Brand Differentiation Through Customer Experience
Nine times out of ten, consumer experience (CX) is the only thing differentiating companies, so it isn’t surprising that CX topped the list of priorities for business and technology leaders in 2015, according to a Forrester study. Consumer experience is about how individuals feel when they engage with a company or brand over time and, as technology, consumer behavior and business models evolve, CX is expected to play an even greater role in business strategies.
While commercial success once depended solely on delivering reliable and high quality products or services to the market, today there is much more to it. Consumers are more informed, selective and expect a tailored and personalized shopping experience that aligns with their personal values. They also want to be able to shop anywhere, at any time and from any location. Businesses must therefore consider the consumer experience in their product/service design and business model, to differentiate themselves and not lose buyers or market share.
Consumer Experience Management is also becoming a top strategic priority for CEOs in the MENA region, according to Deloitte ME. Although leading businesses have traditionally invested heavily in both physical and functional consumer experiences, investments in emotional experience are still lacking. High quality products and services are of course essential, yet to truly stand out, businesses will need to build and overlay their existing consumer journey with an emotional one. This means adding a genuine human facet to their brand while maintaining honesty and relevance.
To thrive in the future, however, businesses will need to adapt to an ever-changing consumer base and respond to shifts in business-consumer dynamics, as well as embrace the following trends and technological advances in our constantly evolving digital landscape.
Self-Service and Artificial Intelligence
While an emotional connection with a brand is important, not everyone wants it. By 2020, 85% of business relationships will be managed by the consumer without any human interaction, according to research and advisory firm Gartner. Today’s consumers expect to have access to efficient and speedy self-service options, which they can use to find answers to questions and accomplish tasks themselves. By making customer service more accessible through online self-service tools and Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies such as automated assistants, brands will not only retain their loyal consumers, but also improve their overall brand recognition.
Thanks to AI technologies, companies no longer have to depend on human assistants to provide customer support and solve problems. With the assistance of digital assistants, more time can be spent on building consumer relationships and solving tough problems, as human resources and capacity are freed to focus on growth. Another major strength of AI lies in its capability to collect large capacities of data at a very high speed, recognize patterns and learn from them. By collecting information about consumers’ activities and buying patterns, for example, AI can offer them real-time, highly personalized recommendations according to their tastes and preferences.
Although AI has been around for a while, brands have only recently started adopting it for customer service. Examples include budget airline EasyJet, which relies on AI to analyze large volumes of consumer data, and food brand Knorr uses cognitive technology to interact naturally with consumers and deliver tailored recipes in their recent campaign ‘Love at First Taste’.
Another is Skype, which plugged into machine learning to deliver voice recognition and real-time translation. While AI is rapidly catching on and becoming the next big thing, businesses must ensure they strike the right balance between people-power and technology to ensure they are always offering high-quality and personalized experiences.
Data Driving Personalization
Analytics is becoming a key competitive weapon according to Forrester Research’s CMO, Victor Milligan. “It’s not about making big data bigger, but making it more useful and able to anticipate and deliver super experiences to consumers,” he said. Businesses that make use of consumer analytics are showing a 126% profit improvement over competitors that don’t, according to research by McKinsey. What’s more, as businesses become more and more data-driven, leveraging consumer experience analytics will be critical to providing a seamless and personalized consumer experience and creating a competitive advantage.
Today, retailers know exactly where their consumers are located, what actions they are taking on their site, their past purchases and even their next online stop, thanks to easily traceable consumer behavior data. This information is then used by businesses to tailor their offering and marketing messages, evolve and develop strategies, create algorithm-based consumer experiences and strengthen consumer relationships.
By combining business processes and consumer information (including external data) on one platform, businesses can understand their consumers and their intentions, and act in real-time on taking their experiences to the next level. Leveraged effectively, data and predictive analytics enable organizations to deliver excellent consumer experiences by expecting - rather than simply responding to - consumers’ needs.
Data is also being used to create individually tailored and contextualized experiences, which are increasingly significant in a brand’s success. Consumers not only expect firms to contextually understand who they are, but they also expect them to respond to their needs and anticipate them. Therefore, businesses need to become effective at using different data streams to recognize and respond to the needs of their consumers. This includes everything from big data for overall trends, to microdata for looking at a particular group or account’s behavior and their use of a product or service. Only then will businesses truly differentiate themselves.