Customer Experience has become a hot topic covering every touch point and journey map to capture, engage, and retain a Brand’s most important asset – its customers! The issue is that every experience is unique, personal, and specific to an individual. How can Brands in today’s “always on and connected” world truly direct the right customer experience that is not only relevant but also personalized?
The key is to integrate traditional Marketing “art” with the “science” that Technology provides through enhanced machine learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI). We can no longer capture attention through traditional media alone. The transition to mobile and extended media platforms has accelerated the need for all Brands to extend their messaging and adapt to today’s consumer. It is more critical than ever to create close connections between an organization’s Marketing, Consumer and Technology teams to support the ever-growing need for personalization.
"Targeting “boomers” or “millennials” is a recipe for disaster. Brands need to target Mary vs. Paul vs. Susan to engage and drive customer loyalty"
How do Brands begin? What technologies will deliver the right solution and, more importantly, the ROI to support the added complexity and investment in the Marketing stack?
As a consumer-facing Brand, it is imperative to answer three questions as it relates to any new technology or innovation. First and Foremost: Is it right for your Customers? Will it improve the experience, create more/ better engagement and/or drive enhanced loyalty for the Brand? Any innovation must pass through this critical first set of challenges. Secondly: Can you execute it? Do not just ask if the technology is right, but how do we intend to use it, and are we organizationally ready to fully leverage its capabilities. Finally, ask yourself if you will be able to measure and project a meaningful ROI. Everything must have a return, and you must focus on the specific guest and financial metrics to ensure you are implementing innovation that demonstrates real value. The biggest learnings have always come back to “listen to the consumer.” Always look at the technology and innovation from their viewpoint. Additionally, ensuring you have a robust testing process gives you the flexibility to trial many platforms and partners. Quickly identify and focus on only the few that are able to pass the three key questions above.
Once an organization begins embracing Customer Experience as the foundation for marketing and operational processes, it becomes important to stop thinking about “channels.” Organizations need to think about their customer’s “journey” before, during and after engaging with their Brand. Customers don’t think about how or why something should be different when they’re on Facebook, talking to Alexa, or inside your store – they only care about how easy and seamless the experience is at that point in their journey. Taking an approach as the consumer vs. the marketer opens up an entirely new way of thinking about actions that then need to be created to ensure a more omnichannel experience. The moment you think about segments based upon demographics, age groups, geography, etc. is the moment you’ve lost the individual consumer. Those that create unique experiences will win; those that do not will see the gap between winners and losers widen.
The law of averages does not work in today’s marketing and technology environment. Targeting “boomers” or “millennials” is a recipe for disaster. Brands need to target Mary vs. Paul vs. Susan to engage and drive customer loyalty. The only way to accomplish this is to understand Mary, Paul, and Susan as unique people. Capabilities that allow for stitching consumer data across touch points and create individual customer view sexist today. This is a critical first step to personalization – any budget spent on marketing without understanding your customers will result in an inefficient ROI.
As technology-enabled and customer interactions grow, questions inevitably arise regarding the quality and standards of those interactions. Will consumers relate to and enjoy talking to intelligent machines? The answer actually has nothing to do with the technology itself – it’s ensuring that all interactions, regardless of origin, are authentic to your Brand voice.
The AI engines you can now employ are actually more “personal” than any past interactions. AI technology now allows you to interact with Susan differently than Mary even though they happen to “fit” in the same segment you’ve used in the past. Additionally, the progression of “emotional AI” is now being utilized in customer contact centers. This will only accelerate and permeate Marketing as the technology continues to advance.
At the end of the day, consumers want to be heard, they want to be understood, and they want frictionless engagement. Make it easy, make it personal and relevant, and they will reward that with their dollars. Whether those needs are fulfilled by a human and/ or machine will become less relevant. The value for Brands is in the ability to deliver personalization and authenticity in an effective and efficient fashion at scale.