The purpose of this article is to boost your data confidence so that you can start delivering more powerful engagements for show-stopping marketing results.
Performance hinges on customer experience. Don’t be reactive, be proactive. Anticipate your customers’ needs before they do, and delight them until they can’t get enough.
This article will help you:
- Get to grips with your customer journey and data
- Use insight to communicate relevance at every customer touchpoint
- Drive meaningful engagements that drive your business’ growth
“In highly competitive environments, brands are judged not for product or price or quality, but for the experience they build around it.” – Jeff Bazos, CEO, Amazon
CX: The modern competitive battleground
Jeff Bezos once said that customers are viewed as guests to a party, with Amazon as the hosts. Like any party, the customer experience (CX) needs to be engaging or else customers won’t return. Brands should act as hosts and indulge their customers as if they were guests.
True competitive advantage lies in creating a seamless CX. Brands need to be personal, fast, easy to deal with, and useful. Only then will customers engage at a level that drives business longevity: from conversion and satisfaction to retention and loyalty.
In this article, you will discover that data provides the framework for CX. While product, service, and content are the flesh, data is the skeleton. Without data, there is no customer experience. It is the root of every valuable engagement. If CX – the modern competitive battleground – were a chessboard, data would be the queen. No other player in CX can match data on power, influence, or maneuver. Brands that dominate their processes and maintain high data quality will strip the competition bare. Data-driven practices mean better results and more sustainable growth.
Bottom line: Every brand’s business strategy should be defined on the premise of data.
75% of consumers expect companies to provide a consistent experience wherever they engage with them. – Salesforce, 2018
According to a study by Qualtrics, companies earning $1 billion annually that invest in CX initiatives can drive an additional $775 million within three years. Similarly, Forrester found that companies with a superior CX grew revenues five times faster on average than their competitors with an inferior CX. And this is a global phenomenon. As leaders navigate even greater ROI, the laggards will face crippling growth prospects. Lackluster experiences won’t measure up.
A flawless CX doesn’t just mean more returns. Customer retention is inherently linked to a positive CX, while churn is exacerbated by a poor one. Customers who had a very good experience are 3.5 times more likely to repurchase than if they had had a very poor experience.
Restoring data confidence
There’s no denying that consumers are hungry for more personalized marketing. 91% of consumers are more likely to shop with brands who recognize, remember, and provide relevant offers and recommendations. But data doesn’t come out of thin air. For brands, acquiring and optimizing the use of data can seem overwhelming. Like any journey, the start seems the most daunting, the end is miles away, and getting it is uncertain.
83% of consumers are willing to share their data to enable a personalized experience, as long as:
- businesses are transparent about how they are going to use it, and;
- customers have control over it.
The caveat is data control
Abating data concerns is easier said than done. Data privacy is a sensitive issue for both consumers and brands. Consumers will only trust brands who let them manage their data directly. That means having visibility over the data held as well as updating any details in a preference center. Brands need to prove to consumers that handing over their data will be worth the experience in the long run. But success relies on having the right data in the first place. The answer is to start small and scale quickly.
The relevancy gap
64% of instances where consumers switch loyalties are due to a lack of relevance. Customized communications should mean more relevant messages. And in a time-poor world where consumers are struggling to juggle everything on their plate, less wasted time and irritation can only be a good thing. Addressing the consumer’s actual need is also the prime ingredient of a sticky customer. But bridging the relevancy gap – whereby brands deliver on what customers want – depends on optimizing data practices.
- Ask for the most important information first
- Gain the consumer’s trust in the first few messages
- Aggregate additional insight along the customer journey
Understanding the flow of data
Data drives every email, SMS message, and push notification. A customer may not realize upon opening an email that its contents are formulated from various data points – such as first name and email address. The more data a customer’s profile has, the more enriched the message. Behavior-driven messages, for instance, rely on a spectrum of data: from website browse behavior to order history and email activity. Understanding the flow of data – where and when to source it and how to manipulate it – is key in delivering communications that spur customer action.
The engagement loop
A 360-degree view helps identify where data sits along the customer journey. As a prospect first comes into contact with a brand, data visibility is zero. It is impossible to differentiate this person from the other seven billion people in the world. But once your prospect has registered interest, either through creating an account or signing up to newsletters, you can start appending information to their profile. Data visibility will then increase at each touchpoint of the journey: from interactions during the welcome program through to abandoned browse and on to purchase.
Context is at its highest point when a customer commits to a purchase, also known as the ‘buyer’s high’. This is where relevancy is most powerful: Using all the data that has been collected – preferences, website behavior, demographics, etc. – makes the experience much more personal. The customer will either lapse naturally or loop back to purchase through any marketing nurture efforts. Taking advantage of the engagement loop depends on data quality, handling, and repurposing throughout the entire customer journey.
