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'Customer Experience' and 'Omni-Channel'

Buzz words or critical trends for your business?

We’ve all heard a whole lot about this thing called ‘Customer Experience’. For almost as long as business has been around there has been a focus on the experience provided to end-customers, over and above the product or service rendered. In the digital age there’s a sense that this trend is now more important than ever but, to a certain extent, it’s also become just another buzz-term that people throw around. What does Customer Experience actually mean in practice? How does it fit with ‘omni-channel’, and why does it matter anyway?

One of our great clients, Lukas Svoboda, Chief Architect at EziBuy, recently presented on this topic at the Customer Experience Techfest in Melbourne. We loved his thoughts so much that we put him forward to present it again at the SAP Discover Simplicity Forum, in conjunction with the New Zealand SAP User Group (NZSUG), in Auckland a few weeks ago.

Lukas’ presentation centred on his experience that many vendors use words like ‘Customer Experience’ and ‘Omni-Channel’ to hype their technologies, in an attempt to sell what is actually an unrealistic and idealistic proposition. He shared his experience of transforming EziBuy’s customer experience and omni-channel strategy and provided some great insights, as well as tips and tricks, to those in attendance.

One of the scariest things about Customer Experience, from a business perspective, is that it’s not rational. Focussing on improving the speed at which the phones are answered or the efficiency with which a customer’s issue is resolved will not automatically earn you that customer’s tick of approval. Speed and efficiency may have been enough 20 years ago, but the world is a different place these days (though, that’s not to say we shouldn’t be striving to improve these kinds of things). “More than 50 percent of a customer experience is subconscious, or how the customer feels”, says Lukas. “A customer experience is about how a customer consciously and subconsciously sees his or her experience”. So, if it’s not just about the ‘what’ of technological processes and streamlining our efforts to better serve clients’ needs, then what is the key?

That is the big question! And to answer it, maybe we need to step back and look at the specific traits that make up the ‘omni-channel’ customer. “The omni-channel customer wants to use all channels simultaneously. In an omni-channel world, customers will ‘experience’ the brand, not channels within the brand”, says Lukas. So there’s been a growth in the last few years of this expectation from customers that their experience of your brand should be consistent across every touchpoint - from web, to mobile, to in-store. Driving this sentiment are three key developments:

  • Channel Explosion – With today’s diverse channels (from mobile, to web, to in-store) and diverse devices to access these channels (from iPhone, to Android, to PCs), the modern customer expects consistency no matter where or when they interact with your brand.
  • Diverse Needs – For many companies, customers are each seeking different value from the brand. Today, loyalty is earned by adapting to each specific customer’s need.
  • Unpredictable Paths – Old-school marketing taught us to set up a clear path from promotion to purchase. In the new world, it’s the customers that define the terms, and choose where and when they will be communicated to. Customers today expect personalisation and relevancy.

It’s this last point that really hits home. Whilst many from the ‘old-guard’ are still fearful of brands knowing too much about them, the omni-channel customer of the new generation seems more comfortable with it, if it will make for a better experience. The ability to deliver unique customer experiences, tailoring messages based on relevancy to the individual, across multiple channels, is a major key to overcoming the new complex and non-linear path to purchase.

As Lukas puts it, retailers need to understand that it’s no longer just about the ‘what’ but also about the ‘how’.  Dropping indiscriminate and irrelevant email campaigns on the masses will annoy consumers. The modern customer demands a more contextual approach. 

Traditional segmentation-based marketing, centred on demographics or previous purchase history, can’t keep up in a real-time omni-channel world. The approach needs to be improved and targeted to deliver an experience that engages the consumer in a relevant and consistent way, regardless of their chosen path to purchase.  A recent study from IDC Research stated that between 40% and 60% of buying decisions are made before customers engage with sales.  For brands, this carries the increased risk that customers might switch suppliers if their expectations are not met, or if messaging is inconsistent across channels.

Consistency across channels comes from investing in one platform rather than disparate ones. A one platform approach consolidates customer, product and inventory information and presents this information as required across all channels.  From a customer perspective, this provides a single unified view of their history, their current and most recent activity and even what they might be interested in based on predictive algorithms. Successful customer engagement should be proactive, tapping into the emotional drivers behind the buying process and delivering relevant customer experiences in real time.

The hybris Marketing platform provides the real-time context of every customer so you can deliver the best and most relevant messages. Remarket to prospects based on abandoned shopping carts and web forms or recent online browsing behavior. Let’s make it easy and compelling for customers to re-engage at any step during the buying journey.

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