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20 Marketing Blogs That Will Help You Improve Customer Experience

marketing_blogs

Success is 1% inspiration, 98% perspiration, and 2% attention to detail” (Phil Dunphy)

No field in business needs so much inspiration like marketing. In the age of digital and mobile technology, customer’s attention is the most precious coin on market. And you never sell just products or services, you sell experiences.

Thus, you need innovative ways to create memorable experiences. Where could you find your daily dose of good insights and inspirational reads? Citing the Beatles, all you need is blog. More than one blog, actually.

Today’s post is, in fact, dedicated to our recommended 20 marketing blogs that will offer you quality content to help you improve customer experience. Some are well known (how could you not know Seth Godin?), some might represent a nice surprise for you.

Given that the experience is more than a product, there is nothing like fresh read or a side angle view to learn new approaches and remove dust from your digital strategy.

Content marketing, social media, retail customer experience, business vision, mobile app marketing, search engine optimization: these (and many more) are all parts of the brand-new customer journey.

As a brand and entrepreneur, you need to learn how to perfect the connection with your customers - and employees - across the physical and digital touchpoints. The ability to manage relationships: here lies the essence of the inbound marketing methodology, the one that replaces interruption with communication.

You know nothing, Jon Snow”: this quote from Game of Thrones is perfect to explain why you can evolve, and get better at involving your customers in a story, only if you assume that you don’t know everything.

Digital strategy is a continuous ‘learning & testing process’, and inspiration is all around us. You just need to know where to look. In these 20 marketing blogs, for instance.

MOZ

Rand Fishkin is one the most renowned marketing experts out there, the creator of Moz and one of the wizards that offer their tips, tricks and advice on this SEO-focused blog.

SETH'S BLOG

The best selling author and business guru Seth Godin shares his wisdom in this blog about "marketing, respect, and the ways ideas spread".

HUBSPOT BLOG

You say inbound marketing and you think about Hubspot. The company also has an official blog, where tons of tremendous contents (articles, guides, ebooks) get shared every single day.

SEARCH ENGINE LAND

Want to know how to survive Google's algorithm updates? Want to understand how search engines work and how to perfect your SEO strategy? Search Engine Land is the place you want to go.

BEN SETTLE

Email marketing is often underrated, yet it is a critical element of the inbound marketing strategy. With his provocative posts, Ben Settle will help you finally link email and sales.

JEFF BULLAS

If you want to become a better blogger, you definitely need to read Jeff Bullas' blog about ... blogging. The famous speaker and author is a great source of tips and ideas.

QUICK SPROUT

If marketing is your daily bread, you surely know Neil Patel. In Quick Sprout you can find guides and ‘how-to’ articles about content marketing, social media and web optimization.

BRIAN SOLIS

The voice of digital transformation, Brian Solis, owns one of the most read blogs in the business world. The future of customer experience is the rule here.

KISSMETRICS BLOG

There is no marketing without measurement, there is no digital marketing without analytics. Kissmetrics Blog offers everything you need to know about marketing and metrics.

WORDSTREAM

Search engine marketing, PPC, AdWords campaign, retargeting: if you want to know more about these topics, Wordstream is the blog you are looking for.

COPYBLOGGER

In the inbound approach, content marketing is the key to attract qualified leads and convert them into customers. CopyBlogger shares great tips and content development ideas.

SOCIAL MEDIA EXAMINER

Would you build a marketing strategy without social media? Of course not. Social Media Examiner collects news and actionable tips on how to build a successful social brand.

UNBOUNCE BLOG

Success in the Internet era is all about conversions. If you want to learn how to improve your conversion rate and build great landing pages and CTAs, take a look at Unbounce Blog.

STORYNEEDLE

Michael Andrews, an independent content strategist, with StoryNeedle has created an inspiring source of knowledge on how to build an outstanding content strategy and storytelling.

MARKETING LAND

More a web magazine than a blog, Marketing Land gathers the most important news about all things marketing: search, email, social media, analytics, advertising and technology.

FORRESTER BLOG

Forrester is an important consulting firm, but also a source of knowledge. Of all its blogs, we recommend the Customer Experience Blog, focused on the evolution of digital business.

BACKLINKO

If actionable guides and case studies is what you are looking for, Brian Dean and his Backlinko blog is the answer: SEO, copywriting, content, you name it.

THINK WITH GOOGLE

Would you miss the official blog from the number one player in the mobile and digital world? Think With Google is a great source of ideas and insights, and you might even foresee the world of tomorrow.

SHOPIFY

Shopify is an innovative e-commerce company, and they have a blog. Where else could you gain insights into the evolution of online and retail customer experience?

THE SALES LION

Despite the name, The Sales Lion is not a blog on how to push-sell in the old way. On the contrary, it is a collection of thoughts on communicating and connecting with clients in the digital world.

Of course, this is not a comprehensive list nor it claims to include the best blogs ever created. These are just the ones we appreciate and constantly read. There may be hidden gems we still don’t know; please, let us know using the comments.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: 10 Inspiring SlideShare Presentations To Improve Customer Experience

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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4 SEO Ranking Trends That Will Define Your Brand In The Next Years

What factors will define your rankings in the results pages from 2015 on? An aggressive link building strategy is still more important than quality content? What is the weight of mobile in the optimization best practices?

These and many other questions come out of the hat every time Google and the other search engines make changes to their algorithm. As ranking factors evolve, so do digital strategies. The analysis of SEO ranking trends, therefore, needs to become an integral part of your marketing routine.

