Create Emotional Connections With Your Customers Using Data

emotional connections

Much has been said about retail disruption, personalization, chatbots, and AI, with headline after headline enlightening the topic trends of the moment. Yes, we all know that mobile is the primary device when it comes to planning your marketing strategy; that the retail industry needs to evolve to keep up with the e-commerce giants; that the so-called industry 4.0 is the real thing; that personalization is the only feature that matters.

All these trends are clear markers of that simple truth we all know: customer preferences are changing so fast that it’s hard to predict or anticipate them these days. We can’t say which brands or products will shine in the next years with a soaring demand, nor which ones will lose ground.

Today, customer engagement requires innovative, specific, personalized experiences, and companies often strive to satisfy their needs. Following trends is dangerous: in the very moment you find a focus on a particular trend, it is likely already passed. You must learn to anticipate trends, create them starting from the knowledge you have right now.

Furthermore, traditional customer segmentation has become difficult and ineffective. Old-school data profiling is inadequate to illustrate the specific characteristics of the buyer personas, due to its broadness and non-specificity. Hard data, such as location, age, gender, or even interests, are not sufficiently distinct to portray a person’s profile and his behavioral patterns effectively.

Today, customers are accustomed to weekly product turnover, monthly technology updates, on-demand streaming services, on the moment news, and automated customer support: everything is available everywhere, at any time.

How can we expect our customers to stand still enough to let us detect their needs, design a solution, and provide it at our convenience? Even broaden concepts like sustainability or privacy compliance, considered as evergreen trends, are not always reliable in the mid or long term. One season it’s all about life-long garments made of organic cotton and the next one everyone wants that 10$-plastic-trendy shoes.

Now, imagine being introduced to this buyer persona: a young male, located in New York, with a lot of different interests - from sports to technology and music -, who spends around 70$ per month for discretionary activities.

How can you tell whether he is interested in taking insurance coverage / taking part in a guided tour through the mountains, rather than exploring new cities on a self-organized trip? How can you predict if he would prefer a long, descriptive written content, rather than a chart, to delineate the advantages of your service?

Traditional profiling can easily become a false friend: it gives the idea that you are gaining knowledge, while you are actually focusing on generic data and missing the real key to the heart of the single person. There are just too many variables among customers to pretend that using only a little part of them might be enough to predict their behavior.

And so what?

So, it is necessary to gain a deep, valuable, holistic understanding of who your customer is as a person and what he/she expects from you in terms of feelings, emotions, and experiences.

Customer loyalty is all about experiences. Offering high-quality products is important but delivering relevant experiences that resonate with the inner feelings of the recipient is essential. Thus, brands need to achieve a profound knowledge of their customers, investigating the key elements that provide the basis to establish meaningful bonds.

These elements are the personal characteristics that are stable across time and situations; the ones that determine the attitude and approach towards life and everyday choices, such as personality traits, values, and beliefs.

For example, the ideal buyer persona for insurance providers tends to be someone who has a high-risk aversion and an external locus of control rather than someone who is more prone to bear ambiguous situations and usually feels in control of his life.

More, someone who has a strong inclination towards adventures and spontaneity would prefer a self-organized, backpacked trip, while a person in the same socio-demographic sector, but with strong values of security, familiarity, and ease will probably pick a guided tour, with scheduled times and activities.

Communication messages need to be tailored to the recipients characteristics and their attitude towards information: not everyone copes and assimilates data similarly, and these differences need to be taken into great consideration.

Another example: people with a high need for cognition need to deepen the search for precise information to form an accurate opinion, while those with an inclination towards affection absorb emotional appeals better.

These few examples provide the necessary understanding of the individual differences that occur between people, not regarding socio-demographic or behavioral data, but concerning other aspects that have long been ignored.

Today, the state of technologies grants us the opportunity to identify, isolate and use this information to provide better experiences to our customers. Are you willing to gain this deeper understanding and stay on top of your customers’ desires?

 

Photo by Federico Beccari on Unsplash

 

 

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Take These 5 Steps And Reinvent Your Customer Journey Map

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The journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.

With the wisdom of this Chinese saying, let's start 'our journey' to discover how the 'customer journey' has changed in the last five years, pushed by the evolution of mobile technology, and what this means for your Brand.

The rise of the born-digital generations of customers (Millennials and post-Millennials) makes your traditional customer journey map obsolete. Every single map that you have used in the last decades is now useless. How can you recover?

In the digital ecosystem, everything changes at such an impressive pace that you risk losing sight if you do not get a new compass, a unique perspective to engage and monetize customers. The disruption brought in by the smartphone is unprecedented and requires drastic measures.

First things first, we need to clarify the difference between traditional customer journeys and the digital customer journey. We can simplify and streamline the two processes:

Traditional Customer Journey

Think of it as a (mostly) linear sequence going from the Awareness to the Consideration and then Purchase:

  • This funnel unravels across few touch points, well-known and presided by marketers;
  • The customer has a limited set of alternatives;
  • The communication is usually top-down and lead by the Brand;
  • Customer's choices are influenced by the 4 Ps of marketing, by routine and the trusted opinions of my closed circle of friends and relatives.

Digital Customer Journey

A neverending journey, not necessarily starting from the Attention/Awareness or ending with the Loyalty:

  • This funnel unravels across an increasing number of touch points, both in physical and digital worlds.
  • The customer has tons of alternatives;
  • The communication is always two-way;
  • Customer's choices are rarely influenced by advertising, price or routine. The circle of trust includes the online communities: social networks, e-commerce reviews, forums and blogs.

The evolution of technology reshapes the essence of the journey and this, in return, defines the pillars of your marketing strategy. In our ecosystem you should never underestimate:

  1. The arise of young customers - the picky millennials and the elusive GenerationZ.
  2. The growth of connected technologies - trackers, wearables, beacons, the Internet of Things.
  3. The dawn of Micro Moments - real-time mobile interactions, driven by specific intents.

The digital customers are accustomed to living surrounded by connected devices that melt the offline and online worlds. They build their identity by interacting with their virtual and pshysical communities, and do not recognize any other way of experiencing (life, emotions, and relationships).