Redefining the data methodology
In a digital world where brands are falling short on customer expectations, data remains key to lifting the experience to where it should be. Marketers can only identify what data they need if they start at the very end. Deciding on what action the customer should take first helps pinpoint which data point(s) are needed to drive the engagement.
For instance, the marketer’s objective is for their customer to buy a complementary product after the initial sale. To do this, the customer needs to be spurred by a relevant offering. That relevant offering, supported by the context of the previous purchase, could be tied to several product preferences, page views, past orders, etc. It could even be linked to what similar customers went on to purchase next.
Moreover, the message should reiterate relevant data points to bolster the relevancy of the proposition: the customer’s name, location, interests, and so on. Data, if captured and used correctly, should always drive the context and relevancy of the message.
An intake of data that defines the individual customer, based on his or her preferences and behaviors across all touchpoints.
The data-driven journey
The future of CX lies in the co-creation of experiences through data. Consumers don’t want brands to define their journeys, they want brands to re-string the experience so that they can weave their path. Customers need to share their data with brands digitally to design their own experience.
Data spans the entire customer journey and dictates the extent of personalization a brand can offer. Absorbing the right data at the right time could mean the difference between a meaningful CX and one that backfires. Brands need to drop the guesswork and know exactly where to look.
First-touch: website, sign-up info, and demographics
B2C: Visiting a website alone represents a keen interest in a brand’s products or services. Capturing data in the first instance, such as name and email address, should be the top priority for every aspiring business.
B2B: For business-to-business (B2B) companies, a prospect landing on the website is a sign of intent. Whether it’s through a trial request or newsletter subscription, asking for key data (like job title, industry, and company revenue) helps generate better leads and a pipeline that can meet aggressive sales targets.
Second-touch: welcome program, preferences, profiling
B2C: Once a connection has been made, businesses should prioritize which information they need to start tailoring the proposition. Date of birth and location, for example, can be used to send personalized birthday offers and geo-targeted promotions like a flash sale. What’s more, a preference center (as part of a welcome program) can give customers control over what promotions they will receive and on which channels. As ‘contact data fields’, specific preferences (like location) can be used to populate content or trigger targeted messages.
B2B: The next stage is nurturing leads. Progressive profiling enriches the B2B customer experience through the gradual gathering of demographic and preference data, over a longer period and across customer touchpoints. Rather than asking a prospect to fill out a long-form, businesses that collect data sequentially have a better chance of successfully converting contacts into customers. Important data, such as contract end date or business challenges, should be prioritized to score contacts more effectively.
8 in 10 consumers are willing to pay more for a better CX. – Capgemini, 2017.
Using data to automate unique product offerings for the customer; data-driven messages that communicate at a one-to-one level.
Third-touch: newsletter opens and clicks, web behavior
B2C: The next step in delivering more relevant, data-driven content is to use contacts’ behaviors. For example, brands can populate dynamic content in email based on live contact data such as location or weather. Plus, looking at online and email activity can shed light on contacts’ interests and intent to buy. Who is opening but not buying? What are they clicking on? Segmenting on this basis can highlight who’s on the edge of making a purchase. Perhaps all they need is a little push. A re-targeted ad or cart recovery email are prime examples of a well-timed nudge: For instance: when someone is nearing exchange of contracts on a house and starts browsing for furniture online.
B2B: B2Bs are also consumers and as such respond positively personalization. The rise of account-based marketing is a testament to that. An effective way of delivering a more tailored experience is through website personalization based on sector, industry, or business challenge. For example, data-leading brands are starting to personalize web content based on the attributes of who is landing on the page. Moreover, acting on specific high-intent actions (such as survey submissions, demo requests, or abandoned trials) helps identify who’s ripe for conversion.
Conversion: online purchases, transactions, conversions
B2C: Brands need to record and recall every customer transaction, no matter where it’s made, to power future communications. As the customer relationship grows, brands can leverage RFM as a customer modeling technique. Deep-diving into the recency, frequency, and monetary value of customer purchases can shed light on where customers are in their journey. This data visibility enables marketers to target their customers more effectively. For example, if a customer hadn’t purchased again within six months, a brand could automatically trigger a targeted ‘we miss you’ email or push notification.
B2B: The ‘journey string’ – which is a record of contact- or account-based interactions, from the first touch to conversion – offers B2B marketers unparalleled insight. This data is the driving force behind a tailored proposition – one that compels the prospect or customer to act. Brands need to look closely at the path to purchase – the content consumed, forms completed, events attended. Once onboard as a client, or after a business order, account managers and B2B marketers alike should continue this data-driven approach. Whether the objective is a repeat or recurring orders, account growth, or cross-upsell, data plays a key role in realizing desired customer actions.