The inspiration for this article comes from a recent research from Searchmetrics, which year after year analyzes in depth the structure of the algorithm. Search Ranking Factors 2015 is the perfect place to look for variations and signals that Google is changing the rules of search.

Analyzing the top 30 search results for 10,000 relevant keywords on Google, the report aims to identify the key elements that high ranking websites have in common and provide insights and benchmarks for marketers.

If you look back on what happened to the optimization in the last five years, you will notice remarkable changes in how SEO rules condition not only content strategy but also digital marketing strategy as a whole. 2015, in particular, has seen a massive change in the industry.

Of course, we refer to the mobile-friendly update, already affecting the destiny of all companies involved in the online competition. The biggest consequence of the new algorithm is the awareness that mobile SEO is now critical to delivering a great customer experience.

Why is SEO connected to customer experience? In the last decade or so, the Internet has disrupted the connection between brands and customers. The dawn of a new generation of clients - the digital customers - has forced marketers to review the purchase funnel, and adapt the customer journey map to include the digital touch points.

Google suddenly turned out to be our main reference to share opinions, find product information and make purchases. Marketers have long struggled to keep up with the rules arbitrarily decided by Google and the other major players (Yahoo, Microsoft).

The parameters of good search engine optimization were set up, but it was clear to all that this was not a ‘Word’ carved in stone. And then a second revolution happened: the Internet went out of the house, and the smartphone became the daily companion for all our activities.

In 2015, the point of no return was passed, when mobile searches have overcome desktop searches. Now a broad 60% of the entire traffic on Google comes from mobile connections, with more than 80% of users using the smartphone as the favorite tool to search the Internet.

The building and management of a positive branded experience are impossible if you don’t take the dynamics of mobile transformation into account. The mechanism created by the Big G, after all, adapts to changing times, and our times tell that mobile devices and empowered customers walk hand in hand.

This relationship revolutionizes purchase behaviors and forces (again) marketers to embrace technology and innovate their digital strategy, in the name of an omni-channel presence, mobile first.

Customers know what they want, and they want it now, easy and seamlessly. If you can satisfy their needs, and be always present when they ask for help, then you are halfway in your race to relevance.

In the world where purchase decisions are mostly made with a tap or swipe on a smartphone screen, result page ranking equals the preference ranking in your customer’s mind. Your clients (actual and potential) will ultimately reward brands fully optimized for the mobile experience.

From a quick overview of the Search Ranking Factors 2015 report, it is clear that Google is following its path with determination, stepping away from plain keywords and moving towards relevant content.

Higher-ranking websites are those that try to understand the user’s intention and behavior as a whole, working to reflect these patterns in quality content and site structure. From here descend four major SEO ranking trends that will define your brand in the next years.

RELEVANT CONTENT MATTERS

The key finding is that factors associated with the quality of content have more weight year after year. Higher ranking pages tend to have more words, but quantity is useless without a proper organization. Content marketing, focused on customers’ needs, evolves in the name of relevance.

As the number of digital touch points increases, a holistic approach seems the only appropriate to offer what users want when they want it. Mobile app development and social engagement optimization now contribute to content consistent and your presence coherent.

MENTIONS REPLACE LINK BUILDING

Forget the days when link building was the key to SEO paradise. The times of unnatural links are over, and also links in wider terms might be doomed. The number of backlinks to a page from external sources is still a factor correlated with ranking positions, but the overall importance is declining.

At the same time, mentions are growing in relevance: whenever your brand is mentioned on websites other than yours (social media included), your ranking will increase. Again, you need to understand the user’s intention and ensure you optimize content for all platforms.

USER EXPERIENCE IS CRITICAL

The mobilegeddon has brought to light the need to optimized for the mobile customer experience. Your website - and online presence in general - must be fully usable, regardless the device. On average, 30% of sites that appear in the top 30 Google.com search results use responsive design to optimize the search experience.

Responsive is critical, and it is now considered prerequisite, not something exceptional. Search habits are moving beyond the desktop; thus the emergence of mobile SEO, even more than just a website: social media, apps, e-commerce, app stores, blog, advertising.

SEMANTIC SEARCH ENGINES

Keywords have always been the basis of search engine optimization, yet their importance in the future will steadily decline. The problem is that marketers have learned to use them in a mechanical way, as a technical element more than the core of content.

Keywords are becoming obsolete, and the focus on one or two short keywords is not your insurance against ranking drops. The evolution moves towards semantic search optimization, which focuses more on the meaning of content than on the content components like plain keywords.

Google is more focused than ever on offering good quality contents, but SEO is - and will always be - a technical matter. On-page factors - such as title tag, meta description, and quick load - are still standard requirements that all high-ranking pages display (and that affect social pages too)

You need to find the perfect balance between great content marketing and technical elements. Between customers’ needs and your business goals. Cheating with black hat SEO tactics won’t help you save a bad customer experience.

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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10 (+10) Content Marketing Tools To Boost Customer Engagement

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Content is king,” said Bill Gates in a prophetic article dating back to 1996. The Internet was a child, and mobile was yet to come, but he foresaw the importance of content curation to build a marketing strategy for the digital era.

So, what is the purpose of content marketing? To attract and engage customers, delivering brand value in the process. As the number of players in the digital arena continues to grow, you need something to jump-start your output. You need content marketing tools that’ll help you boost customer engagement.

Branded content curation has rapidly become one of the favorite tactics companies use to create awareness and word-of-mouth, that will lead - hopefully - to sales. This perspective is particularly true since the inbound marketing methodology has become standard, replacing worn-out and outdated outbound actions.

