The modern customer has upended traditional interactions between brands and consumers. As recently as 10 years ago, brands could emphasize a small handful of channels and retain loyal customers. That time is over. The modern customer has access to dozens of touchpoints across multiple devices and has taken control of their own buying journey. They can seek out user reviews, research product ratings from industry experts, and compare dozens of options well before ever interacting directly with a brand.
These are “connected customers” – people who own an average of 3.64 connected devices and easily access brand intelligence on the internet to make purchase decisions before ever walking into a store or visiting a website. If someone wants to book a hotel online, for example, they can solicit advice from friends on social media, read review websites, and even make a purchase on a third-party website – all without ever talking to a hotel representative.
The shift in power dynamic has forced brands to change how they operate. To succeed in this new environment, brands must provide a consistent and seamless experience across all possible channels of engagement, informed by context and past interactions, which is the new recipe for meeting customer expectations. To accomplish this goal, brands must adopt a more customer-centric viewpoint, break down the silos between customer data, and unify their message orchestration capabilities.
Think Like the Connected Customer
Customers have dozens of options for how to interact with brands. The abundance of choice has changed the linear customer journey into a dynamic, multifaceted path to purchase that includes constant re-evaluation even after a sale. One study found that 88 percent of modern customers use at least one online channel on a regular basis, and they expect brands to provide a consistent experience across all those channels.
Brands have largely failed in this aim, which is a problem because of the lost value in falling short of customer expectations. Eighty-six percent of U.S. consumers will pay more for a better customer experience, but only one percent of them feel that brands consistently meet their expectations. Globally, this gap between experience and expectation results in brands losing $300 billion in potential profits.
To meet the connected customer’s expectations, brands need to first understand their behaviors and preferences. The average connected customer wants to be recognized across channels and devices, and they want to receive offers that are relevant in their moment of need. In addition to being contextually relevant, offers sent to consumers need to be informed by the customer’s history with the brand and channel preferences.
Marketers need to place the customer at the center of their customer journey and marketing program designs. Part of that involves designing interaction flows and messaging with the customer in mind. Messaging must be relevant to the customer’s life in both content and cadence; an inaccurate message delivered at the right time is as ineffective as the right message delivered at the wrong time. Marketers are also customers in their personal lives, so considering how they would react is useful in becoming more customer-centric.
Break Down Silos to Engage the Connected Customer
One of the major sticking points for most brands is the siloed nature of their customer engagement technology stacks. The separation is especially acute between systems tasked with monitoring digital and physical touchpoints, with most marketers having sub-optimal or no ability to integrate customer data between online and offline sources. Shattering the data silos that have developed organically over time is a key step in meeting the connected customer’s expectations for a relevant experience across channels.
The lack of ability to integrate data across sources hamstrings brands from providing relevant messaging. If a customer interacts through the website, and then via social media, brands should be able to recognize it is the same person. With the current siloed nature of customer engagement technology, brands often lack the single view of the customer that they need to be effective. Brands that have the single customer view that comes from breaking down silos between point solutions often find it easier to provide the relevant messaging the connected customer wants.
The high-impact recommendations possible with a single customer view are up to 50 times more likely to trigger a purchase than a low-impact recommendation. The difference in purchase potential is significant, and the customer-centricity that arises from such an approach allows brands to capitalize on the digital transformation impacting the marketplace. Once brands build a single customer view in a way that is accessible in real-time across the enterprise – often a customer data platform – they can more efficiently think like a customer and understand what messages to provide.
Take an Open Garden Approach to Customer Engagement
Once brands have adopted a customer-centric mindset and eliminated silos between point solutions and business units, they need to consider how best to orchestrate interactions. Integrating data into a single customer view lacks value without the ability to act on the insights gleaned from that comprehensive data. Brands need a solution that can use the data in-line to make customer decisions and then orchestrate an omnichannel experience. Often this is a customer engagement hub, which can fulfill both functions through an open garden approach that uses existing IT investments and embraces future innovations.
A customer engagement hub provides a single point of control over data, decisions and interactions while embracing existing touchpoints. Taking this approach allows brands to fully leverage their existing technology infrastructure. It also avoids the extensive replacement and re-platforming of a walled garden solution such as a marketing cloud or all-in-one suite. Adopting an open garden approach to technology with a customer engagement hub further creates a flexible architecture that allows brands to focus on delivering relevant next best actions to the connected customer.
As digital transformation and new consumer-driven technologies increases pressure to differentiate on the basis of customer experience, brands find that they need new sources of competitive advantage. Closing the gap between the connected customer’s expectations and experience will power that differentiation, but it can only occur if brands adopt a customer-centric mindset and take steps to future-proof and integrate their technology infrastructure. Then, and only then, will brands be able to share in the $800 billion windfall that the top 15 percent of companies will receive from improved personalization over the next five years.