The Digital Customer Experience Blog

Your source of insights for a successful digital transformation.

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, not 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

 

 

Customer Satisfaction: “The Bad is the Service of the Great”

customer-satisfaction

While numerous companies claim that they are shifting their business model toward a more customer-centric approach, it is possible to find a few examples of such change.

According to the book Uncommon Service, there are two ways to fit into this kind of ever-changing culture: companies can either improve their service to better satisfy customer needs or convince them they need what they have to offer. The first one, of course, is the only choice that’ll enable you to overcome the challenges of the digital transformation.

As a matter of fact, you need to learn to listen to the voice of your customer to gather enough feedback to act upon. The lack of comprehension between organizations and customers is evident if you look at the numbers: a Teradata report recently highlighted that only 41% of marketing managers are using data gathered by the audiences to implement and improve their strategy.

Common sense is often not enough to determine what your customer needs, data is gathered to benefit your marketing strategy and develop a new customer service model.

What should you do then?

We will start by highlighting a few essential concepts before we move on to the specific steps you need to take to stand out in a customer-centered ecosystem. Frances Frei, Harvard professor and Uncommon Service co-author, analyses the correct attitude of a business to succeed in this specific environment, understanding the financial model of your business is essential, but it cannot be what your company focuses on.

Yes, budgeting and increasing revenues are, but the extreme focus on them could harm the relationship with your customers. Understanding the needs and wants of your clients is a necessity when implementing a specific financial model. What does this mean? Frei introduces the concept of a “bilingual” business, a model where service impacts the economic model of the company and not vice-versa.

With this in mind, how do you revolutionize the structure and business model of your company to put the customer first?

Step 1: Ask Your Employees

Common sense is often overrated when it comes to interpreting customers’ needs. Companies often think the product or service is a fulfilling solution for each segment of the Customer Base, so they don’t think they need to validate that idea. And what is the first step to validate an idea? Ask your first customers, those directly involved with the Brand: employees.

Neglecting employees’ opinions and innovative ideas might lead to an increasing gap between the customer and the company, which then reflects on the customer experience. Your job is to test your people. Create small groups where creativity and equality are encouraged, find out what they think are the most important attributes of the product, what should be improved and how these changes might impact your base.

Step 2: Ask Your Customers

Directly talk to your customer base, ask them what their needs are and what they want from you. Find out why your competitors are being appreciated and where they are lacking. Use those answers to isolate the attributes that are valued the most and, more importantly, use the ones that are valued the least.

Your company can’t focus resources on every aspect, as the dispersion of energies usually leads to mediocrity. The lesson is easy: Have the guts to be bad, don’t be afraid of the weaknesses of your business, be bad in the service of good.

Step 3: Analyze Your Results

With the first two steps you have hopefully gathered tons of information and actionable data. Now it’s the time to strategize, to prioritize and develop a plan where the customer is the center. It is time to take all the data and find solutions. And you will neve be able to do so if you don’t share all the data with your employees and figure out a plan together. Use the Voice of the Customer to set up a brand new idea to implement.

Step 4: Act Upon Data

That’s it. It’s time to reorganize your resources and establish yourself. Apple knew their laptop was the best product on the market in terms of design and operating system, but they were also aware that it lacked memory compared to other options. Yet, it was not a priority for the people that purchased them. Be smart about your strengths and even smarter about your weaknesses.

These four steps give you a general guideline to better connect with your audience, to strengthen the partnership with your consumer by understanding what they want from you and especially what they don’t want. Don’t be afraid of weak performance, use that part that is not performing well and turn it into a powerful marketing lever that could possibly increase visibility and attract attention. Use the data you gather to change, evolve and develop a new model for your business, a model where the customer is the beating heart of every single action.

 

Photo by Lukasz Saczek on Unsplash

Visual Marketing – Everything You Need To Engage Customers

memorability-visuals

Take a look at the advertising and marketing trends of the last four, five years. You can immediately recognize that there is a common trait: visual content. Today, in fact, people prefer visual contents, rather than texts.

As a result, social networks have become primarily visual oriented - i.e. stories and 360 videos - with optical technologies, such as VR and AR, used as marketing tools to create a full, immersive experience for customers.

Why do people prefer visual content? Also, how can companies choose the right image to deliver valuable content and increase customer engagement?

WHY DO PEOPLE PREFER VISUAL CONTENT?

We are meant to process and respond to visual content better than words: it’s in our DNA. In fact, 50% to 80% of our brain is dedicated to visual processing - colors, shapes, visual memory, patterns, spatial awareness, and image recollection. This tendency leads to an innate preference for images, illustrations, videos, and colors.