Brands have become publishers, and the result is the proliferation of content, on social media and digital properties. Roughly 27 million pieces of content are shared on the web every single day, and brands challenge to retain customer attention. The attention invaluable, and replaces ‘space’ as the main element to succeed and pave the way for loyalty.

You are defined today not by your products or services, but by your unique story. In the Age of the Customer, it’s content that helps craft a story about your company, drive your unique value and persuade clients that they should choose you over the others. Content is essential to deliver an amazing customer experience.

Yet, there is one point too many marketers still miss: the most remarkable content is never product-based. If you want to attract, you need to offer a solution that puts together customers’ needs and company goals in one amazing piece of content.

While you can take advantage of technology to improve productivity, you can’t rely on it to stand in for you in the content curation. While other parts of marketing are being increasingly automated, content is still very much a manual job.

That being said, luckily there are plenty of content marketing tools out there to make the art of shaping great content much easier. Tools to pick up the perfect topic, to organize your daily routine, to find and share inspiration. In a few words, tools to set up a smooth content creation machine.

FEEDLY

The content curation process starts with finding inspiration, and that involves reading tons of insightful articles and blog posts. Since Google Reader has shut down, Feedly has become the best option to gather news from different sources in one place. You just need to create your feed, choosing your favorite sources and sorting content by topics.

KEYWORD PLANNER

If your content does not come out on search engines when customers enter your keywords, that’s a problem. There are plenty of fantastic tools to search the Internet - or scan your website - to find the perfect keyword for your piece of content, but Google Keyword Planner is the best, because it’s included in AdWords and connected to Analytics.

Also try: KeywordTool

TRELLO

Content marketing without accurate planning is just a waste of time and resources. Trello is the (free) answer to managing everything from ideas to publishing calendar. It uses cards to streamline your content creation and gives you the ability to collaborate with your team using real-time feedback on what you create. A storage of potential articles, packed with links and notes.

Also try: Evernote

BUZZSUMO

Do you want to gather ideas on a particular topic? Do you wish to understand what types articles get more shares on a specific industry? BuzzSumo is the ideal tool to find the most shared content and the key influencers to get inspiration. The downside is that you can only get a few insights with the free version, but it is surely worth the price.

Also try: Ninja Outreach

MINDMUP

Sometimes you simply can’t untangle the skein of a topic, and you need a sort of map to solve the puzzle. MindMup enables you to put your ideas ‘on paper’ in the form of mind maps, to better understand what’s on track and what’s not working for your content strategy. A simple way to map out your brainstorm sessions and ideas.

Also try: MindNode

CANVA

In the age of social media, visual content is critical to creating the ‘wow’ effect for your customers. Over the last months, all major social networks have raised the value of visual into their feed streams. With Canva, you can create your own in few easy steps: flyers, posters, infographics. A simple design software with a huge library of templates and assets that you can personalize.

Also try: Easelly

HEMINGWAY

Even if English is your mother tongue, it doesn’t mean you can write effective content in a style that is concise but explanatory. Hemingway, inspired by Ernest Hemingway - well known for his style, will help you do exactly this: create easy to understand texts. Short, simple, and readable on mobility; this is the main requirement for online content.

Also try: Grammarly

GROWTH HACKERS

Content marketing is not only about creation and curation. It is also about dissemination. You can create the best piece of content on earth but, if nobody reads it, then it is totally useless. Once you have published your blog post or article, you can spread the word using social media and communities like Growth Hackers, specifically dedicated to marketing and innovation topics.

Also try: StumbleUpon

PLACE IT

Do you want to use visuals to promote your brand or products, but you don’t want to pay a graphic design studio do realize the video/picture. That’s when PlaceIt comes into play. The service lets you upload your own images into real-world environments, with a focus on people holding smartphones or laptops. You will save the time needed to learn or edit and receive a professional output.

Also try: Magic Mockups

GOOGLE ANALYTICS

Data analysis is the beginning and the end of any content marketing strategy. Google Analytics is the benchmark, but you can test and try different tools to decide which one fits you best. Whether you need to find the perfect keywords, understand customer's behavior on your pages or study real-time statistics, this is the tool you can't live without. Content without stats is blind.

Also try: Webtrends

Now it's your turn. What do you think of these tools? Have you used them yet? Do you have other tools/apps to suggest? Comment to share your insights.

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

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.

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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8 Retail Trends Transforming the Shopping Experience From 2015

retail_augmented_reality

Retail and smartphones, a story of love and hate. It is clear that mobile technology not only affects sales in the 'online territory'; it also has a much broader impact on retail customer experience in general.

The digital transformation involves how we search for product information, what we buy, how when and where. Basically, it changes in-store customer behavior, driving the value of in-store sales. The future lies behind a wave of retail trends transforming the shopping experience.

Since the Internet first entered our home, it was pretty clear that buying patterns were destined to evolve. When mobile connections and - above all - the smartphone were added to the equation, the behavior of retail customers changed forever. And so did the very idea of ‘store’.

All studies highlight the evidence that the traditional physical store we grew up with is inadequate to appeal empowered customers of the digital era, and to respond to the challenge of e-commerce.

Yet retailers are “dramatically underestimating the influence of digital and are caught in a divide where they are making digital investments that primarily support their e-commerce business rather than their brick-and-mortar business.

A truth stated by ‘Navigating the new digital divide’, a survey conducted by Deloitte Digital to understand how customers engage with digital when shopping, and to quantify how these interactions influence retail customer experience.

