In today’s digitally disrupted marketplace, one factor is increasingly emerging as the main competitive battleground for brands: experience. According to a recent Gartner survey, 86 percent of today’s companies rate experience as the main differentiator, compared to only 36 percent in 2012.
From the brands’ perspective, being competitive on experience isn’t just a choice, but rather a requirement for survival and future success. And it boosts the bottom line: According to a Forrester Research study, leaders in customer experience achieve an average of 17 percent in revenue growth over the course of five years. Companies with poor customer experiences reach 3 percent growth at best.
So what makes for a unique experience with a brand?
The template that is emerging off the back of many of the world’s successful brands is something that goes beyond selling products and services. Nike doesn’t sell sneakers, it sells the belief that you can reach your true potential. Harley Davidson doesn’t sell motorbikes, it sells a sense of freedom and adventure. Airbnb doesn’t just provide a platform to rent rooms and apartments, it enables you to feel connected and at home anywhere in the world. Brands are recognizing the value that can be generated by tapping into a higher purpose to create an emotional connection.
Transporting Emotions: Technology as the key driver
Now more than ever, brands that invest time and thought into creating emotional connections are designing experiences to engage consumers and bring them into a lasting and meaningful relationship with their brand. And leading brands understand the crucial importance of harnessing technology to enable, enhance, and drive the experience.
In today’s world, technology influences brand experience and customer experience more than ever before. Consumers are constantly connected to brands and to each other via mobile devices. With near-constant connection to peers, social feeds, and brands, consumers are navigating a digitally enhanced world that is increasingly conversational and personal.
So how do marketers harness technology to deliver great brand experiences? And how can brands deliver these experiences at scale?
From a feasibility standpoint, marketing technology is the key to delivering personalized experiences today. As consumers travel through unstructured customer journeys of their own choosing, they leave trails of personal data that reveal insights into their needs and mid- to long-term goals. The less successful brands are the ones building mismatched experiences using third party data sources that that don’t function well together. The most successful are those brands that are constantly paying attention, learning from data trails, and tailoring customer interactions to the individual.
That’s why the brands leading on experience are the ones building their tech stacks around rich customer data platforms (CDP). In order to communicate meaningfully, marketers need real time intelligence and the capacity - and that means drawing upon artificial intelligence (AI), dynamic content, geo-targeting, and optimized send-times from their marketing toolbelt. Ideally, you’d find all these functions in a single marketing cloud.
Three rules of outstanding brand experiences
When it comes to creating memorable brand experiences, customers today have a wide array of choices. They are no longer stuck with shopping in their immediate neighborhoods or forced to tolerate bad customers service because there’s no other place to go. Most brands today will ship products to homes, sometimes for free. So the only way to stand out – and build loyalty among increasingly brand-agnostic consumers – is to consistently deliver experiences rich in personalization, convenience and relevance.
At Selligent Marketing Cloud, we call this approach Consumer-First Marketing. Instead of starting a campaign or initiative by selecting a channel or a message, we start with analyzing the individual customer and their behavior, and tailoring responsive, dynamic journeys for every step of the journey from there. For marketers looking to compete on brand experience, we have distilled our approach into the following three rules:
Always start backwards by putting yourself in customers’ shoes and considering their personal needs and preferences. Look at key data points such as preferences, purchase histories, preferred devices, and ideal send times to attain a 360-degree view of your customers. Then use these insights to deliver attractive choices at moments when customers are most receptive. And even if your campaigns are driven by AI, make sure to use empathetic language. Machine learning will go from cutting edge to becoming the new normal in a blink: Gartner predicts that by 2020, 85 percent of customer relationships will take place without human interaction.
Customers are increasingly aware of the value behind their personal data, especially in light of recent data breaches and the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Secure their trust by being transparent about the data you collect and offering real added value in return. How? By creating a brand experience that is seamless and convenient to the end audience. Think Amazon 1-Click Ordering, purchasing Apple products using only Apple ID, and TurboTax automatically gathering last year’s tax info to pre-fill tax forms. Ask what kind of frictionless experiences you can build and evolve over time for your registered customers.
Where were you when your customer needed you? Today’s consumers expect answers to their service inquiries within minutes, which puts companies under enormous time pressure. But they also do not mind if their issue is resolved by a machine learning bot, as long as the response is relevant. Selligent Marketing Cloud harnesses its AI engine, Selligent Cortex, to customize predictive offers, served in the moment via personalized email messages and web experiences with dynamic content. Again, technology is the driver for accompanying customers at every step of the way and responding to their situation with empathy.
What winning brand experiences look like in 2018
At the end of the day, brand experience is about more than just customer service. It is the entire sum of interactions with a brand, from seeing the first advertisement to clicking the Buy Now-button, to opening the package, using a shiny new gadget for the very first time, and making it part of a daily routine.
Brand experience is a complex picture, as complex and multi-tiered as your individual customer. Today, the brands that capture the hearts and minds of consumers are those that create seamless brand experiences built around connections that are enabled by a strong marketing technology foundation.