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Optimising the Customer Experience: Latest Digital Trends

At our recent user conference Sean Donnelly, Senior Analyst at Econsultancy, gave a presentation on upcoming digital trends. In this blog we look at the key points Sean made and what they mean for businesses in the retail and distribution sector.

Sean defined customer experience as ‘the sum of all experiences somebody has with a brand’, using a medieval market where stall owners produced and sold all their own goods as a ‘gold standard’ of customer experience. They delivered the customer experience from beginning to end – and what’s more, they literally lived or died according to how effective it was and how powerfully they convinced people to spend with them. Sean argued that this idea has now gone full circle and that, in the digital age where customers can air their opinions to a large audience very easily, reputation – and therefore customer experience – really is everything.


Great Products Are No Longer Enough

This was highlighted by the fact the Sean revealed that 66% of customers have switched brands due to a bad customer experience, and 82% of those customers said that this action could have been prevented by the brand doing something to change things. This really underlines the fact that a great product is no longer enough to secure customer loyalty.

One company Sean used as an example of this was Ryanair, they have recognised and capitalised on this to great effect. Realising that cheap flights alone were no longer enough to secure custom, because good rates were increasingly available elsewhere and poor customer service was damaging the business, the firm introduced a dramatic new experience strategy. It invested heavily in staff training, began using social media as a customer service channel, added account-based functionality to the website and hired an additional 200 staff focused entirely on customer experience. Profits leapt in the wake of the new strategy, leading CEO Michael O’Leary to comment “If I’d only known that being nice to customers was going to be so good for my business I would have done it years ago.”


Mapping Customer Touchpoints

In the world of online retail, it is important to remember that 60% of the customer journey is carried out before even contacting the business in question. This means that an accelerated loyalty journey is essential. Ecommerce marketing needs to be seen as a loop rather than the traditional funnel in order to enable the business to focus on customer experience and personalisation.

Businesses should begin by fully mapping the customer journey across all brand touchpoints. He put forward that the journey starts earlier – and there are more touchpoints – than most retailers initially realise.

The customer cycle includes research > selection of a provider or supplier > purchase > receiving the goods > using the goods and recommending them (or otherwise!) online.

Next, brands need to consider how to present a consistent message across every one of those touchpoints, reflecting their brand identity and ensuring that the customer experiences are seamless, straightforward and ‘friction-free’.


The Rise of the Review Engine

Sean went on to discuss the rise of review sites like Trust Pilot that have given customers more knowledge and more power. Word of mouth, both at the beginning and end of the journey is increasingly important to retailers. There are two key proof points for this. First, many organizations are now using Trust Pilot scores in their marketing and advertising materials – and as metrics for measuring the effectiveness of their marketing activity. Secondly, social proof now has a greater influence on purchasing decisions than low prices. Little surprise, then, that optimising the customer journey across multiple touchpoints is now a priority of 67% of businesses.



The natural progression for an ‘optimised customer journey’ is personalisation - Tailoring content to suit the context of the individual’s behaviour through data-driven marketing.

Yet, the reality is that most companies are very much at the start of optimising these experiences and have been slow to join the dots and tackle integration issues.

  • Only 29% of marketers claim to have a Single Customer View (SCV).

  • Only 17% of marketers claim they are fully capable of understanding customer journeys.

  • Only 12% of claim that they have the capability to make data driven decisions in real time.

  • Only 8% of marketers have a single platform that manages data across platforms.

However the benefits, of personalisation, are clear - For those companies can measure the impact personalising their web experiences are seeing an average 19% uplift in sales.

Delivering intelligent, relevant marketing and 1-2-1 content based on time, location, behaviour means having both the integration necessary for the single customer view, and a deep understanding of the customer journey. Ultimately, algorithms may decide on the content, but they are powered by human insights, marketing rules and inspiration.

So if an optimised customer journey and a personalised experience isn’t something that’s already on your priority list, perhaps now is the time to consider these as a way of improving your bottom line!


Final Thoughts

  • Customer experience is the big focus for at least a few years to come

  • Optimising customer journeys across channels will be a big part of this

  • More sophisticated organisations will be enhancing experiences through personalisation and data-driven marketing / marketing automation




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