We continue to hear about how crucial customer experience is in the business world. According to Forrester research, 72% of companies cited improving customer experience as their top priority. As more companies digitize, even IT is pushing customers as their top priority--57% to be exact, according to a survey from Deloitte.
So where is CX headed now given how many seem to be on their way toward transforming into an experience business?
In order to answer that question as it relates to you and your business, we need to think about how we got here. Understanding the trajectory will also help us best position our brands to profit.
Follow me back real quick ...
Before marketing, we had bartering. This was a simple exchange of value between individuals—i.e., an unscaled transactional business. Zoom forward to the Mad Men days, where a handful of individuals found ways to scale production of products and therefore needed a way to scale awareness and sales. What we now call traditional marketing became the answer. These individuals became large companies and used that leverage to keep small companies at a disadvantage. The soil for marketing value was fertile, and it grew for decades, driving sales and revenue.
Then came the internet.
Around the time of the dot-com boom, average people started realizing they could compete with large businesses and established market leaders. Consumers were introduced to new ideas and products, local market limitations were broken, and product knowledge and awareness grew. This is where real change started to happen, as we became a market with countless competition, savvy buyers, and high expectations. The result: competition, noise—and the dawn of customer-centricity.
The rise of the customer has caused monumental shifts in the way businesses must operate. Gone are the days when you are the only choice, or the easy local choice. Showrooming is commonplace. In such a competitive market, holistic brand and customer experience management have become the differentiator. Businesses have to learn how to deliver experiences that are relevant to their buyers. This is why personalization at scale is also important, creating a path to more immersive experiences as well as the relevance to start an experience.
So here we are. Experiences are at the heart of our world. Our friends, family, co-workers, and the products and services we interact with make up our relevant world. In a competitive and noisy marketplace, companies are realizing how easy it is to be ignored. It isn’t that they don’t have a voice—it’s that everyone else is yelling as loudly as they are. This becomes the optimization conundrum. As more companies become efficient—fueled by technology and marketing—everyone’s voice becomes part of the noise.
As this saturation of new stimuli increases for the customers, even companies doing everything right to differentiate themselves are struggling to be relevant. Marketing messages and campaigns are becoming a single stop in a larger connected journey comprised of a series of brand experiences, created, in turn, by two key elements: the product and the marketing. For the time being, experience business success will be driven by the marketing; in the future, it will be centered around the product, when AI and deep learning assistants will research all options, understand all buyer value factors, and produce the optimal purchase and buyer experience result.
Apple showed us a glimpse of what an experience business looked like in the Steve Jobs era, when marketing was fused with brand experience. It was not about hardware or software; it was about being special and being different. Apple moved the focus from the product to the customer and then used marketing to create a brand experience.
How can you do this in practical terms? You start with understanding. When you understand where you are, it becomes easier to know where you are going. When you understand the principles of what success looks like, then you can figure out the needed change and tactics to get there. As the chief of experience, it is your understanding that creates the foundation of strategy and positioning. Look at the environment and know your business. Only then can you position yourself for success.