Digital Marketing

Where Customer Experience is Heading in 2015 and Beyond


For marketers, change is now the rule, not the exception. That means the New Year will be filled with new opportunities… and new challenges. Are you ready to turn the page and embrace all that lies ahead? To help you prepare, here are five ways I see customer experience evolving in 2015:

More companies will move to Digital 3.0. Marketers have long agreed that digital is their top priority, but it takes time for organizations to mature their approaches and truly marry digital to customer experience. Years ago, “moving to digital” meant simply getting your arms around all the relevant channels. Then, the next step was actually connecting with audiences on those channels. In 2015, I expect to see more and more companies achieve the third iteration; they’re going to start using data-driven decisions to segment personas and deliver tailored content. Digital 3.0 will be focused on meaningful engagement and the seamless customer experience.

The growth of technical roles on the marketing team will expand organically. Remember when “data” used to be the realm of a select few in the marketing organization? (It wasn’t that long ago!) Well, as marketing shifts towards Digital 3.0, there will be the growing expectation that everyone needs to be looking at the data and using it to drive better decisions. As a result, 2015 will bring increasing demand for marketers who can analyze data and apply it back to marketing programs. Likewise, you can anticipate mounting pressure for more integration and collaboration between marketing and IT, too.

How customers behave and digitally connect will become more important than traditional demographic parameters. Earlier this year, Brian Solis and I discussed this trend in detail. As Brian explained it, the addressable audience is no longer specific to traditional demographics like age. Sure, Millennials are the fastest growing segment of consumers, but it’s the way Millennial habits are being adopted by older generations that now drives consumption, purchase and interaction trends. Brian calls this newly created and ageless demographic “Generation C,” for the “Connected Generation.” (See more of my interview with Brian here.)

Exceptional customer experience will continue to become more affordable. Why? Because technological innovation is happening at all levels and that’s driving accessibility up and costs down. For the first time since the digital revolution began, marketing technology is well within reach of mid-size –and even some larger small-size –companies.

Customer experience will become increasingly integrated into everyday lives. Studies have shown that customers don’t mind marketing messages if they’re relevant and unobtrusive. So, as technology becomes more and more a part of who we are, what we do and even the things we wear (illustrated most recently by devices like the iWatch, i.amPULS, FitBit and GoogleGlass), it may become easier for marketers to reach their target audiences. I’m careful to say “may” there because no one is predicting marketing via wearables will be an instant slamdunk. First of all, customers need to invite you along. Then, you’ll need to earn –and continually nurture –their trust.

Customer Experience, Digital Marketing

Are Marketing Channels Becoming Irrelevant?

As a marketer, I love saying out loud in public forums that I think marketing channels are becoming irrelevant. It makes some marketers very uncomfortable. With all the talk of Digital-Channel-this-and-that, how can we even suggest that this is the case? Because a true focus on Customer Experience dictates that it must be so.

How do customers connect with your brand? Do they use online channels, off-line channels or a combination of the two? Among the online channels, which ones are the most popular . . . and how are they accessed – by mobile, tablet or desktop? How does the in-store experience relate to online?

While it’s essential for you to know the answers to those questions – and more importantly, where your messaging performs well and who interacts with it – I challenge you to take that baseline knowledge and consider it in a new light.

I’d like you to think about how your marketing strategy might change if you thought less about channels and more about the overall customer experience you’re delivering.

We all know today’s consumers are empowered by digital devices. That means your customers choose when, where and how to interact with your brand. It also means they fully expect to move seamlessly between on- and off-line touch points. Your customers want omni-channel engagement, and they assume your brand will be there, as needed, every step of the way.

Along with these rising expectations, your customers care less and less about what channel they’re using.  And that includes marketing channels, which I believe are quickly becoming irrelevant.

Are you ready for that kind of paradigm shift? Few are. But that’s no excuse for putting it off any longer. You need to get moving in the direction of omni-channel engagement, and I suggest you start by:

Connecting the silos. Create a communications asset inventory and identify all touch points along the customer journey. Be sure to include all relevant departments and agencies. Odds are, it will be immediately apparent where you need to improve so that you’re collecting and leveraging data as efficiently and effectively as possible. Internal collaboration is fundamental to delivering an omni-channel experience.

