There is a pressing strategic imperative for brands to compete on customer experience (CX) in nearly every industry. Marketers in retail, insurance, financial services, CPG, travel and hospitality, and health and wellness are pressured to meet growing expectations from the empowered consumer for an experience tailored to their preferences at every stage of the customer journey.
To better understand and address the challenges of today’s marketers and consumers, RedPoint Global commissioned The Harris Poll to conduct quantitative research among these audiences for the first “Addressing the Gaps in Customer Experience” annual report. In looking at responses from over 450 marketers and 3,000 consumers across the U.S., Canada, and the U.K., we found several gaps between marketers’ customer experience strategy and consumers’ expectations.
Marketers More Optimistic about Gains in Personalization Than Consumers
In 2019, marketers’ confidence is consistently high for success across all four dimensions of the Customer Experience Index Score (measuring customer understanding, personalization, omnichannel, and privacy). This is a clear contrast with consumers who average a 15-point drop from the marketers’ own view in each of the four CX Index dimensions.
The study shows brands are not delivering the level of CX today’s customers want. The deep gap between a consumer’s expectations and the experience being delivered is magnified by the inability of brands to execute their strategies. Data fragmentation, system fragmentation, and organizational fragmentation all contribute to the frustration for consumers and marketers alike in the delivery of a seamless, omnichannel customer experience.
In measuring several key dimensions for how well customer engagement systems deliver on CX goals, the study found an across-the-board gap between how marketers and consumer rate the effectiveness of these systems. In every area, marketers are roughly 2.5x more likely than consumers to believe they achieve excellence in effective execution. The dimensions evaluated looked at how well brands hyper-personalized offers, anticipating customers’ needs and intentions, provided a comprehensive picture of the customer, among others.
Having an effective customer experience is critical to the bottom line in a marketplace where products are largely commoditized. Brands that can look realistically at their own effectiveness and excel in delivering customer experiences will be winners that separate from the pack. To their credit, marketers appreciate that the customer experience needs to evolve, but many are unsure of where to start. Some 65 percent indicate the sheer number of systems they manage makes it difficult to provide a seamless customer experience.
Personalization is Key to a Modern CX
Marketers understand they need to focus on the end goal of creating a differentiated hyper-personalized experience. The survey sheds light on what hyper-personalization looks like from the consumer’s point of view. Importantly, 43 percent said it means that a brand recognizes them as the same customer across all touchpoints. This seems to indicate that for consumers, personalization goes far beyond, for example, addressing someone by name in an email. Consumers are telling us that they expect a brand to be able to consistently keep pace with them at every stage of a dynamic path-to-purchase that has individualized beginnings, middles, and ends.
For the consumer, impersonal or irrelevant interactions are simply unacceptable. About one-third of consumers said it was “very frustrating” when a company sends an offer for a product they just bought or one that wasn’t relevant to them. Frustration will irrevocably shatter the consumer-brand relationship; 37 percent of consumers indicated that they will no longer do business with a company that fails to offer a personalized experience.
Brands must expertly manage each journey in the context of the complete customer lifecycle to drive the personalized consistency that consumers expect. Customer cadence – past, present, and predicted – must be included as part of a complete contextual analysis. A marketer that knows where a customer has been and where and when they’re going can begin to not only personalize interactions but do so with relevance to an individual customer – at the precise moment of the engagement.
Real-time responsiveness also underpins the delivery of a personalized experience throughout every stage of a customer journey. Real-time data, real-time decisions, and real-time interactions are critical to keeping pace with the customer. Without these real-time dimensions, an offer, a recommendation, a notification, or any other interaction will miss the optimal moment of engagement. Based on the CX gap and the challenge for marketers in aligning strategy with execution, it’s not a surprise that the survey also reveals real-time engagement to be a major challenge for marketers in delivering a modern experience, with half (50 percent) identifying it as the primary hurdle.