In our markets, made flat by the globalization, your customers refuse to be considered as part of an indistinct mass. Each customer wants to be treated as an individual. This rejection of the massification requires that you invest your marketing efforts on the personalization and relevance of contents and experiences.

Today, there is a question to answer: Why should people buy from you when they can choose from a potentially infinite set of alternatives? You are not simply battling against your neighbors; you are fighting against thousands of suppliers from all over the world. Even a great, unique product might be not enough to win.

What then? The customer experience becomes the real key to differentiate your Brand, and the creation of a new customer journey map the ground to deliver personalized experiences. You need an innovative approach to the mapping of an unstructured journey, or your clients will still be strangers, inanimate figures you do not know anything about.

Luckily, you can still rely on a few basic requirements that have not changed ever since the idea of ‘customer journey map’ was considered for the first time. While the contents and the framework evolves with technology, you will always have to start your planning from these foundational elements:

Buyer Personas + Customers + Emotions + Research + Touch Points + Objectives + Measurement

On the one hand, marketers need to reach the customers when they stand in the early stages of the journey; unfortunately, that is the most obscure moment. The Brands usually know very little about customers' emotional profiles, and the traditional research methodologies does not provide useful data that show what clients were doing and thinking before - let's say - they entered your website or store.

That is exactly why you need a revamped version of the journey mapping. Starting with the following prerequisites.

RETHINK THE JOURNEY

Of course, behind a new mapping there is a new journey. Every single social and technological trend leads to the inevitable reinvention of the customer journey. There is no value in a map that ignores the different sources of interaction brought out by the mobile disruption.

The innovation extends the relationship between companies and people, to embrace the added value for both Brands and customers. Stay eyes wide open and willing to test and learn new means of engagement and fidelization; only then you will earn customer's loyalty and trust.

ENGAGE THE CUSTOMER

The foundational element of the journey is the traveller, of course. And yet, you might be surprised to know how many marketers still design their journey map starting from the company and the products instead of the customers.

Since the whole point here is to improve the relationship between your clients and your business, the only way you can build a map that actually works is to bring the customer's perspective into the process. Describe not the experience that you want to provide (or you think you are providing) but the experience that people expect (and you are actually providing).

UNVEIL THE EMOTIONS

The key is to understand how people take decisions and choose what to buy and how to buy. In a world where the smartphone has become the first screen and the attention span is lower than ever, not all customers are alike, and not all journeys should be considered equal.

People embark on very different journeys, driven by peculiar behaviors and personality traits. Each journey has different touch points that can be influenced by unexpected causes and intents. Individual needs, emotions and expectations lead to very personal behaviors. If you do not study these patterns (i.e. Psychographic profiling), you will not be able to reach the contextualization required to appeal each person.

CONNECT THE DOTS

Mobile technology reshapes the journey, influencing both the space and time of the interaction. The smartphone reboots the entire experience of communicating, searching for information, and connecting with people and brands. According to Nielsen, half of customers believe that mobile is the most important resource in the purchase decision-making.

Mobile platforms already account for more than 60% of total time spent on digital media. Your strategy should think mobile and act local, combining location and behavior to deliver meaningful contents, wherever your customers are. Connect the dots to get a holistic view of the ecosystem.

UNLOCK THE (SMALL) DATA

While it is still hard to understand what customers think and do in the early stages of their journey, companies can now take advantage of something they did not have before. Something that shuffles the cards on the table: small data.

Connected technologies create a large quantity of information about the customer's path; you only have to find the way to unlock the power hidden into this information. The key is to match the different sources and step from Big to Small data. Always remember that the real value not the information itself but what you do with this knowledge.

"Activating customer journeys to capture value requires journeys to be treated like products that need to be actively managed, measured, and nurtured. How well companies are able to do that will dictate how successful they are in making customer journeys a competitive advantage." (McKinsey)

Photo by Mahkeo on Unsplash

Download The 7 Pillars Of The New Customer Loyalty to define the foundations on which to build your engagement and loyalty strategy, create innovative experiences and establish a lasting and valuable relationship with your customers.

Editor's Note: This post was originally published in October 2015 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy with the latest trends and advancements of digital customer experience.

5 Digital Best Practices For a Brilliant Engagement Strategy

Do you really need digital best practices? For more than fifty years, marketing has mostly been about communicating, promoting and selling products offline. Then, suddenly the rules of engagement changed forever. What happened?

The Internet and the smartphone happened. Close your eyes and think for a minute about what life was like before the Internet. Can you? New generations of customers will never experience the world without connectivity, and now you definitely need a digital marketing strategy to engage them and earn their loyalty.

Even for non-digital customers, it is hard today to imagine the world with no Google, emails, Wikipedia, Facebook, e-commerce or mobile apps. As customers, we tend to take for granted technologies that were the only a dream not so long ago; and yet too many companies still lack digital vision, relying on outdated marketing tactics.

Markets have changed, and customers with it. Is your brand evolving too? With the spread of mobile devices, the opportunities to create genuine engagement and deliver meaningful customer experiences are literally everywhere. In general, things have been getting a whole lot better for digital leaders, no more sidelined as the weird cousins of traditional strategists.

In a world shaped by emerging technologies - where information is readily available, and customers take instant decisions in a ‘tap’ - you only win if you can speak the same language they speak. Whether you like it or not, their language is made of innovation, digital screens, virtual interactions and disruptive technologies. Are you ready to change skin?

The first thing you need to know is that you are not alone: every single company is constantly looking at innovative lessons to build a digital strategy that works in the Age of the Customer. That is a strategy built around the experience of customers, not the product or the organization itself.

Once again, let’s go back to the main trends that define our business ecosystem:

  • The convergence between the analog and digital worlds (the so-called digital transformation).
  • The emergence of connected devices (the smartphone, wearable technology, the Internet of Things).
  • The fragmentation of life into Micro Moments, inspired by specific needs and desires.
  • The passage from traditional consumers to empowered customers and the dawn of the digital customer.
  • The tevolution of the customer journey map, across different devices and touch points.

The way people live, communicate and connect to each other is not carved in stone. It moves with the times and evolves with technology. For marketers, that means the willpower to get ready to move on and adapt tools, strategies, and actions.

