The lines are blurring between consumer engagement points across marketing, commerce and service, from email marketing to online shopping and including newer technologies like voice assistants and chatbots. Consumers expect seamless and on-demand experiences across this fragmented landscape, regardless of the complexity involved in delivering them.
Consumer expectations for how brands interact with them are higher than ever. According to the newly released Salesforce State of the Connected Customer report, nearly 80 percent of consumers say the experience a company provides is as important as its products and services, and 63 percent will pay more for a great experience. Becoming a world-class consumer engagement company isn’t optional—it’s a must for those that want to survive and thrive. That’s especially the case for incumbents facing digital-first competitors.
While many businesses strive to be top engagement companies, many don’t know where to begin. The path forward is a relentless focus on trust, people, technology, process and identity.
Brands have always been built on a foundation of trust. What’s changing today is how they’re building it with consumers in an always-on world. The next generation of admired brands have to rethink their approach to trust.
Why? Because consumers say they’re more loyal to companies they trust. With expanding connectivity, new regulations and increasing concern about privacy among consumers, trust has never been more important. It’s a value that can’t just be a talking point—it must be a first-order principle that rests on transparent practices and consumer choice. A culture of trust should permeate technology decisions, data management practices and relationships with vendors, employees and consumers.
Many of the organizational structures on which successful brands were built are now holding them back. Companies need to move from siloed organizational structures and disparate technologies that are designed for mass marketing to those that are consumer-centric. It’s impossible to create connected consumer experiences when budgets and decision-making are spread across different departments. A shift is already taking place in the convergence of digital advertising and marketing, with nearly 60 percent of companies now sharing budgets and teams across divisions. A focus on “one technology, one budget, one team” throughout the organization is essential to building successful consumer relationships.
Key to becoming a world-class consumer engagement company is having the right technology in place. With the proper tools on hand, companies can leverage consumer insights in order to maintain an unbroken and personalized dialogue across all marketing channels as well as the commerce experience and customer service. When evaluating technology options, here are three points brands should consider.
- Know the consumer: Whether a person is clicking a mobile ad, using a connected device like an Alexa or entering a store, does the solution harness these consumer insights all in one place?
- Personalize the experience: Can the technology help develop and distribute relevant content and facilitate ongoing conversations across all interactions with the consumer? Does it also leverage the power of artificial intelligence to enable predictive marketing and personalization at scale?
- Drive real-time engagement: Does the solution enable close alignment between data-driven personalization and engagement? And does it enable a dialogue with the consumer rather than just serving content?
A leading consumer engagement company doesn’t shepherd a customer along a fixed journey but rather builds a lifelong relationship across all touchpoints. Internal protocols need to pivot from delivering episodic marketing campaigns to an agile, always-on platform that enables continuous engagement.
How companies are using consumer insights must evolve, as well. They should no longer be using consumer insights that are scattered across different technologies to optimize for individual campaigns. Focused on building lifelong consumer relationships, the Marriott International recently revamped internal processes and launched a customer recognition platform to provide personalized services to members of its loyalty program, regardless of whether consumers are calling customer service reps, booking a trip online, using the company’s mobile app or checking in at a property. By delivering the experiences that guests want when they want them, the hotel chain is building stronger relationships with its members and improving customer satisfaction.
Companies can’t deliver top engagement without truly knowing their consumers. North Americans use an average of 7.7 devices per person, including mobile phones, tablets, PCs and more. That figure is expected to grow to nearly 13 by 2021 and is significantly greater in households with children. From opening an email from a retailer to booking a flight through a mobile app, everything consumers do across these devices provides visibility into who they are. In other words, their identity.
Stitching together the signals consumers produce to understand their journeys and paint a complete picture of their identity is challenging. A better grasp on consumer identity will increasingly be a key area of competition among marketers, which is why smart brands are working toward solutions that can capture consumer insights across the full range of devices and interactions and consolidate that information all under one roof.
Consumers are demanding world-class consumer engagement, and a company’s ability to deliver on those expectations will make or break a brand. Businesses that strive to endure and grow need to invest in the right technology, people and processes that will enable them to build meaningful, trust-based relationships with consumers. The alternative is to risk being left behind.