Focusing on consistency . . . and relevancy. As I’ve mentioned before, once you dig into your customer data, you’ll identify where and when to create triggers for communication at different points along the customer journey. Your goal is to fine-tune your messaging so customers feel like they’re being acknowledged as individuals – with unique preferences and paths to purchase.

Taking a long-term view. Omni-channel engagement won’t happen overnight. First, you need to get your house in order. Then, you need to start growing customer relationships – and that takes time. Stay focused on the experience. Not the channel. Not just one sale.

infinite value
Big Data, Customer Experience

When It Comes To Data, Big Is Not Always Better

Despite all the papers, presentations and personal conversations that have been devoted to it, most marketers I talk to still haven’t warmed up to “big data.”

That’s understandable.

According to IDG Enterprise, about one-third (31%) of companies will be managing more than one petabyte of data by the end of this year. (Note for non-Computer Science majors: One petabyte is equal to one million gigabytes.)

How can you possibly get your arms around a number that is so, well … “big?” And even if you do, won’t it be a hollow victory, since we all know even larger volumes – the exabyte, zettabyte, yottabyte, et al. – are just around the corner?

It’s no wonder marketers feel overwhelmed with big data . . . and it’s precisely why I propose a completely different approach.

Rather than feeling bogged down under the yoke of big data, marketers need to take control by putting the focus back where it belongs: on the small data –the bits of data your customers provide whenever they interact with your brand.

Every time your customers choose to tell you where they are, what they’re doing, what they want and what they’re thinking, they offer information you can use to enhance their experience with your brand. Over time, all the data you earn from your customers becomes the currency of engagement, and as I have discussed before,

Engagement is the key to a better customer experience. You can gain significant competitive advantage by leveraging small data – contact details, website interactions, in-store purchases, etc. – to obtain deeper insights about your customers’ preferences and buying behaviors.

To help move you in the right direction, here’s a short to-do list for taking control of your small data:

  •          Establish trust with your customers via opt-in and privacy-led approaches. Many marketers are uncertain about collecting and using customer data because they fear consumer backlash. Our research of millennial buyers shows that they are 7 times more likely to give personal information to a trusted brand. And while it’s true that recent high profile media stories about identity theft, data breaches and privacy issues have made consumers wary about sharing personal information with brands, the preponderance of research in this area has repeatedly shown that customers are generally amenable to data collection and tracking – if they’ve opted in and if their information is used responsibly. Most recently, a 2013 Forrester study found that consumers are more loyal to, and more willing to share data with, brands they trust, leading the researchers to conclude that marketers should take a privacy-led approach to customer data collection and use.
  •          Bridge the silos. Most organizations store customer information in multiple disparate silos, but the truth is, you simply won’t be able to leverage your small data unless/until you can integrate it. Make a commitment to an enterprise-wide customer data stewardship plan – one that’s integrated and ongoing. Be realistic, though. Overhauling data systems and paradigms of corporate structure won’t happen overnight. Plot a strategy, and then proceed step-by-step.
  •          Offer value in return for information. Our recent global research on Millennials shows that they realize companies collect data from them – and in return, they expect a fair exchange of value. What’s “fair?” Forty six percent of those surveyed said that they will share their data if it means more relevant offers. — offers that are well-timed and relevant. Interestingly, this trust-value cycle reinforces itself. Cultivating deeper customer relationships builds trust, which in turn, motivates customers to open up access to even more data, which then helps you market even more effectively . . . which helps deepen the relationship even more . . . and so on.

It’s time to stop feeling overwhelmed by big data – because in the end, it’s not the volume of data that’s important. What’s important is what you do with the data you have. So, shift your focus to small data. Be up-front about what you collect. And use it to improve the customer experience. You’ll feel more in control, and ultimately, you’ll start driving more revenue, as well.