As said, opportunities are everywhere, and so pitfalls. In the digital era, it is easy to miss the mark, even when you think you are doing everything right, as perfectly shown by the huge amount of social media fails, useless mobile apps, and digital strategy mistakes out there.

Traditional patterns are unable to ensure increased engagement, brand awareness and loyalty because they focus on the brand rather than the customer experience. Now we know that the experience is the real differentiator in digital markets.

New horizons mean new patterns and parameters, and that is where the following five digital best practices came out. When it is time to plan your next move (namely your digital customer experience) take a little time to read these suggestions.

UNDERSTAND WHAT DIGITAL MEANS

Just look around and you will see plenty of articles and researches about the importance of a digital-first approach to engaging the new customer. However, what is digital exactly? What does it mean - for YOUR company - going digital and developing a digital strategy? This is the 'level-zero' question you should always ask before starting the process of transformation. Digital screens are everywhere, digital technologies they reshape reality: How can you add them to your strategy, without losing your identity and core values?

MAKE DIGITAL EVERYONE'S JOB

The first mistake so many organizations fall into is the idea that digital is a compartment, responsibility of few and not part of the company as a whole. Digital is not (only) the job of marketers; it should be the rule that guides the actions of every single person involved in the planning and execution of your strategy. We know that employee engagement is the foundation of a truly innovative brand, and digital is the field of choice where you can measure if you need to bring something into alignment.

CONVERT BIG DATA INTO SMART DATA

Big data have been around for years now, and yet so many entrepreneurs have no idea what it is all about. There’s always been lots of data, even before the Internet and the specific analytics dashboards. "Big data is like teenage sex: everyone talks about it, nobody really knows how to do it, everyone thinks everyone else is doing it, so everyone claims they are doing it." Innovative organizations are already skipping from big data to smart data, that is the ability to extract useful insight from vague numbers and statistics.

LOOK AT THE EXPERIENCE AS A WHOLE

The only way to deliver a meaningful experience - relevant and personalized - is to look at it as a whole. Digital customer experience design starts with a comprehensive methodology aimed at creating memorable moments for customers through every connection they have with the brand or the product, where and when it matters the most. Bringing out emotions, needs, wants, capabilities, and shaping a flawless omni-channel customer journey that is truly custom-tailored.

OPTIMIZE THE CUSTOMER JOURNEY

The spread of mobile devices and the emergence of digital customers entail a great challenge for digital leaders: customer behaviors change endlessly and it is very difficult to track patterns and recurring frameworks. The customer journey is not what it looked like only ten years ago. You will need a completely new customer journey map to revamp the traditional methodology and give sense to all the different touch points and interactions people have with you, day after day, device after device.

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To help you provide a strategic advantage to your organization, Neosperience has crafted the first DCX 7-Steps Checklist, with requirements and insights for a successful digital transformation. Download the free guide here:

5 Ways You Can Use Mobile To Improve Customer Experience

What is your first reference when you need to do something? What is your primary source of information when you need to decide what to buy? Mobile devices. One of the most exciting things about the Internet era is the pace at which innovation happens.

If we had to choose a single keyword to describe the historical moment we all live in, that would be ‘mobile’. Hence, there is no way to improve customer experience if you ignore the power of smartphones, smartwatches, wearables and all mobile technologies.

At the end of 2014, the number of mobile-broadband subscriptions has reached 2.3 billion globally, five times as many as in 2008. In just six years, smartphones and tablets have disrupted many industries, giving birth to an empowered generation of clients, the ever-connected digital customers.

Also, now the wearable technology - ranging from basic activity trackers to the brand-new Apple Watch - promises to fasten the evolution of customers and businesses. Mobile penetration has now risen above 100% in most developed markets, with the number of connections globally now well over 7 billion.

Every time innovative products arrive on markets, they quickly become an important part of the daily lives of millions of people. Changing the rules of marketing. The story is no different when it comes to the Internet and mobile connectivity.

We all live in a moment of transformation lead by digital screens. Mobile mind-shift is the name analysts use to identify this wind of change: our daily life can now be described as a flow of micro moments (as described by Google), influenced by personal devices. These moments are critical to establishing a connection with customers: either you earn their trust or lose them forever.

The fact is customers have already made the shift, embracing the digital transformation. This is particularly true for those born submerged in the digital world, the so-called millennials. To ensure that your brand does not disappear or gets written off as old, you need to find new ways to improve customer experience strategy, using mobile technology to create meaningful connections with your clients. Now.

In this new scenario, in fact, companies must understand that the customer - not the brand - is the core of any given strategy. People can easily access all the information they need, and choose from a potentially infinite range of brands and products. To build relationships and increase business, you need to engage continuously customers and give them what they want, when they want it, fast and easy.

This is the essence of digital customer experience in the Age of Customer. The only choice is to adapt as fast as you can if you want to conquer customers’ attention, retain their loyalty and be first in line in the purchase decision. Easier said than done.

People expect that you understand this new way of consuming and communicating and that you are able to fulfill their needs using innovative tools. Going mobile might be risky (and expensive) but it is also the only way to succeed. You are not going anywhere if you are afraid to take risks. Digital will boost your business, but you have to be willing to use it to revolutionize your customer experience.

How? We have traced five areas of improvement that you can enhance using mobile technology.

HELP

Empowered customers know what they want, but that does not mean they do not need you help. Technology should be used to make their life easier, improving the experience they have with your brand or product at every touch point of the customer journey: from the first contact to conversion to customer service. One-touch shopping, social buy buttons, social media customer service, virtual waiting list, NFC and Apple Pay are just a few examples.

ACT

You should be reachable everytime and everywhere. At the same time, you should be able to reach your customers when they are ready to interact with you and make decisions. Conversion in the mobile era is about connecting with clients at the right moment. Big data dashboards, marketing automation platforms and real time personalization technology improve the ability to act fast. It is no surprise that proximity marketing is becoming critical in business strategy that blends physical and digital.

TRACK

A major consequence of the spread of mobile devices is the huge amount of information that companies are now able to collect. Data about customer behaviors and preferences, information about competitors and market evolutions. The difference between old and innovative businesses is the capability to process and translate data into actionable strategies to improve efficiency and engage customers across all touch points, physical and digital.