Also, today’s customers want to receive information quickly and without huge efforts; thus, they are more likely to consume visual content, which is processed 60000 times faster than text. What about the information we retain from experiences? We actually remember 20% of what we read and 80% of what we see.

It doesn’t mean that text is not important anymore. An extensive textual content, in fact, can provide a level of completeness that is incomparable, and sometimes you cannot use a simple image to explain complicated concepts. Combining the two elements, text and images, however, you can reach the best results.

HOW CAN VISUALS IMPROVE MARKETING RESULTS?

With the enormous amount of content and information running each and every day, companies need to do everything they can to differentiate. Using visual elements is much more effective than text only because - as we have just seen - they can capture customers’ attention.

Moreover, the use of relevant and compelling visuals generate more engagement, as it make website visitors stay longer on page, consume more content, and understand the messages you are trying to deliver.

The use of high-quality magnets such as infographics or canvas can also bring a lot of relevant inbound links, boosting your ranking in search results, and increasing brand relevance. It’s been proved that customers make decisions based on what they remember. Thus, leveraging on the most critical driver of customers’ choices - memory - visuals ultimately increase the chances to be recognized.

WHAT TYPE OF VISUAL CONTENT WORKS BEST?

According to iScrabblers, a real photo produces better results than a stock photo (35% more), and employees and customer testimonials generate engagement respectively in terms of viewing time and conversion rate.

Also, colors capture attention, increase recall, comprehension, and brand recognition. Not to mention how they can influence human emotions: certain colors or color combinations generate particular feelings and affect the way people (and customers) make decisions.

To achieve better results, consider putting more efforts on creating original contents and matching colors with the emotions you want to resonate with your message.

HOW CAN YOU FIND THE PERFECT IMAGE?

Marketers often struggle when it comes to producing engaging visual content on a consistent basis. As a result, more and more companies adopt online tools or software to facilitate the process of producing such contents and enhance their performances.

However, this might not be enough: the fact that your image is beautifully crafted doesn’t mean that it is also effective. Every time you grab the audience’s attention but they don’t recall your brand or product, you are losing a chance to convert and monetize.

So, how can you find the perfect image for your blog post, advertising, or product presentation? You can rely on AI tools such as Image Memorability, which can answer this specific need, revealing the memorability score of images or advertisements before they are published, to predict the effectiveness of your visual marketing.

Photo by Tony Webster on Unsplash

Create Value, Start by Listening. The Use of Voice of Customer

voice of the customer

Companies are increasingly aware that their value is the result of their customers’ value and the capability to gradually improve their loyalty, profitability and Net Promoter Score.

Despite the rising attention to the “customer obsession” and the growing presence of technologies that allow brands to understand their audience better, it is still hard for companies to achieve effective results, get closer to customers, and intercept their real needs and expectations.

What is often missing is the use of integrated development strategies that allow to listen to consumers throughout the whole product development process, creating a continuous interaction between Brand and consumer. The result would be a deeper understanding of the real market needs and the creation of an authentic relationship with the customer, a proper real partnership.

In addition to the need of containing costs, it is often difficult to manage effectively the results of a multi-channel approach caused by technologies that have disrupted the dialogue between brand and customer.

Unlike the past, the digital revolution has transformed communication habits and changed people’s lifestyles with incomparable speed; it is a change most companies have yet to understand, not to mention how to incorporate it within their strategies.

As a matter of facts, companies face a big contradiction: on one hand, the huge amount of data ‘generated’ by the Digital Age; on the other hand, the inability to keep up with these changes and the need to close the gap and align contact channels with current customer habits.

Brands and consumers have never been as close as they are today, potentially. For this to happen, however, there is an obligated path: companies must restart from the relationship with their customers in order to create value and identify the correct strategies within this liquid and highly unfaithful market.

The question is: How can you build value through partnership with customers? Here is our proposal in four steps.

Step 1. Build Identity: from CRM to Customer Intimacy

While the need to know your customer represents a true leitmotiv among marketers, the knowledge that would make this happen is, in fact, less common. You must go beyond a simple collection of data, and learn how to develop a person-to-person approach aimed at create a more personal relationship with your customer.

Thus, the real target is to reach an effective interaction between people and brands, which would allow you to understand consumers’ needs, anticipate their desires, deeply comprehend their identity, and highlight their emotions and real interests.

Intimacy with customer has to be the first requirement of your strategy!

Technology has significantly simplified how we achieve these goals, thanks to the variety of tools that increase the proximity between companies and customers: messaging platforms, conversational interfaces, apps and listening platforms. There is plenty of possibilities for a real omnichannel Voice of Customer!

