In 2015, the customer experience will be more critical than ever before, as consumers’ attention spans continue to shorten. On-the-go lifestyles and constant access to multiple screens forces brands to put up a fight just to show up as a speck on consumers’ radars. Companies must engage consumers in the most personal, relevant and timely fashion to grab the attention of their desired audiences. How? Brands must enact customer care through multi-channel engagement. Mobile is a major part of this approach, and is positioned to grow significantly in 2015, as new technology, additional data and more access to consumer attitudes will impact engagement strategies.
Brands have more access to the customer journey.
The power of big data offers brands a 360-degree view of the consumer, better equipping organizations to create more meaningful touchpoints. Companies have access to richer customer data, which is now able to track where, how and why consumers browse, buy and use products, enabling better and faster communication. In an effort to better manage the customer relationship, in 2015, more organizations will blend marketing and customer relationship management business functions.
In fact, many brands will build the consumer experience into their business strategy for the first time. eMarketer states that currently, almost two-thirds (60 percent) of North American marketing executives either have or are developing a formal customer experience management strategy. This strategy must be made up of equal parts marketing and CRM to give brands the best fighting chance in creating engaged brand advocates.
There is no shortage of examples that underscore the success of this approach. Location-based technology, like beacons, creates additional opportunities for highly targeted and immediately actionable messaging. Brands can share product information, reviews or coupons based on products right in front of consumers when they walk into a store. Companies can deliver content directly to consumer wallets when they pay for products, creating the optimal seamless experience. Leveraging location-based messaging ensures that brand communication is targeted, easy to understand and immediately actionable. Location capabilities become even more impactful when the data is analyzed in tandem with level of engagement.
Communicating what, when, where and how often consumers want is the key to creating a positive customer experience and expressing care. A recent survey conducted by Millward Brown Digital revealed a major discrepancy between consumers’ and businesses’ perceptions of customer care. The data revealed a dramatic “care gap” in business-to-consumer interactions: approximately three-fourths of businesses think they express care for consumers well, but only 36 percent of consumers feel cared for. A holistic view of the customer and multi-channel approach to customer experience are the keys to closing this gap.
Technology continues to change the game.
As technology dramatically reduces the steps to sign up, to pay and to track, 2015 will be the year of quick and easy. This is important in an age where consumers’ busy, multi-screen lifestyles constantly pull them in numerous directions. Consumers now expect and demand quick, easy, real-time communication with brands. Customer experience professionals can use this to their advantage, deploying messaging solutions that integrate seamlessly into consumers’ fast-paced lives. Marketing executives, surveyed by eMarketer, identified digital channel growth as a top influence on customer experience investment and strategy. Consider how the proliferation of devices like smart watches and fitness trackers are changing the game. With wearables shortening the path from brand to consumer, engagement is more accessible than ever before. However, this eliminated step (from pocket to wrist) doesn’t mean brands can slack off on message content – companies must convey their ideas and message in the seconds it takes to glance at a watch, ensuring that brands are adhering to even stricter (and higher quality) parameters to avoid negatively exploiting this deeper level of personal engagement. Communication must remain highly personal, timely and relevant. Making wearables a distinct part of a cohesive customer experience will serve to reinforce the emerging paradigm of marketing and CRM as a unified pursuit.
Marketing trends towards native and authentic.
Rather than hiding ads even further behind fake editorials or blatant retargeting, savvy brands will use tongue-in-cheek, generational humor to promote their products. This interaction will become increasingly multi-channel, occurring on the sites, blogs, social networks and devices that their audiences use every day. Consumers move constantly and fluidly from one medium to the next, often utilizing devices simultaneously.
A brand must be able to make those transitions just as seamlessly. It is critical that a brand’s message be communicated not only through this variety of channels, both traditional and mobile, but in a way that capitalizes on each channel’s strengths. Before a brand bothers to fight for the chance to engage its audience, it has to be knowledgeable and ready to reach that consumer at a touch point designed specifically for him or her, whether TV, print, social, email, voice, SMS, MMS or push notifications. Anything less is wasted effort. Offering multi-channel engagement is integral for a company to manage its relationship with a modern customer and build long-term brand advocates.
Marketers will deploy more native campaigns focused on authenticity as they seek to reestablish customer trust. In order to be effective, marketing efforts must be solidly grounded in CRM, beginning and extending the relationship based on a solid foundation of mutual trust. Beyond regulatory compliance, this is the premise of opt-in strategies – where brands invite the consumer to engage, giving them the freedom to decline.
However, many brands quickly wreck that trust by flooding the consumer with far more “engagement” than desired. Companies are forgetting the entire premise of opt-in: care. This lack of care is one of the big reasons why email open rates have plummeted to 22 percent. Maybe the answer to increased engagement via email is not just sending more email. The opt-in protects consumers and gives them choices, so brands need to be mindful of sending too many or irrelevant messages. This goes for all messaging channels, especially those deemed very personal to the audience, like SMS. When brands give the customer control over the interaction, it leads to increased trust and loyalty.
As we move towards 2015, savvy brands should step back and consider how best to mold the customer experience, by leveraging new technologies, honing in on multi-channel strategy and demonstrating acknowledgement for consumers’ needs.
Stacy Adams is VP marketing at Mblox. She has almost twenty years of marketing and communications expertise, with more than a decade spent in mobile technology. Before joining Mblox, Stacy served as head of marketing and partnerships at Everguide, Australia’s number one digital event guide.