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As all marketers know, a business is only as good as its ability to appeal to customers. Today, there are more brands competing for attention than ever before. Even with the challenges involved in eCommerce customer care, companies are pulling out all stops to innovate the experience they provide. Providing an excellent customer experience (CX) involves a 360-degree examination of your business operations from the inside and out. A study conducted by Oracle found that 74% of senior executives believe CX has a profound impact on a customer’s willingness to become a brand advocate. In the oversaturated landscape of digital marketing, conducting business has become so much more than just providing products and services. The fact of the matter is that customer expectations are rising, and businesses and marketers are feeling the heat. What can brands do to bring CX to the front and center of their marketing techniques? Let’s examine some innovative ways executives can think outside the box to draw in valuable consumers.
One of the cardinal rules of marketing is: “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.” Creating and promoting an impactful CX relies heavily on your ability to provoke emotional connections. There’s no question that emotions have an unbelievably prominent influence in how we buy products and services. While on this subject, it would be almost impossible not to talk about Zappos’ commitment to a superior CX - there was an occasion when the Zappos customer support team purchased (from a mall) and hand-delivered an out-of-stock item to a traveling customer who had left her favorite pair of shoes at home. It’s safe to say this action provoked a “WOW” customer experience and created an unforgettable brand-consumer bond, despite not involving a sale. While this is an extreme case, it shows that eCommerce companies are capable of providing world-class levels of support. Customers become loyal advocates based on how they feel when they interact with brands throughout the buyer’s cycle. According to an HBR study, emotionally engaged customers are three times more likely to recommend your product or service to others. Leading brands know that emotional appeal is key to a customer experience that lends deeper value to the transaction, as opposed to just making sales. Marketing the benefits of choosing your business helps you connect better with consumers than showing off the features of your product. Remember, a successful business doesn’t just sell products or services, they sell solutions to problems. Case in point, eCommerce platform Shopify has built a whole Business Encyclopedia to answer any and all questions their customers (online retailers) might ever have.
While machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) were once products of science fictions movies, they are now being used to change the way businesses interact with and serve customers. Although in its infancy, AI’s impact on the world of digital marketing can definitely be termed as ‘growing.’ A growing number of automation tools are using AI to take ‘smart’ decisions or communicate personalized messages by analyzing data using machine learning. Businesses would be wise to look into how this combination can provide a more valuable CX across the board. Perhaps the biggest advantage marketers can gain from AI is allowing it access to the right data in order to deliver personalized messaging in real-time. The end result is that brands can identify behavioral patterns and gear their messaging accordingly. Although it may not seem like it, you see the product of AI in marketing on a daily basis. Amazon and Netflix use recommendation engines based on predictive analytics to provide suggestions most likely to strike a chord with users. Google will reroute drivers based on current traffic situations. More notably, consumers now have personal assistants installed on their smartphones, to which they routinely ask questions and get accurate answers as well as suggestions – at times, without even asking! These cognitive marketing systems are set to see an exponential amount of growth in coming years. In fact, Gartner predicted that by 2020, 85% of customer relationships will be managed without human interaction. BMW is currently using AI to help improve the lives of their customers with their BMW Connected App. In partnership with Microsoft Azure, the program integrates a personalized companion into the user’s GPS system. From here, it picks up on patterns and predicts your next potential destinations. Additionally, it will do things like locate the best parking spots, tell you the most optimal times to travel, and open your car’s vents automatically on a hot day. In terms of marketing and the customer experience, the primary goal for AI is to help make people’s day-to-day lives easier and more convenient based on previous interactions. Brands can use this concept to provide unique messaging tailored to the specific needs and desires of each individual.
Branded virtual reality (VR) is truly the new frontier in marketing. Experts are able to provide customer experiences that are immersive, impactful, memorable, and most importantly, unique. While still a very young concept, a lot of brands are experimenting with how they can use VR to create novelty. Using VR in marketing is one of the most effective ways to stimulate individual senses in an attempt to prompt favorable reactions. Let’s examine two campaigns, fundamentally different from each other, but achieving the same goal of using evolving tech to gain thought leadership for the brand in its industry. One of the most profound examples of this concept came from The New York Times via their “Displaced” campaign. Using Google Cardboard and a mobile app, NYT, creating an immersive documentary, which dived into the details of three children who had been driven away from their homes due to the unrelenting effects of war. Distributed to a million readers free of charge, the campaign proved to be significantly compelling, because it brought people directly to the front lines of the horrors happening on the other side of the world. Another phenomenal example is IKEA, which has been a pioneer in VR marketing. They have created a catalog that virtually places products directly in customers’ homes. With such an immersive, first-hand experience, there is very little left to the unknown – shoppers can find the perfect fit for their needs. The limits of this technology are still unknown at this point and brands are just starting to scratch the surface of how they can use it to influence the customer experience. By 2018, it’s estimated that the revenue from VR products will be around $5.2 billion. Luckily, there is practically no ceiling for marketers in terms of innovation. Using VR to create a one-of-a-kind customer experience is an outstanding way to stick out from your competitors, as The New York Times and IKEA have so successfully demonstrated. Since VR is still a new medium, both expensive and resource-intensive to explore, brands have only scratched the surface of how they can use it to connect with customers; however, those that create helpful experiences early on will become more memorable and relevant in consumers' minds.
Customers are changing. When it comes to evolving attitudes and expectations, marketers need to do everything they can to create an experience that brings individual preferences front and center. Generally speaking, with the help of the internet and social media, consumers are exposed to more brand messaging than they know what to do with; they have long become numb to cookie cutter sales tactics. Therefore, it’s time for businesses to get creative and use the futuristic technology at their fingertips to build a CX that leaves customers wanting for more.
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About the author:
Tracy Vides is a digital marketing strategist who works with small businesses and startups to help improve their content, SEO, and social presence. Tracy is also a prolific writer—her posts on ecommerce, social media, and conversion are regularly featured on tech blogs across the web.