Step 2. Tailoring: from Customer Intimacy to personalization

Customer intimacy and data analysis are at the key elements of services, communication and personalized products. Knowing the identity of each customer must become a pillar of your business, so that you’ll be capable to retain consumers and acquire new ones.

Marketers need to go far beyond the concept of service provision; the customer must be put in the conditions of creating a true identification with the product and the Brand. Today, artificial intelligence and machine learning make it possible to deploy solutions which efficiently customize not only products and services, but also communication.

It’s a matter of shaping the message, regulating its extent, tone of voice, and choice of words to fit each client’s profile and to increase its effectiveness as a consequence.

Step 3. Build engagement: from personalization to partnership

The realization of personalized solutions goes through a dynamic process of engagement with those considered potential beneficiaries, the customers. Thus, a marketing strategy that aspires to customer satisfaction has to include among its objectives the creation of customer engagement solutions.

How? Opening privileged channels with the customers in order to actively include them in the continuous improvement process (listening before talking). It is essential for your listening strategy to identify innovative and engaging tools that can guarantee bidirectionality, participation and commonality: for instance, co-creation activities, contests or crowdsourcing technology platforms.

Step 4. Build satisfaction: monitoring performances to create continuous value

The collection of the voice of customer is crucial for performance verification activities that represent an indispensable part of the continuous process of improvement. A customer satisfaction assessment helps brands keeping customers satisfied, with critical benefits to the profitability and the possibility of expansion.

Although most companies have used satisfaction assessment tools, there is often a mismatch between the moment of the brand experience and the moment they ask for a feedback. Today more than ever, it is extremely necessary to adopt channels and strategies capable of gathering the voice of customers while the experience is happening.

In addition to a greater reliability, the collection of contextual data will allow to differentiate strategies on the basis of the different profiles that characterize the consumers of each store or point of interest.

Effective tools that can be used to gather timely information are geolocation systems, inclusion of VOC paths within Brands’ Apps and notification requests related to the passage of potential customers and prospects.

The brand experience starts from the expectations that customers have created, which in turn depend on how much they are satisfied. At this date, every successful company knows that the creation of value begins by valuing their customers. You must listen, and the best way to do so is by taking up on every opportunity technology has to offer.

 

Photo by Jason Rosewell on Unsplash

 

Are Your Product Images Really Effective? Ask the AI.

image_memorability

What makes people buy?

Among all the questions that marketers have always been trying to answer, this is undoubtedly the most important. But the most complex, at the same time.

Marketing research has paved the way to get closer to the answer, narrowing the field to questions like "What makes a memorable advertisement?", "What makes people remember your brand and your product?". Scientific studies have established that most consumer decisions are memory based. Thus, marketers continually look for ways to make people remember their brand and products, working through memory with their ads, messages, and tv commercials.

But memory alone is not enough.

Probably many of you remember the famous tv commercial Fiat launched in 2002. The one with the catchphrase «Buonasera…». That was a great campaign, which had gone immediately viral, but it had a problem: everyone remembered the spot, but no one remembered the brand (many, not even the automotive sector).

Your ad has failed if it’s so boring that nobody notices or remembers it. But it has failed too if it’s hilarious and exciting, but nobody's able to recall your brand.

For promotional images, it's the same thing. The fact that your image is impactful doesn't mean it is effective.

For instance, let's look at this image.

memorability

If I told you that the sales target here is the pair of shoes, would you say it is an effective image?

Now, whatever your opinion, it will certainly be different from that of many other people, regardless of whether they are advertising experts or not.

The reality, in fact, is that only technology can give a clear answer to the question.

Let’s see why.

memorability_map

Applying our AI model, based on deep learning algorithms, we discovered that this promotional image is quite memorable. The memorability score is 0.834, which means that - according to the calculation logic of the model - 60% of people will remember it about 30 days after first viewing.

Furthermore, as you can see from the heat maps, the objects that are positively correlated with memorability are the white sweater on the upper left and the pink garment on the right. They are responsible for activating people's memory, unlike the other objects in the image. In other words, they would be what makes people buy.

As a result, this image is not particularly effective. Although it is easy enough to remember, what remains in people’s mind is not the sales target, but other surrounding objects.

Now think about the images you have used in your recent campaigns. Are you sure they were really the best option you had? How can you avoid using images that are not memorable and are likely to make your strategy less effective? Discover Image Memorability and learn more about your images.

Three Insights From The State of Digital Transformation 2018 – 2019

state of digital transformation

A few weeks ago Altimeter has released its annual report “The State of Digital Transformation”, investigating the evolution of digital innovation in the enterprise ecosystem. Technologies reinvent and reshape markets and business behaviors, and it is crucial to monitor the key trends and insights that can guide you across the modern digital transformation.