PERSONALIZE

We are now accustomed to the idea of the Age of the Customer, where customers take center stage. In this era, talking to a broad, generic audience equals talking to none at all. Your content marketing - and your marketing strategy in general - should talk to every single client, to give him/her a powerful personalized experience with your brand and products. ‘Content customized with context’ is the key, and location-based promotions and offers, coupled with push notifications, great tools to personalize the purchase experience.

BUILD

When you sell your product or service, you always sell yourself, your story, your identity and values. As markets have become conversations, building brands means building relationships. Your identity is the ground where you build your marketing strategy, your true self the foundation for unique storytelling. The solution is to embed the mobile logic into a coherent narrative. Know yourself, know your customers, engage and play with them. Being on top of innovation is the only way to build trust and long-lasting relationships.

Just to be clear: going mobile does not mean just developing a mobile app. Going mobile requires a complete change in your mindset and methodology. It implies the awareness that the customer journey has changed, and your company need to change accordingly. Starting with your brand identity and involving your employees in the process.

Editor's Note: This post was originally published in October 2014 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy with the latest trends and advancements of mobile technology and digital customer experience.

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To help you ensure a strategic advantage to your organization, learn about the DCX 7-Steps Checklist crafted by Neosperience, with requirements and insights for a successful digital transformation.

Retail Banking: Customer Experience Reinvents Financial Services

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How can retail banks and financial institutions survive in a world where customers only need fifteen minutes to open a bank account online? How can they attract and engage clients able to carry out transactions with one single tap on the screen of the smartphone? Easy, they need to put the experience in the equation.

Retail banking customer experience is not a recent topic. Without customers, there won’t even be the need for financial operators. What has changed, in the last ten years or so, is technology, and customer behaviors with it. In the age of digital and mobile, banks need to embrace the digital transformation and reinvent themselves to survive.

When we talk about the effects of the Internet and mobile technology, we usually focus on companies that battle in the consumer products industry. With the emergence of a new generation of customers (the so-called Millennials), however, every single marketplace has become more demanding and competitive. So banks are evaluated just like any other brand.

Today’s customers - empowered by disruptive devices and submerged in a world of connectivity - no longer consider their experiences in an industry-silo. They evaluate the experience following precise standards, regardless the industry: all brands compete against each other to establish a satisfying relationship with clients through a compelling experience.

What does this mean for retail banks? That they need to build a digital customer experience that is amazing not only compared to all other financial institutions, but compared to the leading firms in other industries. The implication is evident: If they want to stay top of mind and retain customer loyalty, banks must learn to build an improved customer journey and use it as a competitive differentiator.​

According to the Global Consumer Banking Survey 2014 by Ernst & Young, “in many ways, consumer banking is like other types of consumer activity. But banking customers expect more than an excellent mix of products: they are looking for superior customer experiences that fulfill basic expectations while providing added value.

In the survey - which included responses from more than 32,000 retail banking customers across 43 countries - customers selected ‘the way I am treated’ as the second most important reason for trusting their bank, following (of course) ‘financial stability’. Even more important, customer experience is also considered “the most common reason for opening and closing accounts, more so than fees, rates, locations, and convenience.

You are not judged by what you produce or sell as much as you are judged by the experience you create: it all comes down to this for companies competing in the digital arena. A motto that also becomes a strong invitation for banks and insurances to reimagine their identity, together with their retail strategy, content marketing, engagement, and loyalty.

The scenario is rapidly taking shape in front of our eyes:

  • New customers - more demanding and tech-savvy, connected 24/7;
  • New competitors - online and digital banks, lowering the costs for clients;
  • New technologies - mobile banking and direct payments (Android Pay, Apple Pay);
  • New forms of payment - the infamous Bitcoins, the swap economy and the economy of experience.

What is the definition of positive customer experience in banking? In an era of mistrust in financial institutions, digital leaders need to bear this question in mind all the time. There is more to the building of a strong connection than the development of a mobile app and the speed of a transaction.

We know that customers constantly live - and move - across different channels, digital and physical. As they use multiple touch points to connect with a company, they expect that banking experience is built to be easy, fast, personalized and accessible wherever they are, whenever they need it and whatever device they are using. This requires a shift from the ‘account mind-set’ to the relationship with the customer.

Starting from what has been already done, and what we - as Neosperience - have accomplished working with best-in-class clients, we can trace five major areas of improvement:

PERSONALIZED JOURNEY

Today's customers should not be considered - in a marketing perspective - as a generic and indistinct group of financial accounts. Client's value is more than just the amount of money transferred and deposited. Delivering personalized experiences (i.e. with proximity marketing) across all stages of the customer journey, you will be able to manage a one to one communication, tailor-cut the experience and gather critical information you can use for behavioral targeting.

INNOVATIVE TECHNOLOGY

Banks and financial institutions are already taking advantage of technology to improve efficiency and cut the costs. Now they have to take a further step, and implement innovations to create better experience. The purpose is to convert the idea of banking from a cold and frustrating experience to a simplified and streamlined one. Technology drives a change in how customers use their money (mobile payments, banking mobile app), and how banks change their essence (the Internet of Things, gamification, reinvented loyalty).

REAL-TIME DATA

"Big Data: everybody talks about it, nobody really knows how to do it." If there is an industry that needs to learn how to employ big data, that is banking. All information gathered through digital and physical channels can help banks to understand what their customers want and, consequently, elevate the quality of service. The best way to use big data is to implement an analytics dashboard to transforma data into actionable predictions.

INBOUND MARKETING

Financial services providers and inbound marketing are more connected than it may seem. Traditional advertising is too expensive, with a skyrocketing cost per conversion. The best way to attract qualified leads and guide them to conversion is to establish your brand as the primary source to find information and solve customers' problems. Content marketing - the core of the inbound methodology - allows banks to connect with clients in a non-intrusive way, helping and educating them.

SOCIAL CONNECTIONS

What do social media have to do with banking customer experience? Everything. Presiding over relevant social networks, a bank is able to show its human side, too often hidden behind bureaucracy and cold numbers. Facebook, Twitter and Co. allow you to build trust, provide a superior customer service in real-time (just think about Facebook Messenger), answer promptly to challenges, questions and threats. And - why not? - sell your products through social advertising and buy buttons.