Consumer and Brand Data Value Exchange
Real time is clearly critical to the delivery of a contextually relevant, omnichannel experience, and without it, everything grinds to a halt. Consumers expect that and more, as transparency is also a major element in establishing trust and a willingness to share information. When a company is transparent about how a customer’s data is being collected, stored, and used, the customer is more apt to share the personal data that is necessary to personalize the experience.
Data shows two-thirds of customers expect transparency about what is being collected, how the information is being used and that the control over how information is being used remains in the hands of the consumer. While transparency is a top priority, most consumers also understand that personal data drives personalization in a modern, omnichannel world. Research reveals that more than half of consumers (54 percent) across all age demographics will willingly share personal data in exchange for a more personal experience, with a substantial percentage increase among younger generations.
Transparency does not give a marketer carte blanche to use personal data however they see fit. Consumers want some level of control over their preferences in how data is used, and trust that it is primarily being used to personalize experiences. Consumers view this as table stakes, which is why they rated privacy as the most important across the four CX dimensions (privacy, customer understanding, personalization, omnichannel/consistency). Marketers are looking to move beyond table stakes to create differentiated sources of revenue, which is likely why they were split – citing privacy and customer understanding as equally important.
Building a Future-Proof Modern CX
Traditional methods of engaging with customers, where data is siloed by channel, by system, or by program are entirely insufficient to deliver the levels of transparency and personalization that customers demand. It is these types of challenges that cause so many marketers – 63% in this survey – to struggle with executing their strategies very well. Marketers also struggle in that they are looking for a transformative step-change to keep pace or even a step ahead of competitors.
Marketers indicated in the survey that there were a number of challenges to optimizing strategy and execution across all channels. Siloed and inaccessible data, customer data lacking depth, and fragmented systems, all are factors in preventing the delivery of a unified customer view across touchpoints. Nearly 40% also said that the complexity of technology solutions was the top barrier to bridging the gap between strategy and execution.
There is a way to resolve these challenges, through establishing a single point of control over all data, decisions, and interactions. This overcomes the typical fragmentations and puts marketers in a position to deliver against expectations of individual customers. It provides marketing with the foundation needed to deeply understand customers and provide an instantaneous response or a proactive, predictive action that will resonate with a customer in their context and cadence.
Single Point of Control
A single point of control that overcomes marketers’ biggest challenges begins with having a single view of the customer across all enterprise solutions and data sources. This golden customer record includes everything there is to know about a customer far beyond basic transactional history or personal information; behaviors, interests, and preferences are combined into an always-updating record that tracks a customer throughout the entire customer lifecycle. The ingestion of real-time data into a golden record, verified through robust identity resolution, is key to unlocking the full potential of personalization.
Advanced analytics layered on top of a persistent golden record provide self-training models and continuous optimization, which gives marketers real-time decisioning that keep pace with customers. Intelligent orchestration of interactions then provides for the consistency that consumers expect in an omnichannel experience, across every stage of a customer lifecycle.
According to our research, marketers are keenly aware of what’s at stake in the race to compete on customer experience, with nearly all (91 percent) agreeing that investing in MarTech solutions is a key initiative for their company. Open garden connectivity that can enable companies to leverage their existing technology investments as they create a single point of control helps overcome the complexity introduced by individual systems.
This research should put to rest any lingering doubt that personalization is the key to a differentiated customer experience. Customers are clear about their expectations, and marketers are equally clear about the current barriers and challenges to deliver on those expectations. If marketers utilize the right technologies to implement a single point of control across all touchpoints in an open garden environment, there is little holding marketing back to keep pace with their customers and provide an experience worthy of gaining the modern consumer’s business.
Download the full whitepaper “Addressing the Gaps in Customer Experience” for more detail. Two infographics “Is Technology Improving the CX? Marketers Tell All” and “Marketers Share Insights on CX Gaps” also offer visual representations of the data from this survey.