but what then?
Well, Huffington Post uses that trusted status to share great content through WhatsApp—and sees 3x higher click-throughs than in the browser. Facebook Messenger’s ShopBot searches eBay using uploaded pictures and matching them to products using image recognition. And, on WeChat, you can do everything from booking cinema tickets to configuring your new Audi.
Whether through pushed content, SmartBots, or full digital customer experience, being a trusted instant messenger contact can deliver direct communication with consumers, enhanced customer service, and more efficient purchases.
5. Rich And Rewarding Relationships
The world’s leading service brands have raised the bar to unprecedented levels, and customers now expect interactions to be surprising, rewarding, and innovative.
Personal, relevant, and timely
Unsurprisingly, personalised content encourages users to stay longer on a brand’s website, while weaker content results in higher drop-off rates. Recent research we completed found that ecommerce retailers who published stronger content experienced 21% lower bounce rates than those with weaker content. And the longer a customer stays on your site, the longer they have to browse, and the more likely they are to convert to a sale. In the same study, simple product recommendation functions saw brands reap the rewards of 140% more page views.
New intelligent targeting and engagement platforms enable the delivery of contextual content based on geo-location, day-part, and purchase history. These will be most powerful on mobiles, where one third of searches are local—“near me.” With these kinds of searches growing 50% faster than general searches on mobile devices, the scene is set for the arrival of Google Promoted Locations/Pins in 2017.
These will bring the next generation of local search ads that will deliver customised brand experiences and personal recommendations. With 80% to 90% of retail spending still happening in physical stores, these hyper-relevant experiences will help drive more footfall.
Product innovation unlocks incomes
A Gartner study found that 83% of customers are willing to pay more for innovative products. That’s why brands are creating accelerator programmes and investing in startup technologies that they hope will become game changers in their industries. One recent example is Dazzle—the winners of the latest Marriott “Test Bed” accelerator—which will be trialling its voice-activated personal assistants in one early adopter hotel.
Experiments like this, which combine IoT devices, new digital interfaces, and cognitive technologies, have the potential to reinvent customer interaction. The challenge to reach the market first is now greater than ever, and first movers benefit by generating PR “buzz” and the ability to charge premium prices.
In today’s increasingly complex digital and omni-channel world, CX has become a battleground for competitive advantage. How CMOs meet this challenge will have a significant effect on their impact and success in 2017.
As ex-Mercedes-Benz USA president and CEO Steve Cannon put it, “Customer experience is the new marketing.”