More than half of marketers believe marketing has changed more in the past year than in the previous five years. Indeed, today’s marketing has very little in common with last century’s marketing, except customers! During the last 10 years, brands went through two phases: discovery (of new channels like social media, mobile…) and innovation (programmatic buying, new measurement tools…). Now they must focus their resources and efforts on customer satisfaction anew.
Marketers as customers’ advocates
According to a recent Adobe study, 7 in 10 marketers believe marketing is entirely different today than when they started their marketing career. Moreover, 5 in 6 marketers feel this transformation is accelerating. Like it or not, marketing is evolving fast, and it must face new challenges. The good news is this evolution will strengthen marketing’s influence inside organisations and increase its contribution to revenue. We already know that happy customers are willing to spend more, this is where marketing’s new responsibility comes into focus: being the conductor of a new holistic approach to customers satisfaction.
The SoLoMo revolution is over
During the last 10 years, social media and mobile has definitively changed the way customers shop and interact with brands. This change is so strong that we can barely remember what our daily lives looked like before the advent of Facebook and smartphones. The combination of these two change factors pushed transparency and proximity to the forefront. By being always connected and always able to express themselves with ultra-simple publication tools, customers forced a new relational model with brands accustomed to some kind of distance. This “comfort zone” is not effective anymore, since customers now have the ability to publicly question brands through Facebook or Twitter, and to do in-store price comparison through mobile apps. I assume that as a customer you enjoy this new reality every day, but do you recognise it in your professional environment? According to the aforementioned Adobe survey, 3 in 4 marketers believe the rise of mobile has taken marketing into new territory, and half of them believe marketing today is all about mobile.
This article is not about the SoLoMo revolution (i.e. Social + Local + Mobile), we will not debate on the impact of social and mobile on retail since it has already been done. What is important now is that brands and organisations acknowledge this fact and make the appropriate changes to their marketing strategy and tactics. Yes, change is hard, but it is mandatory in this new relational paradigm where satisfied customers are not necessarily loyal. The best way to stimulate this change is to narrow the number of layers between executives and customers. Drag a C-level executive to a nearby store, and he will witness all these shoppers glued to their smartphone. Then watch him search for online product reviews so that he can be faced to the harsh reality. It might be painful, but in any case, it is always beneficial to listen to the customers without any filter. This is where social media can help, reinforced by smartphones: to provide a direct channel to connect with your customers. Again, this article is not about the impact of social and mobile, but about the way brands can exploit them to outperform competition. As social media and smartphones have been around for nearly ten years, the exploration phase is over and brands must master these new channels in order to stay in the game.
Programmatic isn‘t magic
Programmatic buying has forever changed the way brands buy advertising. New tools allows brands to target and measure customers at a precision level we would never had dreamed of 15 years ago. These new technologies are now available to every organisation: from international brands to SMBs. Yes, real-time bidding, behavioural targeting and dynamic creative optimisation platforms are very powerful tools, but with great power comes great complexity. As advertising technologies become more and more sophisticated, brands can easily lose focus and drawn themselves into a vicious circle, i.e. deploying new technologies simply because they can, or because their competitors are.
I am not questioning the effectiveness of these new technologies, but the relevancy of automated tools to improve customer satisfaction. We all agree on the ability of programmatic buying to drastically reduce CPM, but how is this helping the customer‘s overall experience? The hard truth is that despite all the fuzziness about the adtech revolution, it can’t do magic, and sometimes, it can damage the long-term relationship you try to build with your new customers. Those of you who have purchased a product online, but are still harassed by banner ads trying to sell you the exact same product at a discounted price knows how harmful a retargeting campaign can be if not set carefully. As we begin to see the limits of programmatic buying and automated solutions, the innovation phase is over because online banners, even hyper-targeted, will never contribute to making a better experience.
Customer Experience is the new Holy Grail
10 years ago, online marketing was all about traffic (“bring more people in, it’s the better way to grow business”). We are now in the second half of 2015, and as customers‘ attention have reached a new low (thanks to Facebook, Instagram, BuzzFeed and the like) acquisition cost has picked to new heights. Driving more visitors to your website is not the solution to all your problems, and it has never been so difficult. This brings us to the following question: why always seek for new customers while you can achieve your business goals with existing ones? Not only customer satisfaction is crucial to loyalty and ARPU (Average Revenue Per User), but it is fully beneficial to your brand’s reputation, and it’s ability to attract new customers through word of mouth. Long story short: customer satisfaction is key to profitability.
User experience (UXP) as a discipline is not new, but we first have to agree on what a ‘user’ stands for, and on what you try to improve in the end. To summarise a painful explanation, Customer Experience (CXP) is a holistic approach to customer satisfaction, it can be described as UXP applied to business concerns with a core focus on satisfaction and ease of use. The last point is key to an optimised experience: removing the hassle and frictions on each step of the buying process and possession cycle. To achieve this, brands need to step into customers’ shoes, to look through their eyes. To do so, creating a Customer Journey Map can be a great way to evaluate and summarize customers’ experience.
Performance is still a major issue, but by focusing on acquisition and/or transformation, you’re competing in a race to the bottom which will inevitably drive you to ever shrinking margins. By placing Customer Experience at the top of your priority list, you will compete to maximise the perceived value, which will allow you to maintain (or even raise) your margins. Put in another way: with a transformation-driven approach, only the customer wins, while with an experience-driven approach, everybody wins.
Quick checklist to master Customer Experience
In order to maximise your customer experience, I recommend to take the following actions:
- Assess your customer satisfaction with every data at your disposal (web analytics, online survey…)
- Map your Customer Journey and share it with the different stakeholders
- Identify key improvement opportunities and define an evolution roadmap accordingly
- Tes and learn, re-test and re-learn…
- Name a Chief Customer Experience to coordinate everyone’s effort and mutualize ressources
Featured Image: © Sergey Nivens – Fotolia.com