Growing expectations and the almost endless pool of financial institutions fighting to conquer customer’s heart (and provide a wide range of products) mean that banks must reshape their marketing strategy, customer service, and CRM. The only way for banks to achieve a successful transition to digital is to focus on key areas to increase customer retention, raise the brand value and ultimately deliver amazing experiences.

 

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To help you provide a strategic advantage to your organization, Neosperience has crafted the first DCX 7-Steps Checklist, with requirements and insights for a successful digital transformation. Download the free guide here:

The 6 Pillars of Digital Transformation To Improve Customer Experience

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"Digital innovation is as much about technology as it is about people." (Brian Solis)

In the past decade, business and society have undergone a whirlwind of changes. A digital disruption, in fact, guided by technology. The Internet and the smartphone have brought the entire world in our hands, forcing the transformation of markets, identities, and companies.

Every major paradigm shift in human history is strictly linked to a technological progress (just think about the wheel, the printing press, the steam engine). We are now witnesses of a similar evolution, facing what analysts have called Digital Transformation.

Submerged in an ever-connected ecosystem, customers and brands move towards the dematerialization of the world as we know it. Physical and digital worlds collide and melt into a new ground of experience, where information is immediately accessible.

Businesses, governments and organizations are being challenged to embrace the latest digital technologies to improve sustainability and provide engaging experiences. To reach customers and provide products and services anywhere, anytime, on any device.

Digital transformation means different things to different people, but one thing is for sure: mobile devices and social media have created a layer across our world, revolutionizing companies, products and customers forever.

Whatever definition you prefer or adopt, you need to make sure that your approach to building and integrating digital customer experiences evolves as digital trends evolve. One single technology might change your destiny and pave the way to success.

Here lies the secret to overcome the challenge of this new era full of threats and opportunities: start by understanding the rules of the new world, then review the customer journey your clients go through, and realign business model and marketing strategy to effectively engage your digital customers.

In such a complex scenario, if you don’t have a process, any discussion about digital transformation remains just that, a plain talk. While investing in new technologies (social media, cloud, big data, virtual reality just to name a few) is critical, it is not enough to ensure that you truly implement a digital mind shift.

Increasing investments doesn’t itself equate real change, when there is no deep evolution in company vision, brand identity, employee engagement and infrastructure.

Now that the smartphone has - finally - become the first reference screen, digital disruption implies thinking and acting mobile first. We see three great challenges here:

  • Change company culture and routines;
  • Invest time and money in new tools, processes and people;
  • Rebuild the digital customer experience from scratch.

Expectations are higher than ever, engagement is even more difficult and too many marketers struggle to connect with customers and create enduring relationships.

The first step to build a proper improvement path is to put digital customers where they ask to be: at the very core of your strategy. Once you understand that, you are ready to learn the 6 pillars of transformation to improve customer experience.

GENERATION C

Since we have entered the Age of the Customer, traditional customers have been replaced by digital customers. They are connected, empowered and demanding. The smartphone is their way to access the Internet and social media the primary source of information. There is no marketing strategy for the Generation C without innovative technologies and social relations. Map your digital customer journey and make sure to create a proper experience to add value and earn their trust.

MOBILE SHIFT

As Google recently stated in an eye-opening study, "what used to be our predictable, daily sessions online have been replaced by many fragmented interactions that now occur instantaneously. There are hundreds of these moments every day" and they decide the success/failure of your mobile engagement strategy. Context-aware content, multiple touchpoints and personalization become critical to reach your clients mobile-first.

DISRUPTIVE TECHNOLOGY

Innovation is the life-blood any customer-centric company. The reason is very simple: customer behaviors usually evolve faster than companies. The ability to respond as quickly as possible is what makes the difference between winning brands and average brands. Connected people crave new experiences: smartphone, Internet of Things, wearable technology, smartwatch, mobile payments and so on.

BRAND PERSONA

What makes a memorable brand? Products, tradition, innovation, identity? Your brand is valued not only for what it gives (products, services) but also - and above all - for what it is: intangible meanings and archetypes. Great storytelling is the foundation of engagement and loyalty. Know your true why; master your story; shape a narrative involving story, image, identity and people; build on it your content marketing and digital strategy.

PERSONALIZED EXPERIENCE

Given the previous pillars, it is easy to see why personalization is the ultimate goal that all companies should aim to achieve. An amazing shopping experience, specially in the retail industry, is what converts desires into needs. If you want to produce a sincere emotional response in customers/prospects, start by customizing your marketing to match their interests, tailoring communications based on customers’ known preferences and desires.

BIG DATA MARKETING

The key to a successful transformation is the deep awareness of the importance of data in the planning and execution of a strategy. You are now able to collect meaningful information; you just need to learn how to convert data into actionable insights and prioritize improvements. Track and measure your results, to extract reliable strategies from numbers and statistics (i.e. using an analytics dashboard).

Editor's Note: This post was originally published in September 2014 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy with the latest trends and advancements of digital customer experience.

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To help you provide a strategic advantage to your organization, Neosperience has crafted the first DCX 7-Steps Checklist, with requirements and insights for a successful digital transformation. Download the free guide here:

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Customer Engagement – 5 Things Sports Can Teach You About Loyalty

liverpool-loyalty

What do you need to be the best? Everything you’ve got.

This slogan - taken from a famous advertising for sports apparel - wraps-up the greatest lesson digital marketers can learn about customer engagement from sports management.

And that is: If you don’t train to offer the best performance and deliver the best results, you will never overcome the competition to win your customers’ heart and mind. You will never improve customer experience.

Whether you are a sports fan or not, there is a lot you can learn from what happens on the field, in the locker room and behind the scenes.

Football, rugby, basketball, tennis: when you think about sports - with all its declinations - you think about sweat, muscles, concentration, adrenaline. These words depict an experience made of mud and passion. We don't want to deny the romantic side of it, but today sport is more than that. Sport is marketing. Sport is technology.

Long gone are the days when the experience with fans was based entirely on what transpired on the field. For almost 80 years, radio and television have been the main drivers of technological evolution in sports. Then something happened, and everything changed forever.