Digital influence – that is, the degree to which in-store sales are influenced by digital at some point in the shopping journey – is growing at an increasing pace. We are fast approaching a day when we can assume 100 percent of shoppers will be connected 100 percent of the time.

As a consequence of digital disruption, a one-sided approach to retail marketing strategy is potentially catastrophic for your business; it is like randomly walking blindfolded. An omni-channel approach (mobile-first) is the only adequate move: a complete digital customer journey rather than separate e-commerce and physical retail experiences.

Only on the surface traditional retail and online retail are two different things. They’re just the two sides of the same business coin, caught in the maze of evolution. Check the following numbers from the same research:

  • 64% of all in-store sales will be influenced by digital by the end of 2015;
  • 33% of customers say they spend more when they use digital as part of their shopping experience;
  • Customers are 29% more likely to buy the same day when they use social media during their journey;
  • Customers engaged with social media while shopping are 4x more likely to spend more;
  • 45% of customers say digital is essential to make in-store buying easier;
  • 67% of customers look for info and read product reviews on their way to the store.

Schermata_2015-07-07_alle_16.23.49

For decades, the core of retail growth strategy revolved around promotion, place and price. But that was before the mobile mind shift came in to shake up the rules of shopping. We live now an era of rapid technological advancement, with Internet and mobile devices as catalysts for a massive change in the retail & consumer goods industry.

They have changed the industry with a much deeper impact than most retailers actually understand, and over the next ten years there is going to be more change than in the last fifty. What kind of change? Here we outline 10 major paths of evolution that will define the future of retail.

MILLENNIALS POWER

There is no doubt that millennials are critical to decide who wins (or lose) the retail brand challenge. As native digital citizens, they grew up with smartphone, social media and e-commerce. Millennials are the most powerful force in Western economies: their 2015 spending is estimated to be between 1 and 2.45 trillion dollars. Successful retail will be experience-driven retail, across all touch points and channels.

MICRO MOMENTS

Over the last few months, Google released a research that has major implications for brands wanting to succeed in the mobile landscape. Well aware of the impact of the smartphone - in 2015 mobile searches surpassed desktop searches - Google wants you to fragment customer’s life into micro moments, driven by specific intents. That means your traditional marketing funnel is outdated and inadequate to engage the new customer.

MOBILE JOURNEY

Mobile devices and mobile apps become mandatory to map your customer journey in the digital era. Only then you will be able to identify all critical touch points your clients go through when connecting with your brand and products. Customer journey mapping will ultimately help you to identify areas for improvement and establish the appropriate technology to improve the experience across all stages of the life cycle.

SOCIAL COMMERCE

Forget the store, forget the e-store: the next battleground for innovative retailers is called social commerce. Right now people spend more time on Facebook & Co. than on any other site; they use social connections to talk with friends, search for information and share opinions about brand and products. ‘Buy buttons’ already show up on your news feed, and soon we may all buy tapping on a Pin, an image, a featured post or a tweet.

INTERNET OF THINGS

Now that the Internet connects not only people but also objects, the retail customer experience is going to withstand a major upgrade. The Internet of Things can be considered the extreme frontier in connecting customers’ entire physical life to the digital world. This further evolution will have two major effects on retail business: change the way companies create, distribute and sell their products; change the way customers experience the store.

PROXIMITY MARKETING

One side effect of the convergence between the Internet of Things and the spread of mobile devices is the dawn of a new way to connect with customers. It is called proximity marketing and leverages technology to engage clients when they are near or inside the physical store. The iBeacon is one perfect tool to deliver context-aware contents, engage with customers and personalize the shopping experience.

MOBILE PAYMENTS

While we won’t say goodbye to paper cash anytime soon, it was inevitable that mobile technology would also change the way we pay for the things we buy. Customers are moving away from traditional cards, eager to embrace new means of payment. Bitcoins, social transactions, wearables and the Apple Watch pave the way for the future of banking and financial services.

VIRTUAL REALITY

The key to deliver an amazing digital customer experience is to harness the enabling power of technology, focusing on customers’ needs. Virtual reality and augmented reality, in this perspective, are perfect to create an immersive new level of reality, engaging customers with gamification dynamics, supporting the purchase decision, and enhancing the experience (i.e. Neosperience Showroom).

All in all, most purchase decisions happen in front of a screen (mostly a smartphone screen) rather than in-store. Deal with it and rethink your marketing and engagement strategy, capitalizing on digital influence to improve retail customer experience.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: Retail Marketing Strategy: 5 Steps To Renew Customer Experience

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.

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Top 5 Social Media Mistakes That Can Kill Your Brand

Long gone are the days when social media were the most underrated element of the marketing funnel. Even old-fashioned B2B companies now acknowledge the value of their presence on Facebook & Co.

The fact that everyone is online and social, however, doesn’t mean that brands have a better understanding of what makes a successful social strategy. Many still get it wrong, committing brand social media mistakes that might kill their company.

The reason behind the increasing interest in social networks is they have a huge potential for businesses looking to improve inbound marketing and increase their reach, traffic and leads. What started as a battle of likes, shares, retweets and pins (with undefined ROI measuring) has quickly evolved into a customer experience matter.

Actual figures even go beyond the wildest expectations analysts had just five years ago. According to Gartner, “global revenue from social media - composed of advertising, games and subscription revenue - will reach 29 billion dollars by 2015 up from 7 billion in 2010, increasing fourfold in five years.

While brand reputation, engagement and customer delight still make the primary reason why top managers decide to bring their company online, social media are quickly evolving into something more complex than just entertainment. They can help you fix bad customer experience, being now integral part of your customer journey.

