A Marketer’s Guide to Creating Holistic Cross-Channel CX

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Relationships are made from memories — just ask any long-married couple, happy or otherwise. Yet despite their desire for happy customer relationships, marketers all too often “forget” many of the interactions that loyal customers have with their brand, due to a disjointed or even mishandled customer experience.

CX is the sum of every contact a customer has with a brand, across every touchpoint and device, from initial ad exposure or website visit to repeat purchases, post-purchase follow-up, and long-term familiarity with the brand. In today’s marketing world, CX relies heavily on digital technology. Research by Invesp, a conversion optimization firm, shows that organizations that prioritize digital transformation across their customer journeys retain 89% of their buyers, compared to just 33% for those who don’t.

Analytics is Key

Intelligent analytics is essential to digital marketing. It can expose and address customer behaviors, identify trends, and enable cross-channel personalization. Personalization is vital to long-term customer relationships. According to a study by McKinsey & Company, customer personalization can reduce marketing costs by up to 20%.

Analytics applied intelligently improves CX dramatically. Strong analytics can mean the difference between a purchase that’s followed by an avalanche of online ads for the very same product — something just about everyone has experienced — versus an offer for accessories that can aid in using the product more effectively. Customer satisfaction and loyalty can be a game-changer when data is leveraged holistically across channels.

Holistic, however, isn’t the same thing as consistent. A holistic CX orchestrates content and interactions as the customer moves through devices and experiences. Supported by nimble data sharing, it understands and follows customers along their journey.

Data Forms Foundation

Holistic, cross-channel CX begins with a commitment to data collection. Many brands have limited or disconnected data sources. The challenge is to complete and connect those sources into coordinated customer profiles: a strategy that employs first-, second- and third-party data to create a unique customer ID, then associate that ID with records that show all the customer’s activity and characteristics.

Automation greatly simplifies this task. Many organizations use a Customer Data Platform (CDP) to automate collection and create a single source of truth. CDPs exceed the capabilities of data lakes, data management platforms, even CRMs. Despite the claims that these alternative systems can be extended to duplicate a CDP, nothing rivals a CDP for understanding historical trends, as well as providing the dynamic signals that produce powerful customer experiences.

By using AI to leverage CDP data and align cross-platform strategies, it’s possible to anticipate customer needs. AI approximates human judgment, but at speeds that far exceed human capabilities. It can spot subtle indications of both positive and negative customer experiences, enabling brands to reinforce the former and take steps to counteract the latter.

For marketers, AI isn’t something that is delivered via a single platform; it’s embedded and applied across multiple applications and systems. Artificial intelligence is increasingly becoming a part of all kinds of business solutions. It’s incumbent on decision-makers to identify the AI capabilities of each solution so that they can be leveraged to derive important insights, faster and without human intervention.

Building an Ecosystem

It’s important to note that digital transformation, in marketing terms, is a continual process. Transitioning to a digital footing is more than filling a shopping list of platforms; there is no “buy these technologies, implement them, start using them and ‘congratulations, you’ve digitally transformed.’”

Instead, companies must define the broader ecosystem that will form the basis for future acquisitions. Once in place, those decisions will determine the organization’s technology pillars. Pillars, in turn, become constraints — and constraints aren’t a bad thing. They not only help direct future investments but also create opportunities for growth that were never anticipated. No organization can foresee changes in customer behavior four or five years from now. Setting the course with a good infrastructure policy prepares the organization for that future.

Longer, Happier Relationships

Like channels themselves, a strong CX depends on multiple technologies that work together — and it all begins with data. As a customer engages with a brand, regardless of where, when, or in what order they do so, everything in that holistic experience must be frictionless. 

From the standpoint of the marketing organization, that means more than simply making sure the left hand knows what the right hand is doing. There are dozens, even hundreds, of hands in the marketing mix. They all must know what the others are doing — and they must work together seamlessly. The result, when well-orchestrated, will result in durable customer relationships that can stand the test of time.

Dan Hixson leads delivery for R2integrated, a full-service digital experience agency.