Article | How is digital transforming the customer experience journey?

Article | How is digital transforming the customer experience journey?
27th September 2015 Atheneum Team

In the last decade, Customer Experience has transformed beyond recognition. The advent of the digital era has given rise to multiple new considerations such as increased data capture, a new influencer set and redefined customer satisfaction measures (to name a few). Previously, consumers followed a fairly linear path with limited disruption and neatly packaged transactional touchpoints, most of which were organised around the business’s own operating model. Today there is a web of touchpoints, influencing factors, and transactional possibilities, much of which is driven by the all-important Customer.

Data Capture Points

Digital allows brands to know more about their consumers than ever before. Data capture drives more personalised shopping experiences and, if analysed and interpreted well, leads to an optimum user experience. Consumers use more devices, which lead to new behaviours and a more complex customer journey, from traditional desktop to mobile used mainly for browsing. Visits to retail websites via mobile devices have overtaken desktop traffic for the first time last year in the UK, with over half of all e-retail traffic now coming via smartphones and tablet devices.
“Some 52% of visits were made via a mobile, while 36% of UK online sales are now completed on a smartphone or tablet device – rising to 40% for clothing sellers. 83% of shoppers in the US cite mobile as their favorite browsing method and 40% consult 3 or more channels (often while shopping) before making a purchase. 52% of Americans user their devices while browsing in-store in order to research the product online” (source econsultancy).
This type of behavior will ultimately lead to an increase in the importance of online reputation management, fair pricing and transparency from retail outlets. Consumers tend to browse on mobile sites or apps and complete the transaction on their desktop or tablet. Businesses have more marketing touch points to increase awareness and attract consumers, from social media to SEO, content marketing and retargeting. They can calculate a customer’s lifetime value, figure out how many times they have logged in over the past 3 months, which phone model they use, how much they spend a month…so what more does a brand need to know to excel?
A brand also needs to know the person behind the customer data; establishing a closeness to their customer’s “real life” algorithm-free existence is imperative. Getting this right is the difference between the brands that just survive or those who prosper and innovate. So how do brands get to a position where they’re hanging out with their consumers and being asked to stay?

The New Influencer Set
What was once simple Word of Mouth has transformed into an orchestra of influencing factors, any one of which can drive or hinder overall brand health and, ultimately, conversion. Social Listening tools give Brands “real time” insights to consumer disposition and cultural hotspots they could be aligning themselves with. It equally flashes early warning signs in the form of negative sentiment that a brand can act on swiftly before it escalates and starts to hurt the bottom line.
Defining and maintaining a social influencer set is imperative. This can take the form of high-profile social strategies with celebrities to dealing in the business of social reputation. “Social Reputation” is the social credibility and bragging rights that a Brand can afford to a consumer in a mutually beneficial win-win relationship. This can mean faceless data heavy consumer “X” can transform into trusted real life human brand advocate overnight. Brands are starting to invite consumers into their digital house with more willingness than ever. Take the example of German food giant Lidl’s #LidlSuprises Campaign.
“As well as appearing in print ads, positive tweets that use the #LidlSurprises hashtag have also been used in-store. Using customer tweets in adverts wasn’t that revolutionary but it was a fairly progressive approach for Lidl” (source econsultancy).
And let’s not forget Bloggers. This influencer set is one of the most valued in the influencing compliment and their potential is all too often underestimated or misunderstood. Increasingly perceived as having more editorial integrity and being more relatable to than journalists; they have a perceived authentic brand loyalty which filters away any brand they don’t genuinely believe in. Rather than viewing bloggers as an add-on to another broader activity, Brands would be wise to understand where those influencers fit into the decision making journey of their target audiences. As well as being powerful influencers in the decision making journey, bloggers can help provide authoritative inbound links that Google loves. When building a PR SEO strategy, Bloggers should be considered integral.

A new set of tools to serve the best customer experiences

The best customer experiences are the ones that are very much like a conversation you would have with a conscientious employee who is thinking ahead. Taking care of existing customers can be the best way to build a lasting business, even if it comes at the expense of short-term results. If you take care of existing customers, they will take care of your new customers.

For example, “Amazon’s success has been driven by the obsession for the customer experience. Customer service representatives at Amazon are likely to replace undelivered and supposed stolen items at the expense of the company to provide the best experience to existing customers.” On Amazon obsession with customers (source signalvsnoise):

Look to the competitive grocery sector. Home delivery services such as Ocado in the UK aren’t only offering a seamless user experience online but also add value by taking a duty of care. A recent post-order confirmation email detailed the name of the driver, how you could identify it was them and a detailed breakdown of the shopping list with expiry dates to stick on the fridge (the £20+free annual first order discount also helps!). These are the types of experiences that consumers share with passion, and it’s this type of experience which breeds loyalty in an increasingly cluttered sector.
In conclusion, Digital has turned the customer experience on its head. Digital offers up so many opportunities to connect to customers but these opportunities are in a state of flux as habits and trends are continually evolving. There is no longer set practice or a marketing formula to connect with your customer – more than ever it’s part science, part art. This sometimes unsettling landscape keeps those who service Brands on their toes – the consumer is more than ever at the heart of driving change and continual improvement in their digitally redefined customer experience journeys.