Social commerce is just the latest - and inevitable - trend in digital marketing. It’s no secret that all major social networks are working on implementing buy buttons: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, they all aim at increasing advertising shares and making users buy without leaving the site (or the app).

Retail industry advised: social media may still only drive a small share of total online sales, but their impact is already impossible to ignore. There is not other online channel driving bigger increases in retail traffic (+200% in the first quarter of 2015, according to a new report by Business Insider).

More than desktop computers and laptop, the smartphone has become the perfect habitat for social media to display full potential. On figures, together with games, social communities are the most downloaded and profitable mobile apps. Even traditional e-commerce firms are changing skin to resemble the idea of 'network'.

In the digital era, social networks and mobile technology go hand in hand towards a (not-so-future) customer experience where clients will instinctively buy what they want, whenever they want, simply by tapping on a product included in the social news flow.

With this in mind, it’s no wonder that social media spending is projected to grow steadily in the next years. In their State of Marketing 2015 report, Salesforce stated that:

  • 70% of marketers plan to boost social media ad spend;
  • 70% of marketers plan to increase budgets on organic social media marketing;
  • 66% of the marketers confirm that social media is now core to their business, with a dedicated team in place.

It is of utmost importance that your brand and products are always available, across all touch points of the journey map, whenever people take action in the decisive micro moments of mobile purchase decision.

Sales, engagement, loyalty: you should never ignore the power of social networks. You can only disregard Facebook & Co. at your own risk. Why social media are so important in the Age of the Customer? Here are just few benefits of a well-designed social presence:

  • Reputation management;
  • Targeted marketing;
  • Product launch;
  • Right-time personalization;
  • Profiled advertising;
  • Authority building;
  • Gamification dynamics;
  • Crisis management.

Social media marketing requires a strategic approach, not a rough-and-ready mentality. There are hundreds of pages dedicated to the embarrassing (and sometimes tragically funny) mistakes social media managers do while trying to be smart, funny or amusing.

Branded social presence online is a full time commitment, a game with very specific rules and harsh penalties. Just log into your Facebook account and you will see how many companies still treat their page as a ‘plus’, something they do because everyone else in doing.

But the social media world is not all about sunshine and rainbows. There’s a fair amount of pitfalls and traps that might ruin the entire structure of your digital marketing strategy, that might put your brand image at risk. If you don’t learn how to avoid them.

Here are the 5 social media mistakes - you probably do without knowing - that can kill your brand.

Want to Be Everywhere

The first and most common mistake is the will to be everywhere, regardless of the actual benefit and value. Many companies open accounts and build pages without considering the difference between the social networks. Pinterest is not Facebook; Twitter is not LinkedIn. They have specific rules, and they don't necessarily fit your brand identity and marketing purposes. Don't try to be on every single network that exists.

Post Randomly (and Pray)

Consistency is the most disregarded keyword in the social ecosystem. When you try to be everywhere without specific plan, it's like throwing a wooden stick in the air, hoping that someone is there to catch it. You want to establish yourself as a thought leader, a reference for your customers, but you will never do it if you just randomly post unorganized content, praying for shares and likes.

Consider Social a Side Thing

Social media should be integrated in your digital customer experience. This is the only way to reach effective engagement and retain customers' loyalty. If you consider social management outside the context of your omni-channel marketing routine, your business will never be social in nature. If that happens, you will never see results, no matter how high is the budget you spend on it.

Treat Customers as One

The old idea of broad target groups of consumers subject to your push communication is now out of time. The greatest consequence of social networks on marketing is exactly the creation of a two-way communication, mostly bottom up. Too many brands treat all fans as one big entity instead of individually unique. Sure, targeting still happens, but the connection with customers should never be dehumanized. Answer promptly, with a human touch.

Pay, Promote and Spam

Success on social media is not about the numbers. How many followers or like you have on your page doesn't really matter if people is not engaged in a productive conversation. Yet many managers still rely on cold numbers to measure and allocate resources. The ultimate purpose of social media strategy is not to collect more fans than your competitor, nor to fill the page with self-promotional useless contents.

In the digital era, there's a fine line between being social and being spam.

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5 Digital Marketing Lessons From Game Of Thrones

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Now that the fifth season of Game of Thrones is behind our back, millions of fans (just like us) are trying to recover from the absolute jaw-dropping finale. Shock is the only constant in George R. R. Martin’s epic series.

If there a TV show out there that can teach us something about the world of digital marketing, that is HBO’s Game of Thrones.

Before starting, a necessary ‘spoiler alert’. While in this article we will avoid references from the finale, it may still include some spoilers from previous seasons of the show.

Despite all controversies about the actual contents of the series (too many naked scenes, too many gruesome deaths), there is no doubt at all that Game of Thrones is a great brand, probably one of the best Tv productions ever created.

And it not just great programming, but also an amazing opportunity to learn few lessons about the art of marketing in the digital era. Taking a ride in Westeros you can find remarkable insights, hidden in the intricate plot twists, the raw dialogues, the extreme characterization of all elements.

It’s no surprise to us that both the novels and the Tv series have gathered legions of faithful supporters, particularly among the youngest (the so-called millennials). Armed with the inseparable smartphone, they are picky customers, demanding and extremely hard to please.

Customers of the ‘post digital transformation era’ know what they want and waste no time looking for your brand. Either you’re there when they need it or you don’t exist at all. They ask for exciting experiences, stories that jump off the screen and inspire loyalty. And Lannister, Targaryen and Stark have pleased them all.

