Are you Xperienced? Say Hello to the New Marketing Currency

Tim Rickards, Marketing Director, Activation and Engagement, Charles Schwab

Tim Rickards, Marketing Director, Activation and Engagement, Charles Schwab

Over the past decade, we’ve witnessed a wonderful evolution in how to evaluate the value and utility of what we build for our customers. Starting with User Experience (UX) and moving outward to Customer Experience (CX), those of us who build and communicate things have adopted an increasingly client-centric way of working. It’s a great advancement, a powerful tool and one all marketers would benefit from internalizing and applying to their campaigns.

But something equally transformative and vital has also become startlingly clear: The speed of our digital advancements is outpacing our capacity to adapt. Using techniques like Design Thinking and Agile Development and employing powerful development and communication platforms, we keep building better and better products…which is good but also brings additional challenges. People expect so much more from an algorithm than they do from a person on the phone or in a shop, and your competitive set extends well beyond your category. (How many of us appreciate being compared to Amazon, Tesla, and Apple?)

"People expect so much more from an algorithm than they do from a person on the phone or in a shop, and your competitive set extends well beyond your category"

Here are the central questions: As interacting and transacting become more and more frictionless, faceless, and timeless, how do we nurture and retain that tenuous emotional connection with the people who buy what we sell? How do we make sure the way we interact with people doesn’t fall victim to this increasingly virtual world?

Thanks to Digital Transformation, every stage of the buying experience is now faster, easier, more personalized.
1. Learning and Deciding: Online reviews, comparison sites, choice algorithms, etc., combine to help collect the info you think you need to make an informed decision. (You can still placate the inner Hunter/Gatherer by choice, but it’s much less needed.) While that’s certainly more convenient, I believe this ease of use can make it more stressful to choose and drive less considered purchases. With fewer natural speed bumps, people feel driven to go faster and faster.
2. Buying: Absurdly easy. I recently purchased a new car and upgraded my mobile phone without ever leaving my house, except to sign some virtual documents and take the keys. We click a green button, and the thing shows up later in the day. Convenient? Amazing? Yes, to all! But also faster…maybe too fast? Patience is no longer required. Forethought pushed to the background. And talking to other human beings very, very optional.
3. Staying Connected: With such a fast and convenient path to purchase, it’s easy to think that post-conversion is less important, or at least simpler than in past years. But I believe it’s now more challenging now to truly connect with customers, despite the new powerful digital tools at our disposal. Why? Because less human interaction is now involved (think sales associates, in-store experience), and our jet-fueled buying experience drives customer expectations sky high. 

The short answer: “Focus on your CX, and all good things will come.” But most companies create and maintain hundreds of disparate experiences, and in today’s age of specialization, it’s rare to own any pathway from beginning to end. The key is to break that holistic CX into smaller parts and selectively apply them on a day-to-day basis.

Here are five ways to ride the digital transformation wave, keep your customers’ perspective top of mind and deepen customer relationships over time:

1. Apply your technology with the human in mind. Even if an experience (app, tool, sign-up) has been designed via Agile with a phalanx of mustachioed UX experts, there’s still opportunity to re-think how the person actually “doing the thing” feels, what they want, how you might make it just that much more pleasant, etc. It’s our super-power. Use it!

2. Develop your North Star and obsessively focus on it. We are defined what we measure. Measure the wrong thing…well…you get the picture. And given the complexity of many digital experiences, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s the most important end result. Spend the time and get the executive validation of your key metrics, then use them to ruthlessly guide your efforts.

3. Small is the new BIG. Know your many micro audiences. While the 80/20 Rule generally holds, your customers will almost certainly divide into differing groups, and if those areas of divergence impact purchasing decisions, you have a wonderful opportunity to drive greater usage/conversion/satisfaction. Higher success rates with smaller audience matter.

4. Remember both the external and internal customer. It’s easy to forget that the promises we make via marketing have big-time consequences to our colleagues who then service those customers. Don’t forget to ask pertinent questions about how the actual “transaction” works, and who’s affected.

5. Adopt a process mindset. Paying more attention to experience is a huge task. I suggest you start small, picking a few areas/projects to focus on. Test, learn, adapt, re-test, etc. Make sure the folks above you in the org chart are aware and supportive, and remember that failure is more than okay…it’s actually expected and desired, since that’s where we learn the most

Nurturing and retaining those “tenuous emotional connections” is just plain hard. People are complicated, distracted, emotional, etc. And there is no single answer or guaranteed approach to connect with them in a meaningful way. Rather, it’s an on-going process that depends on your specific project and the people working with you. And that’s a good thing. Because there is wisdom in crowds and great changes happen with small steps over time.

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