This year, the results show an overall maturation: companies are modernizing and working together through this essential and unavoidable transformation. Even more, companies seem to comprehend the importance of expanding and reorganizing their business in a way that responds and corresponds to customers’ expectations and market competitiveness.

However, they still have to cope with a few resistances and missteps, as you could expect. Incorporating such a significant transformation into the organizational culture and people mindset requires efforts that are not-trivial, in terms of investments and guidance.

Looking at the report, we have gained three crucial insights, that describe the state of digital transformation in business.

The Customer Experience is still high-priority

This is the era of customer-centricity, a time when people’s preferences and concerns are much more critical than any other assumption. It is a time of tweets and social sharing, of personalization and co-creation. A time of humans and emotions. Ultimately, a time when empathy and technology must work together.

Over the last few years, customer experience has become the top priority for companies. Fixing and regulating it to meet customer’s needs and expectations is a long-term work that requires a combination of efforts and investments.

In 2018, companies continued to focus on customers, connecting all the touchpoints and empowering an infrastructure tailored to their preferences: 57% of companies report it as their top priority in the long-term roadmap (the next five to ten years) and 54% in the short-term (the next three years). This confirms that the customer perspective will still be a key element when deciding where and when to allocate budgets.

How does this willingness translate into action? Most companies are doing so by investigating customer journeys (59%). This adds to the perception of an increasing level of maturity among businesses, that seem to leverage on the customer understanding when designing the digital transformation roadmap. Only a small part of organizations (7%) hasn’t even studied the new customer journey, revealing a significant gap between mature businesses and the green ones.

Meanwhile, companies are also prioritizing - 49% in the long term and 45% in the short term - the empowerment of an efficient IT infrastructure, to go with and support the CX innovation. This confirms the idea that the customer experience is an omnichannel, general concept, that can’t be detached from the presence of an agile and flexible architecture of technologies, to deliver the exact offering and innovate more efficiently.

Increasing budgets and decreasing controls

When it comes to disruptive technologies, the budget is essential. There can’t be any transformation without investments, and the budgets must evolve in line with the technology upgrades and cross-functional initiatives required.

This year, the percentage of companies that report larger investments has incremented significantly: budgets between $15 and $30 millions boosted 210%, and budgets more or equal to $50 millions presented a dramatic raise of 640%. Even though the latter includes only a few companies (11%), it is a clue of an enterprise-wide movement.

Yet, there is a big concern about whether or not these budgets are relevant to gain an effective transformation. A significant percentage of companies seems to be using the budget without the guidance of a specific roadmap or a clear understanding of customers’ real needs and behavior.

The hardest challenge is the lack of data or a measurable ROI to understand the impact of the digital innovation. If change agents can’t easily show the real value of digital transformation and justify the investments with visible data and results, consequently they struggle to get the material resources they need to thrive.

The perception of digital transformation is, in fact, mostly as a cost center, rather than an investment in growth and performances. This is an example of the difficulties that digital transformers have to handle every day, an expression of the resistance to change that still survives.

Promoting a culture of innovation

One of the most encouraging data is that almost half of the companies have invested in building a culture of innovation, as mandated from the executive level (mostly through an in-house innovation team/lab with dedicated enterprise resources).

On the other side, 48% of companies reported that creating a culture of empowerment and innovation is one of their top priority in digitally transforming the employee experience. Since the digital transformation is an enterprise-wide change, it is essential that this mindset is shared and promoted across all the organization.

It is also promising that this effort is advocated by executives who possess a broad organizational purview. For the second year in a row, CTO/CIOs are reported as formal owners or sponsors of transformation initiatives, followed by CEOs and boards.

These few insights are just a small part of the relevant data and aspects that can be found in “The State of Digital Transformation” by Altimeter.

 

Photo by Joshua Sortino on Unsplash

 

Discover how you can innovate your business strategy to deliver personalized experiences and turn prospects into loyal customers. Download the free report Digital Innovation in Retail & Fashion.

The Digital Customer Experience Blog

This site, published by Neosperience, overviews the advancements of digital customer experience in marketing, technology and society. Neosperience Cloud is the technology platform to create engaging experiences for your customers that drive ongoing loyalty to your brand, and faster paths to purchase. It is the choice of the best companies in the world, Winner of the most prestigious global awards across many industries: Automotive, Communications, Media and Services, Consumer Products, Retail and Distribution, Fashion, Luxury and Beauty, Financial Services, Healthcare, Utilities, Government and Infrastructure, Travel and Transportation.

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