In a culture of instant gratification, digital dichotomies, and “oneupsmanship” consumers are wielding more power in commerce. What was once “a please the masses process” for businesses, has now transformed into a custom-tailored culture that serves personalized content based on online behavior. Gone are the days of traditional TV advertising—where YouTube and Hulu have taken over. Gone are the days of cold-calling—where post-purchase follow up and automated response have become normal.
We are in an era of digital growth and exploration that puts the consumer at the steering wheel and businesses in the passenger seat —where brands make decisions based on customer needs. An era in which brands must fight for the attention of their consumers—an attention span that is quick to move on and eager to try something new. Harnessing that attention and driving it toward taking action is a particularly difficult task for businesses, as consumers have a plethora of options. What was once a matter of availability has now become a matter of choice, where consumers no longer are limited by geographic location or logistics. In this new age of consumption, what separates the elite from the average is the experience.
In a world with millions of products, all of which function in similar ways, customers are looking for something more, something deeper, something that taps into their being. Customers no longer crave products for what they do, but for the experience they provide. It is in that vein that brands must shift their attention from the product to the experience, and understand why this transition is a pivotal part of success.
Defining The Customer Experience
You hear plenty of brands and agencies talk about the importance of customer experience. It is the beacon of all things business, otherwise, people wouldn’t make purchases or subscribe to services. The customer experience is the collective quality of your customer’s encounters with your brand. From onsite interactions to product delivery and packaging, each moment is a step in their digital journey and overall experience.
In an artistic sense, the customer experience is similar to that of a mosaic in that it is comprised of a variety of elements or images that each tell their own story but contribute to a bigger narrative. Maybe your social media channels are strong with product imagery and your site is up to par with best practices, but your customer service lacks, well, service. Your mosaic’s background is finished but your subject is lacking focus. In order to curate the best customer experience, one must carefully analyze and put together each individual image in the mosaic and make sure that it lends to the bigger narrative that is being told.
Business has made a drastic shift in the last decade and the customer experience has gone from the door to the desktop, from the salesperson to the social influencer, and brands must be willing to adapt to this new approach. 86% of business leaders agree that customer experience is vital for success. Brands are no longer fighting for a customer’s hard-earned dollar, but for their attention—a precious commodity in this era of digital commerce. Thus, you owe it to consumers to give them the best, most engaging experience possible each time they encounter your brand, otherwise, their attention will turn to someone who will give that to them.
Why Should We Care About The Customer Experience?
Now that we understand what the “customer experience” is, most logical people would ask, “why should we care?” For starters, if your brand is not customer-centric, then you are doing something wrong. In the past, this may have worked for businesses competing in a world with limited choices, thus most buyers came into contact with brands out of necessity. Now, personalization surpasses mass marketing by miles.
With the incredible amount of options and availability, consumers are going beyond the bare necessities and looking for brands that tailor to them, brands with purpose. This battle for consumer attention hinges on catering to your audience on a deeper level and giving them a taste of what your product or service has to offer. The customer experience from start to finish should tease consumers with the potential experience this product provides, or the feelings that this service gives you. As humans, we constantly are seeking a deeper understanding of ourselves and what we do. Brands that align with that messaging, and create individualized experiences will capture the attention of consumers in a more authentic way.
The answer to why we should care is pretty simple: because it’s about the customers. Brands you see thriving today take proactive measures in providing their customers with the most engaging and real experiences that they can possibly offer. To hammer home the point, think about a time when you received poor customer service. Most of us might claim that we’ve had this happen when trying to contact our cable/internet provider. When you were finished with your excruciating hour and a half on the line without any real help, what were your next thoughts? I would guess they weren’t, “well that wasn’t so bad, I definitely want to go through that again.” It probably ended with you hanging up the phone, quite possibly with some aggression and a few choice words you wouldn’t use around young ears. This is exactly why brands need to refocus their lens on the customer experience. You want your customer to walk away feeling appreciated and satisfied with their interaction with your brand.
How Do We Create Satisfying Customer Experiences?
This can be a daunting task for many brands because there are so many areas of their business that are a part of the customer experience. In reality, most areas of your business will in some way or another involve the customer experience and it is important to grasp in what capacity that will occur, and how to take advantage of it.
For marketing teams, the customer experience should always be the number one priority because your work directly faces the customer and a greater audience. Decisions must be made strategically and analytically because without doing so, your chances of missing the mark are higher. Consider the current state of social media, how many brands do you personally encounter on a daily basis that cater specifically to your needs and lifestyle? In the past, it may have been only a few, but today, with the reach of social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, brands are seeking out niche audiences all over the globe, and better yet, they are connecting consumers with similar interests to one another.
There’s a variety of tools available that allow marketers to do things they never could before. Brands can leverage the capabilities of these tools and begin to create engaging customer experiences with the click of a button. They can create personalized email campaigns using customer segments and behavior, understand buying patterns and provide easy-to-use onsite search to help customers navigate their way.
For development teams, this might entail reviewing UX and UI best practices for navigation and usability, then implementing them into the development of your designs. It could also involve more AB testing that allows you to determine the features that are most engaging for customers. It would be a shame to create great messaging and content around your product or services and not have a UX that allows them to experience it properly. By tapping into research and data surrounding how your consumer navigates your site— where they thrive and where they find trouble—you can ensure that you capitalize on the areas that work and adjust those that don’t.
For customer service teams, this means transitioning from reactive to proactive and seeking out your audiences and customers to ask them about their experiences. Rather than sitting back and waiting for the negatives to come through, create a strategy to proactively pursue your customers and gain their feedback, as it is the most valuable resource you can leverage. Similarly, many brands are adapting to live chat and video feeds that allow customers to interact with customer services representatives in real time, resulting in faster and more effective solutions.
Let’s Move Forward!
This is a unique time in digital commerce because it is laying the groundwork for a future filled with digital interactions and transactions. It is the basis for understanding customers at a deeper level and connecting with them in ways that brands have never had the chance to do before. Seizing these opportunities will not only result in a growth of revenue but also customer loyalty. Customers want to become more than just a consumer, they want to be a part of the story. They want to know that your brand has their best interest in mind and that these experiences online lead to better experiences offline. It’s your brand’s job to help your customers discover who they are and encourage them to keep exploring. That all starts with empowering them through great customer experiences.
If you want to explore more about the customer experience, register for our event in Charlotte, NC: Customer Experience: Memorable Steps on the Digital Journey. Here, we will discuss the customer experiences over a panel with some experts from across the industry, while enjoying conversations and some killer food.
Also, if your interested in how you can harness your customer data to create great customer experiences, join our CTO, Daniel Augustine as we partner with Glew.io for a webinar on How Successful eCommerce Leader Use Their Data.