As fans, we didn't need to be home or on the bleachers to enjoy the best events in the world. In the last decade, the mobile revolution came in to disrupt what we can call ‘Sports customer experience’: The internet went mobile, and so did customers.

The digital transformation, marked by the spread of the smartphone and the emergence of social networks, reshapes - innovation after innovation - the way we ‘live’ the competition. How we watch sports is not how our fathers did; how we play sports is not how our fathers used to play. The customer experience goes digital.

The smartphone and all other disruptive devices rebuild the experience of sports, connecting the physical and digital worlds into a new - and more complete - level of experience:

  • The smartphone - there is an app for everything. Even the smallest team or league has exclusive features to let you stay up to date with all news regarding your favorite team;
  • The iBeacon - the challenge is to move people away from their comfortable couch and bring them to the arena. The iBeacon is ideal to enhance the experience with gamification and personalized offers;
  • The activity trackers - whether you are fitness-obsessed or just a Sunday runner, it is more than likely that you are caught in the maze of self-tracking. The wearable revolution is primarily a sports revolution.
  • The smartwatch - the new releases of the Apple Watch and Android Wear show that the smartphone is the perfect companion for sports, watched (push notifications) and practiced (health sensors).

As a matter of facts, supporters are no longer restricted to living a match the traditional way. The arena and the TV are just the tipping point for an exploded experience along different touch points and channels. A lesson all other industries should learn.

The consequence is evident: business today is not even conceivable without technology. Teams become brands, and brands are companies. Being companies, they need to invest both in content marketing and technology to increase sales and revenue, focusing on what matters the most: fans, a.k.a. customers.

Customer engagement and loyalty are sports’ bread and butter, the foundation all teams are built on. Today, the need is inherent for teams to deliver the best customer journey possible, across all channels and devices in a holistic view, digital and mobile first.

The need to provide the most optimal customer experience at all times is essential for success: You can easily see how this is not different when it comes to professional sports. But somehow teams are ahead of the companies of other industries (i.e., retail & consumer goods) when it comes to the respect of customers, and the awareness of the value of their trust and loyalty.

WE BELONG HERE

No team is like the others. Each one is different, at least that’s what loyal fans believe and feel. Each team has its distinctive history, core value and tradition, the pillars that shape the brand identity and storytelling. All the marketing actions they plan and execute convey those uniqueness. The game starts before entering the stadium, playing on the sense of belonging and exclusivity; the same you should do with your brand.

YOU NEVER WALK ALONE

What is the mark of a great team? What makes a group of athletes a symbol for millions of people? Not the titles won, nor merchandising or tickets sold. The lifeblood of any great team is loyalty and devotion. Sports is probably the area where loyalty plays the greater role in determining the success of a company. And we refer to loyalty in its broadest sense, including engaged employees (your first customers).

WE ARE EVERYWHERE

The essence of a great sports customer experience is in the omni-channel nature of the connection with your favorite team. Fans don’t live in one single channel anymore; they switch between analog and digital, using the smartphone to stay 24/7 online. Sports companies have adapted fast, using all sorts of technology to engage with their digital customers: apps, social media, video, exclusive events.

PLAY TO THE STRENGTHS

Success in sports is a matter of continuous improvement and progress: athletes know their strengths and always show their best cards during the battle, trying to overshadow their limitations. And most of all, they never settle for what they have already accomplished. They always aim at overcoming their limits and defeat all records. Same with your company: highlight your qualities and invest in development, to be cutting-edge and stay top of mind.

KNOW THE COMPETITION

How can you understand what your customers want and where are your competitors headed to? The answer is ‘analysis’. Today there is no sports without technology, and technology creates a huge amount of data (about athletes, performances, competitors) that analysts use to improve the output and overcome competition before even challenging. Data are inherent in the sport as well as in any other industrial sector. Denying this fact equals losing your best chance to win.

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To help you provide a strategic advantage to your organization, Neosperience has crafted the first DCX 7-Steps Checklist, with requirements and insights for a successful digital transformation. Download the free guide here:

Wearable Technology: 3 Trends For The Future of Quantified Self

wearable_fashion

There could be wearables for everyone. Far from being fancy gadgets made to impress coworkers and friends, the smartwatch and all wearable technology seem destined to build a solid market, possibly taking a large share from smartphones and tablets.

While companies are still trying to figure out how to include them into their mobile marketing strategy, smart watches, glasses and wristbands are already reshaping the customer journey. And that’s just the beginning: even more disruptive wearables may come very soon.

The adoption rate is somewhat incredible, if you think about it: according to the most recent forecast data from the International Data Corporation (IDC), vendors will ship a total of 45.7 million units in 2015 (133.4% more than 2014). By 2019, that number is projected to reach 126.1 million units.

Right now, the smartwatch and health & fitness trackers lead the way, accounting for about 80% of the total market. But there’s more than meets the eye: many leading-edge projects are on their way to bring different concepts of wearable tech to life. Some may fail but others may change our life.

The new generation of wearables will surely solve the main problem that affected the perception of the first models. That is: prices considered too high, with customers not really understanding how this technology might really benefit them.

Google Glass, Oculus Rift, the first Apple Watch: amazing pieces of innovation, infinite potential, but why should I spend all my money on them? No more than one year ago, numbers recounted of a 30% return rate and even higher product abandonment after six months.

Now we are all starting to understand the real distinctive value. Once again we need to say thank you to Apple WWDC and Google I/O, both focused on the smartwatch. Equipped with powerful operating systems and designed to meet fashion, Apple Watch and Android Wear have injected a new lifeblood into the market, responding to the ‘lack of functionalities and style’ issue.

As it happens frequently, however, the adoption rate shows a gap between users and companies. Following the success of activity & fitness trackers, wearables have soon become part of customers’ life, mostly used to fulfill their need for:

  • Connected self: since the Internet came out of our houses, mobile devices have become extensions of our body, the first reference when we need information.

  • Quantified self: now that we disseminate our identity throughout the web, we want to use those data to analyze our life and perfect our existence.

On the other side of the coin we find brands, desperately looking for new ways to engage connected customers but still struggling to include wearables into their customer experience strategy.

