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3 Key Pieces of the "WOW" Customer Experience Factor

Anyone in the digital marketing, advertising and technology space understands the clout associated with the name Forrester Research. That’s why it’s so important for our team to take every opportunity we can to learn, listen, share and contribute to the larger industry dialogue. And that’s exactly what we did at the Forrester Customer Experience Forum East in New York City last month. The turnout was pretty spectacular, not just in terms of the number of attendees (over 1,400) and the impressive roster of global brands that were either speaking on stage or in the audience ready to learn about what it takes to become a customer experience innovator. If we tried to list out every single customer experience “aha” moment or lesson learned at this two-day conference, this blog post could go on for dozens of pages. Instead, we have highlighted a few of our favorite moments.

What’s Your “WOW” Customer Experience Factor?

According to Forrester Research analyst Megan Burns, the average consumer is exposed to 600 TV commercials a day and checks their mobile device, on average, seven times a day. As she stood on stage in front of a packed room of over 1,400 attendees, she explained just how digitally savvy today’s consumers are, especially when it comes to banking. “In 2012, 67 percent of consumers used online banking and half of these people used three or more channels to access banking,” said Burns.

These figures should be a wake-up call on why brands cannot afford to be just “so so” or guess their way through their customers’ digital experience. Although these figures tell a very clear story about how consumers are interacting with brands and their content in a fragmented way, the more important lesson here is that brands need to demand more of themselves and act as internal change agents to advocate new ways of thinking. That is the first and most important step in reaching the “WOW” level of customer experience. As Wells Fargo CMO Jamie Moldafsky said, “Everyone has a role…it’s important to have guiding principles in place that are supported by the corporate culture and leadership.” The moment brands’ digital, marketing, ecommerce and C-level teams understand that collaboration across multiple departments must happen, you will see a change in how brands tell their story and keep their customers happy across multiple channels.

It’s a Journey; Not a Destination

Education is at the nucleus of everything we do for brands, as well being instrumental in defining who we are as a brand. So when our own founder Mark Simpson had the chance to co-present with our client, Hiscox Insurance, we jumped at the opportunity for one big reason – to educate and share with brand marketers the inherent value (both in terms of customer engagement and revenue) that comes with online testing and personalization.

People want digital sites to be fast, intuitive and simple to navigate. That seems like a no-brainer, but the reality is that many brands still aren’t thinking or acting like consumers. According to a study by the Harvard Business Review: “Rather than pulling customers into the fold, marketers are pushing them away with relentless and ill-conceived efforts to engage.” As stated by Phil Thorn, Head of US Marketing at Hiscox Insurance: “It was important to tailor the customer journey and all of our online content so that we were serving the right messages to the right people at the right time.” This personalized and holistic customer experience strategy paid off in a big way for Hiscox Insurance. Not only did their personalization campaign deliver the insights needed to double their online visits to start quote rates in a period of 12 months, it also translated into actual bottom line growth.

What that says to brands is that they need to stop thinking about the final destination and instead, focus on making the journey as personal, unique and relevant for customers. That’s where they’ll see their key metrics rise and, in turn, customer engagement and revenue will grow long-term.

The Luxury Manifesto

If I tried to identify one favorite session at this two-day conference, it would be very difficult. In the main session hall, Walgreens CMO Graham Atkinson touted the importance of omni-channel marketing being an experience strategy, not a channel strategy. That was a bold statement and one that needs to be understood more by brands. Let the experience rule every decision you make as a brand, not the channel where you plan to execute a marketing tactic.

Another “aha” type of session was the one led by Joe Megibow, the newly hired SVP and General Manager of Omnichannel Ecommerce at American Eagle Outfitters. In this session, Megibow described mobile as being a central component of their brand’s larger marketing mix and how it will undoubtedly influence the future layout and design of their physical retail stores. If that doesn’t reiterate how important it is for brands to think and act like consumers first, I don’t know what else will.

But there was one session that especially caught my attention with John Vanderslice, Global Head of Luxury and Lifestyle Brands at Hilton Worldwide. After making us understand that luxury is not dead, Vanderslice took us through a visual journey of what he calls “The Luxury Manifesto.” Simply put, we were treated to a mini-documentary style video and candid discussion with some of the world’s most iconic luxury brands, including the Waldorf Astoria, Conrad Hotels & Resorts, Tommy Hilfiger and Ferragamo. To put it in the words of Vanderslice, “personalized luxury is the key.” The more personal, accessible, authentic and relevant the luxury customer experience is, the more likely consumers will be to come back for more across multiple channels – be it via direct mail, online, mobile, in-store and any other touch point.

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