Harnessing the single customer view to engage customers with a personalized experience. Delivering the products and services they prefer at the right time and on the right channel
Follow-up: aftersales content, complementary cross-/upsell
B2C: The post-purchase journey is a honeymoon period between customers and the brand. What brands do during this period makes or breaks the customer relationship, reflected ultimately in more or lost revenue. The key is driving value, and the answer is data. Dynamic content, which can populate based on an array of data fields, ensures that every customer’s aftersales experience is personalized to them. Any how-to tips or complimentary upsell recommendations, such as ‘lookalike’ or ‘best next’ products, should ultimately add more value to CX.
B2B: Understanding what customers want to get out of their products and services is the keystone to maximizing retention. Each business account should be laden with valuable data: past orders, usage statistics, training requirements, quarterly catch-ups/reviews, etc. This information should be available across client-facing teams so that customers’ needs can be addressed at any given touchpoint. That way, brands will be in a better position to grow their business, replenish orders, or upsell with additional features and services.
Feedback: product and purchase review, Net Promoter Score (NPS)
B2C: Feedback advances CX more than any other data because it comes straight from the horse’s mouth. Reviews and ratings delivered through an online form, for example, can help brands improve not just the product or service, but the entire experience. Moreover, companies that closely link their business operations with CX enjoy a 14-point NPS advantage compared to companies that don’t.8 Sharing data across the business, enabling the link between service and experience, will drive greater customer satisfaction in the long run.
B2B: To retain business at scale, B2B companies have to invest in product innovation. That doesn’t just mean making the product better, but process improvements and service enhancements that make the overall experience sharper. Capturing customer feedback and gauging customer satisfaction are the first steps in assessing the state of play. Feedback surveys and NPS – which asks how likely customers would recommend a brand out of 10 – are the best forms of data-capture at this stage in the journey. This information keeps businesses on the ball.
Enriching the customer’s data profile to extend their journey. Leveraging insight to build a more loyal and rewarding customer relationship.
Re-targeting: product recommendations, behavioral ads
B2C: Amplifying the customer’s journey with a brand requires an arsenal of data. Brands that can successfully do this have dominated their data practices. For instance, let’s say a customer lapses and no longer opens their emails. Some brands would give up at this hurdle. Other, more data-savvy brands would trigger a targeted re-engagement ad – based on last purchase and a period of email inactivity – to win the customer back.
B2B: Every aspiring business wants to broaden its reach. That doesn’t mean reaching out on more channels for the sake of it. Companies need to make informed decisions about who, how, and where they’re targeting. There are many things businesses can be doing to maximize their reach. For example:
- Smarter scheduling of content (based on email opens, blog traffic, seasonal trends.)
- Tactical tagging on the social post (tracking hashtags can help identify who responds better to what.)
- Tapping into affiliate networks: (using engagement data, like content and event stats, drives more partner opportunities).
Re-purchase: nurture campaign, loyalty or VIP program
B2C: Brands that acquire customers, but then forget them, will fall flat in the face of customer-first competitors. The work begins after conversion: every customer needs to be nurtured or else they will lapse. It’s only natural when consumers are faced with a mass choice. The art of nurture is to use data to progress the customer from a state of indifference to advocacy. For instance, once a customer hits a specific average order value they might enroll onto a loyalty program. If their customer lifetime value exceeds £2,000 they might proceed to a VIP program. The bottom line is that data should always be driving the customer relationship.
B2B: The B2B lifecycle is much longer than B2C. Typically, B2B orders are higher in value and require a heftier decision-making process. Businesses need to recognize this throughout the customer relationship, especially during those looming renewal periods, and act proactively. Companies that have a robust renewal program, with triggers set around the customer’s contract end date, are more likely to retain their accounts. Triggered messages could include renewal reminders, package upgrades, overage limits, etc. This data-driven approach adds even more value to CX and can boost customer satisfaction.
Lapse: re-engagement campaign, constructive feedback
B2C: Knowing when a customer is about to lapse isn’t always easy. Whether it’s after three months or after six, marketers need to reach out at the right moment and on the right channel; or they risk losing the customer forever. If there’s a lull in an online activity or pile up of unopened emails, it’s probably the right time to strike with a win-back incentive. Setting up an automation program that targets ‘at-risk’ customers, asking them to update their preferences, is the safest bet to minimize churn.
B2B: While churn is a natural part of business, putting measures in place to limit its effects is in every company’s best interest. Feedback is important: why has the client left? Was there anything that could have been done? Similar to asking for a product or service review, feedback on the entire relationship can help identify areas for improvement with existing client accounts. Moreover, ending the relationship in a positive, constructive light leaves the door open for more business in the future.
CX: The devil is in the data
Data underpins every single engagement in the customer experience. To meet customer expectations on CX, marketers need to be in a position to handle data confidently. Data-leading brands capture the right data at the right time and recycle it throughout the entire customer journey to inform every message, across all touchpoints. Aspiring brands shouldn’t feel overwhelmed or consider this feat unattainable. It comes down to mapping out the customer journey and pinpointing where data is exchanged between customers and brands. Marketers can then work on acquiring the right data and manipulating it – to enable data-driven engagements that enrich the customer experience.