In fact, the Game of Thrones brand has everything needed to appeal digital customers:

Another season has come to an end; ten episodes full of emotional turmoils. And now we will all have to wait in the cold for another year, wondering what the author and the producers have in store for the next season. Nobody knows who will win the Iron Throne, but one thing's sure: the story will raise the bar, even more.

While we ponder, it’s also worth considering why - as marketers - we’re so enthralled by the destiny of the Westeros. Game of Thrones’ massive success is more than a simple fortunate event. It’s a well planned strategy. Here are 5 digital marketing lessons we can learn from Game of Thrones.

BRACE YOURSELF, GOOGLE IS COMING

We start by borrowing the motto of House Stark, "Winter is Coming". If you’re a fan of the show, you know that Stark is the most ill-fated family of the whole world depicted by Martin. The deep meaning behind these words is one of warning and vigilance. Even when things are good, you must always be ready for unexpected changes.

What’s the greatest marketing challenge in the Internet era? To get noticed by Google and recognized as the first reference to fulfill customers’ needs. Google algorithm, with the mobile-friendly update, could be ‘winter’ for your mobile marketing if you can’t deal with the Mobilegeddon. Knowledge is power: stay in control by staying up to date.

CONTENT IS CONSTANT WAR

In the first season of the show, Cersei Lannister offers one of her most chilling warning: "When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.” Same with content marketing, the ground you build amazing customer experience on.

In an inbound marketing perspective, empowering customers means being what they want to consume, the best resource they find in the purchase process. Game of Thrones gives hints: create an epic storytelling, always exceed expectations and make customers anxiously wait for what’s next.

LOYALTY IS THE KEY TO WIN

Varys ‘The Spider’ explains the two principles that guide most people in Westeros: “Those who are loyal to the realm, and those who are loyal only to themselves.” The world of Westeros is based on one simple fact: every single person is loyal to someone.

Every business wants loyal customers, the key to succeed in the long term. Customer retention is cheaper than acquisition, but way harder to get. You need to be customer obsessed and give people a reason to keep coming back to you: loyalty programs, gamification dynamics, a remarkable customer experience.

ALWAYS DELIVER YOUR PROMISE

The entire Game of Thrones plot revolves around the story of someone who makes a promise and tries to deliver it, no matter how hard it is. The Lannistersalways pay their debts”; Brienne of Tarth tries to protects Catelyn’s daughters; Arya Stark wants to avenge his father’s death.

At the core of every brand there’s a distinctive promise: what you are is what you ultimately deliver to your customers. Every single touch point of the customer journey is shaped by your ability to deliver that promise. In the Age of the Customer, when you sell your products, you always sell yourself too.

NEVER UNDERESTIMATE ENEMIES

Knowledge is power”, says Petyr Baelish'Littlefinger' to Cersei. If you know what your enemies are doing, then you’re always one step ahead. The game of the throne is played with swords and shields, but also with strategy and analysis. Only the weak has no knowledge.

To stay top of mind, you should know what everyone else is doing and, most important, you should never underestimate your competitors (just look at the ‘retail vs e-commerce’ war). If you know who your competition is, what they offer and how they engage with customers, you can get ideas and discover opportunities.

And remember: in this ever-changing scenario, disrupted by innovative technologies, you can’t rest on your laurels.

You know nothing, Jon Snow”.

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5 Content Marketing Facts You Need To Know (To Be Truly Epic)

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A great customer experience always lies on great content marketing. With digital transformation in full swing, content has become the new focal point in the overall brand marketing effort.

Great content is never static. It moves with society and technology. In the wake of recent trends, we have traced 5 content marketing facts you absolutely need to know. And yes, they are all true.

In the last decade mobile technology has had a considerable effect in increasing the points of contact between brands and customers. You website is still the primary digital business card you have, but not the only one. The spread of digital properties makes it mandatory to focus efforts - and money - on your online and mobile customer experience.

"Roughly 27 million pieces of content are shared on the web every single day."(AOL, Nielsen)

That number will only continue to grow, showing the role of epic content as true king of the marketing landscape. Would you spend your - low - budget on traditional advertising rather than the set-up of a smooth ‘content creation machine’?

It’s a fact that inbound marketing delivers 54% more leads than traditional outbound marketing.

Content marketing has flipped the traditional marketing models from the push paradigm to pull.” (Jeff Bullas)

Marketing for the Age of the Customer can’t even exist without content. In the pre-Internet age ‘space’ was the main element of competition; today brands challenge to retain ‘attention’. The attention of customers is critical to succeed in crowded markets and pave the way for trust and loyalty.

The following stats highlight how competitive content will be in the next years:

  • Content marketing (30%) is considered the most commercially important digital marketing trend for 2015; more than big data (14.6%) and marketing automation (12.8%) (Smart Insights);
  • Marketers now spend 25% of their budgets on content marketing, and 78% of CMO’s think custom and personalized content is the future of marketing (Yahoo Advertising);
  • 86% of companies are doing content marketing, but 56% admits they do not have a defined strategy for it (Content Marketing Institute);
  • 53% of marketers rank content creation as the single most effective SEO tactic (NewsCred).

Quality is the most important factor you should focus on to increase conversion rates in the inbound marketing perspective. Remember: remarkable content is never product-based; it’s a solution that puts together customers’ needs/desires and company goals.

Content marketing is not about luck; it’s about producing and distributing relevant content, to deliver your message, strenghten your brand identity and empower your customers.

You are your content, and what you share is what you narrate about yourself. That becomes even more true now that you deal with customers that spend most of their time sharing thoughts and opinions on social networks, using their mobile devices.

