My colleagues and I have recently been writing about “The Path to CX Excellence,” and the importance of brands thinking differently about their customers’ experiences (CX). One point of view we share is that brands today need to think about customer experience as the key point of differentiation to successfully attract, retain, and grow long term customer relationships. How every brand can have best-in-class experiences and set itself apart is unique for each organization. Leading the product marketing team for Oracle’s B2C CX Marketing solutions, I spend a lot of time speaking with marketers about how to improve their customer experiences and their ability to outcompete.
Brand Evolution in the Experience Economy
As business trends change and evolve, so do the expectations and reactions of the modern consumer. In today’s Experience Economy, customers expect brands to know them better than they know themselves! Customers expect seamless and personalized digital experiences across any channels at any time of day.
Brands have always understood the value of deep customer relationships but more recently, they’ve been understanding how important a consistent, relevant, and timely experience is to retaining and growing their best customers. From the consumer point of view, the experience itself likely matters more today than the product or service being sold when deciding which brand to do business with.
Customer data is the foundation of delivering a differentiated customer experience and boosting the brand’s revenues. The question for a brand is, “Where to start?”
Marketing is highly complex and made up of dozens, if not hundreds of systems and touchpoints. If every engagement must be improved, how do you break down the problem so a successful plan can be built and executed? We understand how overwhelming this can be, and Oracle and our partners are dedicated to helping our customers navigate these complex paths and plans.
One of our recent innovations is a maturity model that helps marketers assess the current state of their marketing, and create a defined vision for how to improve. This “Path to Marketing Excellence” is the unique journey we see all marketers take when trying to achieve their goals by improving their customer engagements.
Stage 1- B2C Broadcast Marketing
Every marketing practitioner wants to drive the best results for their business in the most efficient ways. Some of the highest returns for marketers beginning this journey is to increase their marketing efficiency through automation.
Most marketers start out trying to increase their audience reach in well-established channels such as email. This leads to “batch and blast” one-size-fits-all emails with volume as the primary goal. Many brands that exist in this state still find success in their campaigns because email outreach remains a primary and productive means of engaging consumers, and they can use marketing automation to increase their production efficiency and ROI.
Marketers at this stage commonly experience difficulty scaling broadcast marketing initiatives over time. Focusing only on increasing production efficiencies and growing your lists, leads to issues with sender reputation, opt-outs, and SPAM reports. As volume increases but relevancy doesn’t improve, more consumers are turned off by your messages and engage less over time. For this reason, marketers who have been operating at this level look to improve their results by moving to the next stage.
Stage 2- B2C Responsive Marketing
Today’s consumers drive innovation and for them, every moment matters. Marketers must strive to build customer relationships in the narrow windows of time that consumers engage with your brand.
Customers live on email, social, web, and offline channels, providing marketers multiple opportunities to increase engagement, improve conversions, and shorten the buying cycle. An email-only outreach method falls short with customers when you limit your engagement to only this single facet of their lives.
Your customers expect you to engage with them across any channel of their choosing. Once you improve your baseline efficiencies in your primary marketing channels, you must branch out to engage in all possible channels a consumer might choose.
In Responsive Marketing, a team evolves beyond simple marketing automation and begins to focus on improving conversion rates and optimizing customer journeys. The winning marketing teams I speak to find multiple paths to making marketing more responsive and in tune with consumer needs.
One of the first ways is to add segmentation to transform batch and blast marketing. Segmenting target audiences allows marketing to tailor experiences that fit more closely with the specific interests of the consumer, rather than a one-size-fits-all engagement approach.
CX can improve by making those segmented campaigns adaptive, and allowing different paths for different consumers based on their activities and interests. Expanding the outreach across all of the channels that matter helps consumers feel closer to getting exactly what they need at the right time and channel. Triggered marketing and behavioral re-targeting can be deployed to re-engage the consumer at the moment they show interest, and respond in a relevant and beneficial way.
Many successful marketing teams at this level are engaging consumers across the channels that matter, and run sophisticated tests to optimize experiences. So, what motivates a marketing leader to continue pushing forward? The consumer and their expectations remain the motivating force.
Consistency is a big factor for customer satisfaction with their brands. Consumers expect their experiences to be ever more tailored and relevant over time. Finding different offers, advice and information as they traverse email, mobile and web, leads to disconnected experiences and dissatisfied, less trusting consumers. The potential for disjointed messages across time or channels is the primary reason for marketing to keep pushing forward.
“Customers don’t care if you claim you have omni-channel or multi-channel capabilities. They only care that they can connect with you, the way they want to connect with you, and when they want to connect with you. They go through the channel that’s easiest and most convenient for them.” (Shep Hyken, Forbes)
Stage 3 – B2C Relationship Marketing
Relationship Marketing is the level where the success of consumer engagements are judged by how well they promote or detract from building long-term customer relationships. A chief part of the challenge at this stage is how to scale up the personalization already underway.
This is where humans may struggle to keep up with the scope and speed of the information needed to understand and adapt to consumer behavior and context. Marketing begins to view success not just with KPIs such as ‘open’ or ‘conversion rates’, but in more holistic, consumer-specific metrics such as ‘repeat purchase rate’ and ‘customer lifetime value.’
Consumers expect brands to know them across every interaction and channel. Therefore, marketers need real-time data streams and solutions such as AI and machine learning to process and activate data fast enough to keep up with consumer expectations and actions.
Brands that execute at this level understand the best consumer marketing experiences will determine which brands retain and grow their valuable customers. So, what would motivate a marketer to keep progressing? The answer, once again, lies in consumer expectations.
Consumers don’t understand or care how the structure of your organization impacts their experiences. They just expect that whatever the context of their interaction with your brand, they’ll receive a consistent, relevant, and beneficial experience.
If they engage with your support teams, they expect your marketing messages will reflect the context of their engagements. If they buy from your web site, they expect your loyalty program to be in tune and aware of their actions. Marketing must continuously evolve and improve, connecting across marketing, sales, loyalty, and service to fully understand the individual consumer experience and optimize it in real-time to changing customer conditions. The brands that do this best will maximize revenue and customer lifetime value and build long-term customer loyalty.
“To the customer, it’s all one big team: Customers don’t care which department they talk to when they need help. They just want to get their questions answered and their problems resolved.” (Shep Hyken, Forbes)
Stage 4- B2C Lifecycle Engagement
Delivering a unified brand experience across all consumer touchpoints is the ultimate goal for almost every organization. This reduces customer churn and maximizes customer lifetime value by delivering a relevant, consistent, and timely experience at every interaction.
Central to this stage of the journey is a data-first approach to understanding each individual consumer across every part of your organization. You must bring together information from their front office digital footprints, with other relevant information within your back-office systems. This data-centric, lifecycle focus, enables brands to continuously optimize experiences by gaining a deeper understanding of each person through all of the data signals they leave behind.
To achieve this lifecycle awareness requires a complete and comprehensive customer profile, seamlessly connected in real-time across all touchpoints. An advanced orchestration layer must activate this information in real-time to deliver the most personalized, relevant, consistent, and timely experiences at any time or place a consumer wishes to engage.
Brand loyalty is built not from short-term offers or discounts, but from a collection of beneficial experiences that add value to a consumer’s life. The most advanced marketers and business leaders understand this shift and the need to be at the leading edge of how brand differentiation and distinction is changing.
The winners will be the brands who build trusted and loyal customer relationships where the customer experience itself sets the brand apart from the competition.
“Delivering a meaningful and effortless CX can create and sustain customer satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy. It also increases customer lifetime value and improves profitability because it can cut customer acquisition costs and boost revenue.” -Gartner