Customer experience is king

Customer experience is kingMarketing has been in a state of rapid change for the past few years. Much of this transformational period can be credited to the arrival of more advanced marketing technologies. Whatever the catalyst, one thing is certain: things are still changing. Econsultancy and Adobe conducted the “2016 Digital Trends Briefing” to better understand where modern day marketers see the most distinct shifts. Of the 7,000 marketing professionals surveyed, the majority were aligned on one thing:

Customer experience is king.

While a focus on customer experience is no new marketing priority it has certainly escalated in relevance over the past couple years. In 2014 it made its debut as a marketing focus. A year later it was at the top of the list. And now, in 2016, it has become so dominant that it is informing other actions and priorities.

In fact, respondents’ top three most exciting opportunities in marketing all revolve around customer experience – from optimizing it to creating content to improve it to locating data to drive it.

While customer experience is a marketing priority for a variety of reasons there is one major explanation for the focus: It has the potential to improve conversions.

According to Business 2 Community contributor Larisa Bedgood, 73 percent of consumers who have had a superior customer experience will expand their purchases. And the stats don’t end there:

  • 97 percent of consumers reported that online experiences influenced their purchasing decisions.
  • 65 percent claimed customer experience online changed their opinion of a brand/product/service.
  • 58 percent noted they would suggest a brand that provided a relevant customer experience.
  • 89 percent of customers halted business with a company after a negative experience.

It’s clear that customer experience plays a crucial role in acquiring new customers, keeping the old and increasing conversions. But how do marketers define customer experience? And how can SMBs improve on it via their marketing efforts? Let’s take a look.

The low-down on customer experience

Customer experience can be loosely defined as your various interactions with consumers via your business’s channels. From social media to website visits to the eventual purchase, customer experience is the culmination of these different relationships. Bedgood explained that, on a basic level, there are three main stages: awareness and gathering information, buying experience and post-purchase experience.

Be authentic: 

People are increasingly looking for a more authentic experience when interacting with businesses. In terms of customer experience this is a major element to nail. Customers want to have an experience that feels personal and tailored. They don’t want to feel like they are interacting with a robotic brand. Try making every one of your interactions personal. Whether this means reaching out to your audience on a person-to-person level or simply making your messaging more targeted, customers will have a better experience if your messaging seems authentic and not generic.

This is especially crucial when trying to improve the millennial experience. In a past post we examined how this particular demographic shows higher engagement rates when marketing content is authentic and targeted. In fact, over 50 percent of consumers aged 17 to 24 claim they are more likely to engage with marketing on Facebook if it is catered to their interests.

Check your tech: 

When it comes to the digital experience there are few things more important than tech, explained CIO contributor Jennifer Lonoff Schiff. This doesn’t mean that websites or social media content needs to be complex. However, business leaders must ensure that website load times are functional, navigation is simple and visuals are clear.

“Today’s online customers want the information they need when they need it, at the click of a mouse or a swipe of a tablet or smartphone,” explained vice president of Yottaa Ari Weil, according to CIO. “And retailers have only milliseconds to grab their attention and complete the transaction. Amazon, for example, has shown that every 100 milliseconds of latency cost them 1 percent in sales, while Walmart reports conversion rates rise 2 percent for every second of reduced load time.”

Whether you are an ecommerce site or not, the more well-developed your tech, the better chance you have of grabbing the attention of your consumers. This not only creates a better customer experience but opens up the door for an increased chance of conversion.

Know your audience:

In order to execute an exceptional customer experience you must really understand who your customers are, explained Bedgood. When you can pinpoint what motivates them, what their interests are or what content they most enjoy, the better positioned you are to deliver relevant information and an overall better customer experience.

One of the major keys to nailing this aspect of experience is organizing your marketing data. By keeping all your customer analytics in one place you can better create segments and consumer groups based on actions and behavior. This will allow you to provide messaging, offers and overall content that hits the mark with your audience.

Customer first, tech second:

While functionality in tech is certainly important for an optimal customer experience, the appealing advances in marketing technology can be a distraction for many decision-makers. According to Gartner, business leaders often get distracted by the potential of tech and neglect the necessary context.

Instead of adapting the most recent tech and then seeing how it can fit your audience, ask yourself how your user’s needs could be improved by tech and then implement the necessary tools. When it comes to customer experience, your target audience and their needs should inform every move you make. While tech can be appealing, different audiences require different levels of it – keep your users in mind.

In a period of rapid change for marketing improving customer experience stands out as a constant goal of leading decision-makers. Customers are the lifeblood of any business, so it only makes sense that ensuring an optimal experience for them can help improve a variety of key business goals. Business leaders, big and small, should pay careful attention to where they can make improvements in their current customer experience.

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