Smartphones, tablets, and - last, but not least - the Apple Watch, disrupt the way people communicate and, consequently, how brands build engagement. And content marketing is a puzzle with many moving parts:

  • Start with finding your true why - your vision and mission;
  • Build upon your archetype - the foundation of brand identity;
  • Blend storytelling and technology - evolve to involve;
  • Involve different channels - blog, social media, email marketing, online advertising;
  • Use content to deliver highly personalized experiences at the right time.

If you want to create an amazing digital customer experience, all pieces of your content marketing need to match perfectly. Relationships rely on honest, relevant communication across all touch points of the customer journey. And the content you create is your first line of communication with prospects and potential leads.

So, what does the actual landscape look like? Here are the 5 content marketing facts we have promised. They might not surprise you, but it’s way more surprising how many companies still ignore them.

NEED A PLAN?

Just like anything else in life and business, you need a plan to create a competitive content strategy. You can’t just throw online articles, blog articles and social posts, expecting that customers come to you miraculously. That will never happen, and even Google won't notice you. Coherence and consistency, these must be your keywords.

MIND THE COST

Don’t think that it all comes down to being creative. Yes, the ability to stand out and delight customers with unique content is priceless, but content marketing has a cost (usually 33% of all marketing budget). Not all content is good: you need ideas, you need expert people, you need technology and software. You do need a budget.

BE SHEARABLE

As Hubspot says, “Distribution is what makes content relevant for a specific buyer persona.” Creating invaluable content is useless when nobody reads it. Be sure that you design 'shearable' contents: Nielsen research reveals that users share content when it is trustworthy, helpful, current, relevant, and easy to access on all devices. Or it's about cats.

MEET THE EYE

Internet is a huge database of information. How can you attract customers with your piece of content evenly distributed around the web? Remember that any channel has its own rules: information and delight might come from long articles but the most loved pieces of content are infographics, engaging videos and amazing visuals. Be epic!

STAY SOCIAL

By 2016, there will be an estimated 2.13 billion social network users around the globe (Statista). One numbers says it all. While a mobile optimized website and blog are still the core of your online identity, if you want to connect with customers on all levels you have to rely on the power of social relations. And if your company still refuses to have a social account … well, you are in trouble.

Blogging, online advertising, social sharing, mobile apps, gamification dynamics, notifications, in-store promotions: they are all based on great content.

What matters is that big companies are embracing big content, and in so doing they are changing the expectations of YOUR customers. Whether you like it or not.” (Jay Baer)

Do you still deny the value of content marketing?

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Why Digital Customer Experience Is More Than a Website

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The website is dead, long live the website. In the Age of Mobile, designed by the emergence and spread of the smartphone, digital branding is more than a fancy website.

By 2020 there will be 6.1 billion mobile users, leading the mobile charge despite the rise of new mobile-based services. Multiple assets come into play to shape a compelling digital customer experience, and the website is just one piece of the puzzle.

According to the latest Mobility Report by Ericsson, by the end of this decade smartphones will account for 80 percent of all mobile data traffic. Some 70 percent of the entire world’s population will be using smartphones. This figures help you measure how critical mobile devices (smartwatch and wearables included) are becoming to how people communicate and connect with others and brands.

BEYOND THE WEBSITE

Not so long ago, digital assets basically revolved around a website made to show the brand identity and gather page views. In a rush, every company wanted to be online, without a reasonable understanding of what mobile really means. That ultimately led to digital for digital’s sake, with no vision or long term digital marketing plan.

Vanity was the keyword. The online presence was a mere showcase, with no feedback or two-way communication; the customer experience was optional and real engagement almost impossible. Until social networks and the smartphone came in to disrupt business and bring both customers and brands into the Age of Mobile. And Google changed the rules to bring the web in our hands.

Since then, we have witnessed a discrepancy in how people and organizations have faced the digital transformation: while customers go digital, embracing the mobile revolution and adopting smartphones as first screen, companies still struggle to think and act mobile-first, and even to adapt their website to the mobile friendly algorithm.

With clients empowered by technology, a pretty facade can’t hide the lack of tangible digital assets management. If you aim at encouraging real engagement and customer retention, you need to start from those 2.6 billion smartphone subscriptions. And the website is not enough.

THE MOBILE SHIFT

The definition of digital experience already involves a multi-faceted digital customer journey, not necessarily starting from your website. The mobile and social shift has one huge consequence: markets become conversations, customers turn into stakeholders and companies transform into publishers.

Most frequently, the tipping point of the online experience is not the branded website. Customer-facing apps, search queries and advertising, blog posts, landing pages, social media, e-commerce: you need to preside over all pieces of content around the net to build your storytelling and deliver your promise.

Being true to yourself, in the mobile age, goes beyond a responsive website. It implies a continuous work on all channels to offer a complete, omni-channel experience across digital touch points. The user experience gets absorbed in the digital customer experience and mobile becomes the bridge to connect online and physical worlds.

CONTENT GOES MOBILE

All elements must be well-coordinated and all departments must work together to deliver the best experience possible. One missing piece and the result will be a bad customer experience. Technology is relevant to define the outline of this new omni-channel journey, but you will miss the point if you focus first on technology.

The best way to guide people across the conversion funnel is to offer distinctive content and fulfilling relations; your digital properties are just tools, not the purpose. High‑quality and relevant content marketing - verbal, video, visual - is a primary driver, fundamental for the customer experience to be interesting and ultimately cost-effective.