In the age of the mobile mind shift, they sense that wearable technology is perfect to deliver proximity marketing contents, but how? While they ponder, it’s already clear that the introduction of innovative products is expected to significantly influence business interest in smart wearables.

What qualities the wearable of the future will have to have? In a recent article about this topic, Wired has drawn attention to the following elements:

  • Invisible: components will get smaller and integrated with garments.

  • Personalized: brands will focus on a personalized approach to wearables.

  • Accurate: in the era of Big Data, tracking will become more and more precise.

  • Efficient: powerful technology will require energy-saving power supply.

  • Respectful: privacy of data collected will become critical for customers’ acceptance.

  • Sentient: wearables will need to evolve and grow as customers evolve and grow.

  • Inter-connected: all technology we wear will communicate and fully integrate.

  • Seamless: wearables and the Internet of Things will become one amazing world.

All researches indicate consumer electronics and healthcare segments as the major growth areas but, thanks to integrations and unique features (GPS, monitoring, sensors), they will easily find applications in diverse industries including fashion, defense and sports. Even luxury brands will need to respond to the new trend, with exclusive wearable pieces to lure the high income customers.

And the market is also rapidly clearing up a further misunderstanding: wearables means more than just sports watches and wellness wristbands - popularized by Jawbone Up in 2011. All around the net we find imaginative speculations about what will happen next in this potentially disruptive industry.

The army, obviously, is at the forefront of this revolution. Let's see how customer experience will change in the near future.

WEARABLE STYLE

Gartner believes that the area with the greatest potential for growth is the smart garment category, forecast to increase from 0.1 million units sold in 2014 to 26 million units in 2016. Many designers and tech start-ups already focus their efforts on the fashion side of the wearables: smart socks, trackable accessories, weather-sensitive clothes, solar powered hi-tech dresses, LED bags. You will really wear your style.

WEARABLE LIFE

Wearables could soon lead us all toward a better life. Not by coincidence, right now investors open their wallet more willingly when wearable tech is adopted in the wellness and healthcare industries. Easy to understand why: fitness is today the main framework for applied wearables (trackers but also smart clothes); healthcare, on the other hand, is an open market with millions at stake, mostly from public investments. Apple's HealthKit is just the tip of a profitable iceberg.

WEARABLE GAMES

Soon we will remember the Wiimote as a relic from the past. The new frontier for videogames is called 'total immersion'. When the joypad is not enough, you need something more to feel the game. Virtual reality - think about Samsung Gear VR and Oculus Rift - is just one possibility. Wearables could have a double effect: bring videogame design into the real world (i.e. Microsoft Hololens) and bring people into the virtual world they are playing (i.e. Disney Playmation).

Wearable tech is a fascinating field to study, and is still premature to predict what features or shapes will prevail in the future. For the very first time computing is small enough to be worn or even dressed, and surely there are marketing opportunities out there we don’t even imagine right now.

What we know is that the customer journey as we experience it today will probably become outdated. Brands will have to rebuild it from scratch, starting from our wrist, head, eyes and body.

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To help you ensure a strategic advantage to your organization, learn about the DCX 7-Steps Checklist crafted by Neosperience, with requirements and insights for a successful digital transformation.

Mobile Engagement: Google’s Micro Moments Change The Rules

micro-moments_google

Do you remember the Mobilegeddon? In the last two months, Google has announced several updates to the search engine algorithm and AdWords: all in the name of the mobile mind shift.

The updates were in response to the impact of the smartphone on the way customers make purchase decisions. Google wants you to think in terms of Micro Moments, ‘in the moment’ opportunities that will change the rules of mobile engagement.

There was a clear statement behind the mobile-friendly update and the new image-format ads: mobile devices have completely disrupted the way people communicate and connect with others, products and brands.

What used to be our predictable, daily sessions online have been replaced by many fragmented interactions that now occur instantaneously. There are hundreds of these moments every day - checking the time, texting a spouse, chatting with friends on social media.” (Google)

As the smartphone becomes an indispensable companion in our daily lives, we are witnessing a change in the way people search for information and decide what product/service fits their needs the best.

Think about it: when you need to find a quick solution to your problem or to scan deeper into a certain topic, the first thing you do is to reach for your smartphone. It is now pure instinct, especially for younger generations.

This is the Age of the Customer in full display: we don’t just go online, we live online.

How will this trend affect different industries (retail and consumer brands above all)? Consider these insights, collected by Google researchers:

  • 91% of smartphone users turn to their phone to look for instant ideas while doing a given task;
  • 82% of users turn to their smartphone while they’re in a store, to decide which product to buy and influence the purchase decision;
  • 62% of users are more likely to take action right away toward solving a new task because they have a smartphone;
  • 90% of smartphone users have used their phone to make progress toward a long term goal or multi-step process while ‘out and about’;
  • 69% of online customers agree that the quality, timing, or relevance of a company's message influences their perception of a brand.

Rather than spending long periods of time to research on a desktop or laptop, we now turn to our mobile devices in a continuous series of small sessions. A completely new customer behavior. The challenge for brands, then, is to be visible and reachable whenever customers pick up their phones during these moments.

Fragmented interactions create multiple touch points across all channels. You can’t leave them out when planning your digital marketing strategy. Customer experience turns into mobile customer experience, and the idea of a linear customer journey is now dead and gone.

The customer journey map, shaped by mobile connectivity, is fractured into hundreds of real-time micro moments, driven by specific intents. Each one is a critical opportunity for your brand to engage customers and guide decisions.

Micro moments, as defined by Google, basically unfold through a set of "I want" demands:

I want to know
I want to go
I want to do
I want to buy

 

They're all micro moments, and they’re the new battleground for brands.” (Google)

With these very words Google has launched the new website Micro-Moments, a place to gather all insights on customers’ mobile behavior, and help marketers understand the opportunities and challenges of connecting with customers when it matters most, with relevant messages.

Brian Solis, one of the first media guru to talk about Google’s micro moments, has clearly stated on Forbes that micro moments are the real game changers for both customers and brands:

Here’s the thing, in these micro-moments you are present or hidden, engaging or disingenuous, helpful or inconvenient. Customers expect answers and direction their way, in the right time, on the device and in the channel they are using.

After defining the ‘Zero Moment of Truth’ - that moment when the customer journey begins with a search - Google takes a further step into the fragmentation of our life as human beings and customers. Breaking the map into smaller, decisive fragments.

Here’s the battlefield you may want to control to become customers’ top choice. The constant flow of communication makes it difficult to differentiate yourself from competitors. Shorter attention-span make it even harder to acquire customers and retain their loyalty:

Google’s concept of micro-moments represent the new frontier (and reality) of digital marketing. It’s all real-time and everything is on demand.” (Brian Solis)

What can you do to ensure that your brand is there when customers need it?

 

Map the Customer Journey

Map to learn exactly what stages people go through when interacting with your brand, starting with the Zero Moment of Truth.

 

 

Trace Key Micro Moments

Use the map to understand those moments when people want to find info, make purchases, learn about products.

 

Identify Customers’ Needs

For any given micro moment, discover the needs, desires and wants that drive customers' behavior. Put yourself into their point of view.

 

Use Big Data to Improve

All the data you gather about customers with mobile technology have the primary purpose to find what you might be missing and should improve.

 

Deliver Content With Context

You can leverage mobile devices to deliver the right content at the right time. Personalized experiences are the key to survive in de-massified markets.

 

Always Exceed Expectations

Study new ways to meet and exceed customers' expectation. As Walt Disney once said, "Whatever you do, do it so well that people will want to come back".

 

Test & Optimize the Journey

Find your set of KPIs and measure results constantly. The only way to know if you're delivering a great experience is to improve while dealing with customers.

 

If the future of society really resembles the picture created by Google, the destiny of your brand identity and digital customer experience starts with identifying these pivotal micro moments. To discover how to take instant action and offer instant gratification to your customers.

"Micro moments happen all the time and all along the consumer decision journey. And they’re becoming the new battleground for brands – where hearts, minds and dollars are won." (Google)

Here's Google livestream event about Micro Moments, with Matt Lawson (Managing Director, Ads Marketing at Google).

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To help you ensure a strategic advantage to your organization, learn about the DCX 7-Steps Checklist crafted by Neosperience, with requirements and insights for a successful digital transformation.

3 Trends Linking Digital Marketing Strategy To Mobile Technology

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Two years ago Gartner predicted that marketers will spend more than IT on technology innovation by 2017. As we get closer to the day of that prophecy, is the shift really happening?

While we won’t face a transfer of power from CIOs to CMOs very soon, there is no doubt that marketing and technology are now more connected than ever. So strictly linked, in fact, that digital marketing strategy is not even conceivable without disruptive technologies.

Let’s start with numbers: today just about 50 per cent of tech spending outside of the IT department comes from marketing budget. According to Gartner, this value will grow till an abundant 80 per cent in the next three years.

The reason is evident: with customers’ lives so dependent on digital screen and mobile devices, marketers are increasingly relying on technology to drive better results. In the Age of the Customer, where information is readily available, companies strive to build engagement across all touch points of the digital marketing funnel.

In the last decade, the way we live and communicate has deeply changed, and so the way we make purchases:

In a world gone mobile, brands must think and act digital first. There is no other way to connect with empowered customers, whose life rhythm is marked by smartphones, wearables and all sorts of mobile devices. This is the essence of digital customer experience.

For your company, technology is no longer something that just drives business' infrastructure; it is a driving force behind acquisition, marketing strategy, engagement and loyalty. In this perspective, technology is expected to be part of the fabric of your brand identity. The page you write your story on.

The correlation between marketing and technology is more than just statistics and analytics. From online inbound activities to traditional awareness and attraction tactics, all things marketing are now made more effective by digital tools:

  • SEO and content management tools;

  • Social media and community platforms;

  • Web analytics and tracking dashboards;

  • Big Data analysis and all Cloud features;

  • Online and mobile advertising;

  • E-commerce platforms;

  • Email marketing, coupons and leaflets.

The keyword to understand why you need to improve your digital marketing strategy is ‘customer experience’.

In many industries, hypercompetition has eroded traditional product and service advantages, making customer experience the new competitive battlefield.

To stay with Gartner, one of their most cited predictions is that customer experience will be the primary basis of competition among brands by 2016. The improvement of the customer journey becomes priority and, while the entire organization should be aligned around customer-centricity, marketers are directly involved in the management of the experience.

Traditional - analog, we would say - patterns are not capable to ensure that your efforts will reach the long-awaited results. The ever-changing scenario of digital transformation demands new strategies, and new strategies require disruptive technologies.

What can we expect in the next few years? Here are 3 major trends already rewriting the way brands plan and deliver their digital marketing strategies.

THE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE COMES FIRST

If all organizations will really compete primarily on the battlefield of customer experience, it is pretty clear where marketers will put great part of their budget spent in technology. The aim is to attract, convert and delight customers; if success is driven by the ability to exceed customer expectations, marketing and technology need to realign to provide a great customer journey, wherever they are and whatever channel they are using.

THE INTERNET OF THINGS IS MARKETING

If there is an industry feeling the pressure of digital challenge, that is consumer products, retail and distribution. The idea of store and physical location is on the turn, and every single invention could change retail customer experience forever: e-commerce, branded apps, iBeacon, push notifications, Apple Watch and mobile payments. The Internet of Things is the next frontier of the marketing reinvention, and innovative engagement will pass through the intercommunication of connected objects.

MARKETING BECOMES PEOPLE-BASED

Customer obsessed companies plan and execute their marketing starting from people, not brand. Marketing is not for products but for customers. Content personalization is the key if you want to be perceived as innovative and exclusive - especially in the fashion and luxury industry. Technology will help marketers to collect data and connect with clients: gamification dynamics, context aware contents, virtual and augmented reality, personalized offers.

Linking marketing and technology is not an end in itself. To increase sales and deliver business results, you will need to put all pieces together and ultimately create an amazing, innovative and delightful digital customer experience, across all channels and devices.

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To help you ensure a strategic advantage to your organization, learn about the DCX 7-Steps Checklist crafted by Neosperience, with requirements and insights for a successful digital transformation.