And your content should spread across all digital media. Marketers often distinguish between paid, earned, and owned media. Tools are different, the goal is the same: to generate awareness and engage customers with an amazing customer experience.

THE UNIFIED EXPERIENCE

It is now widely accepted that the experience will soon be the main brand differentiator, and the primary field of competitions for innovative companies. As a consequence, influence and control have shifted from technical IT departments: marketers will soon spend more than IT on technology innovation (Gartner).

Marketing, IT, employees, management, customer service, front and back office: truth is, all branches of the organization have - or should have - one objective. In the inbound methodology, this objective can be translated in the ‘Attract, Convert, Close, Delight’ process.

Why customer experience can't be lessen to a website? Because clients of the Age of the Customer want to be empowered, and demand that your company can be accessed anytime, anywhere from any device. You will be able to empower people only by matching these areas:

  • Technology -responsive website *and* customer-facing app, taking advantage of a native user experience, iBeacon, mobile payments, virtual reality, Internet of Things;

  • Content - personalized and tailored to specific buyer personas and buyer's journey stage);

  • Context - every piece of content must be suitable for the specific context, so that data can align closely with customer needs;
  • Relations - even automation needs a human touch, because buying experiences are based on how customers feel they are being treated.

Online or offline, web pages or retail stores, it makes no difference. The customer wants to connect with a unified experience. Behind a compelling digital customer experience there are many different components, but what people see is the final picture.

Today, organizations come across the challenge of retaining their customers with a fully integrated system that goes far beyond the website. To offer the complete experience to every customer, on every screen, start by choosing the right partner that combines the best techniques of mobile, content, social and cloud.

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Customer Delight: 5 Steps To Deliver Engaging Experiences

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Do you have what it takes to engage customers? To connect with them on an emotional level and promote a positive reactions?

This is the basic requirement of customer delight: the willingness to go above and beyond normal relations in order to provide a customer experience that will leave an indelible impression.

Customer delight is not (just) a strategy; it is a business asset in markets where clients demand a leading role. It is so critical, in fact, that you should paint it on your walls and make it the core of company culture.

True customer obsessed companies never underestimate the power of delight. The emotional reaction is what allows you to transform average experiences into amazing experiences, leading to positive word of mouth and laying the ground for genuine engagement.

If you want to overcome the challenge in crowded competition, you should never settle for the minimum required. You must establish a unique identity, rooted into the ability to exceed expectations.

Customer delight happens exactly when you amaze a customer by exceeding his or her expectations. And it’s not just an abstract thought: delight directly affects sales and the return on investment of your digital marketing strategy, working as a major factor of distinction for your company and its products and services.

In the Age of the Customer, every brand works hard to offer high quality products and positive customer experience. In one word, they strive to meet customers’ expectations.

But this is only the starting point if you want to delight customers, an ideal place where needs and desires are not only met, but met in such a way that exceeds all expectations.

The art of cultivating happy customers is grounded on 3 pillars (according to Hubspot):

  • Innovation - to serve people in the best way possible;

  • Communication - to be personal rather than impersonal;

  • Education - to empower people and create great company culture.

In the conversion path, delight has a specific place: it is usually considered the last step of the inbound methodology loop, right after Attract, Convert, Close. Despite being the closing element, delight does not only applies to the post-conversion stage.

In fact, it should be inherent to all moments of the process and touch points of the customer journey map. The experience they bear in mind and bring with them during the connection with your brand - and even when they’re doing something else - is formed by every interaction customers have with you, both in the digital and physical world.

Interactions with brand (i.e. content marketing), interactions with objects and technology (i.e. the Internet of Things), interactions with people (i.e. customer service): while the element of delight can be created by the product itself, there is no doubt that the overall omni-channel experience is the real critical element to exceed expectations.

Experience and delight are so closely connected that you will never reach true engagement and loyalty if you can't build and deliver an amazing customer experience. Companies usually spend to improve their products and the acquisition process; as a result, sometimes customers feel left out.

The quality of your outcome is direct consequence of how much your organization is aligned around the centricity of customers. If your employees are disaffected, your clients will be too. Engagement is always employee engagement in the first place. There is no customer delight without delighted employees.

Delight should be treated as a competitive advantage to transform average customers into loyal promoters. The key is the ability to establish trust and interest, and create a long term relationship. Remember: customer retention is always cheaper than acquisition (at least 6 times cheaper, according to recent reports).

So, how can you be sure you’re actually exceeding expectations? Start with these 5 steps to deliver customer delight.

  1. Listen to what customers say - instead of walking in the fog, always listen to your customers before planning and executing your strategy (or launching a new product). Try to create something truly useful and delightful for those who actually experience it.

  2. See through customer’s eyes - more often than not, customers know brands better than they do themselves. This is a critical point: to deliver a positive experience, you need to wear your customers' shoes, to understand what they see when they look at you.

  3. Be coherent, be flexible - customer experience is (almost) never a matter of black and white. Flexibility is important to adapt to changes and adopt new technologies and methodologies. Of course, you should never betray your brand identity, your true why.

  4. Always give a little more - the rule is to offer customers what they want, when they want it, wherever they are. But competitors, they do it too. To stand out and become top choice, always deliver something more, something unexpected. Tell them what they don't know yet.

  5. Give customers space - the times of one-way communication from companies to consumers are well behind us. Empowered customers expect to be main characters of your brand story. Engage them with gamification and user generated contents to enable immediate digital advocacy.

And remember, the effort to delight customers should never replace the main focus of any successful company: improve the service and deliver the best customer experience they will ever have.

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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.

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