Satisfaction is the New Innovation

More than half of mar­keters believe mar­ket­ing has changed more in the past year than in the pre­vi­ous five years. Indeed, today’s mar­ket­ing has very lit­tle in com­mon with last century’s mar­ket­ing, except cus­tomers! Dur­ing the last 10 years, brands went through two phas­es: dis­cov­ery (of new chan­nels like social media, mobile…) and inno­va­tion (pro­gram­mat­ic buy­ing, new mea­sure­ment tools…). Now they must focus their resources and efforts on cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion anew.

Marketers as customers’ advocates

Accord­ing to a recent Adobe study, 7 in 10 mar­keters believe mar­ket­ing is entire­ly dif­fer­ent today than when they start­ed their mar­ket­ing career. More­over, 5 in 6 mar­keters feel this trans­for­ma­tion is accel­er­at­ing. Like it or not, mar­ket­ing is evolv­ing fast, and it must face new chal­lenges. The good news is this evo­lu­tion will strength­en marketing’s influ­ence inside organ­i­sa­tions and increase its con­tri­bu­tion to rev­enue. We already know that hap­py cus­tomers are will­ing to spend more, this is where marketing’s new respon­si­bil­i­ty comes into focus: being the con­duc­tor of a new holis­tic approach to cus­tomers satisfaction.

The SoLoMo revolution is over

Dur­ing the last 10 years, social media and mobile has defin­i­tive­ly changed the way cus­tomers shop and inter­act with brands. This change is so strong that we can bare­ly remem­ber what our dai­ly lives looked like before the advent of Face­book and smart­phones. The com­bi­na­tion of these two change fac­tors pushed trans­paren­cy and prox­im­i­ty to the fore­front. By being always con­nect­ed and always able to express them­selves with ultra-sim­ple pub­li­ca­tion tools, cus­tomers forced a new rela­tion­al mod­el with brands accus­tomed to some kind of dis­tance. This “com­fort zone” is not effec­tive any­more, since cus­tomers now have the abil­i­ty to pub­licly ques­tion brands through Face­book or Twit­ter, and to do in-store price com­par­i­son through mobile apps. I assume that as a cus­tomer you enjoy this new real­i­ty every day, but do you recog­nise it in your pro­fes­sion­al envi­ron­ment? Accord­ing to the afore­men­tioned Adobe sur­vey, 3 in 4 mar­keters believe the rise of mobile has tak­en mar­ket­ing into new ter­ri­to­ry, and half of them believe mar­ket­ing today is all about mobile.

This arti­cle is not about the SoLo­Mo rev­o­lu­tion (i.e. Social + Local + Mobile), we will not debate on the impact of social and mobile on retail since it has already been done. What is impor­tant now is that brands and organ­i­sa­tions acknowl­edge this fact and make the appro­pri­ate changes to their mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy and tac­tics. Yes, change is hard, but it is manda­to­ry in this new rela­tion­al par­a­digm where sat­is­fied cus­tomers are not nec­es­sar­i­ly loy­al. The best way to stim­u­late this change is to nar­row the num­ber of lay­ers between exec­u­tives and cus­tomers. Drag a C‑level exec­u­tive to a near­by store, and he will wit­ness all these shop­pers glued to their smart­phone. Then watch him search for online prod­uct reviews so that he can be faced to the harsh real­i­ty. It might be painful, but in any case, it is always ben­e­fi­cial to lis­ten to the cus­tomers with­out any fil­ter. This is where social media can help, rein­forced by smart­phones: to pro­vide a direct chan­nel to con­nect with your cus­tomers. Again, this arti­cle is not about the impact of social and mobile, but about the way brands can exploit them to out­per­form com­pe­ti­tion. As social media and smart­phones have been around for near­ly ten years, the explo­ration phase is over and brands must mas­ter these new chan­nels in order to stay in the game.

Programmatic isn‘t magic

Pro­gram­mat­ic buy­ing has for­ev­er changed the way brands buy adver­tis­ing. New tools allows brands to tar­get and mea­sure cus­tomers at a pre­ci­sion lev­el we would nev­er had dreamed of 15 years ago. These new tech­nolo­gies are now avail­able to every organ­i­sa­tion: from inter­na­tion­al brands to SMBs. Yes, real-time bid­ding, behav­iour­al tar­get­ing and dynam­ic cre­ative opti­mi­sa­tion plat­forms are very pow­er­ful tools, but with great pow­er comes great com­plex­i­ty. As adver­tis­ing tech­nolo­gies become more and more sophis­ti­cat­ed, brands can eas­i­ly lose focus and drawn them­selves into a vicious cir­cle, i.e. deploy­ing new tech­nolo­gies sim­ply because they can, or because their com­peti­tors are.

I am not ques­tion­ing the effec­tive­ness of these new tech­nolo­gies, but the rel­e­van­cy of auto­mat­ed tools to improve cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion. We all agree on the abil­i­ty of pro­gram­mat­ic buy­ing to dras­ti­cal­ly reduce CPM, but how is this help­ing the customer‘s over­all expe­ri­ence? The hard truth is that despite all the fuzzi­ness about the adtech rev­o­lu­tion, it can’t do mag­ic, and some­times, it can dam­age the long-term rela­tion­ship you try to build with your new cus­tomers. Those of you who have pur­chased a prod­uct online, but are still harassed by ban­ner ads try­ing to sell you the exact same prod­uct at a dis­count­ed price knows how harm­ful a retar­get­ing cam­paign can be if not set care­ful­ly. As we begin to see the lim­its of pro­gram­mat­ic buy­ing and auto­mat­ed solu­tions, the inno­va­tion phase is over because online ban­ners, even hyper-tar­get­ed, will nev­er con­tribute to mak­ing a bet­ter experience.

Customer Experience is the new Holy Grail

10 years ago, online mar­ket­ing was all about traf­fic (“bring more peo­ple in, it’s the bet­ter way to grow busi­ness”). We are now in the sec­ond half of 2015, and as cus­tomers‘ atten­tion have reached a new low (thanks to Face­book, Insta­gram, Buz­zFeed and the like) acqui­si­tion cost has picked to new heights. Dri­ving more vis­i­tors to your web­site is not the solu­tion to all your prob­lems, and it has nev­er been so dif­fi­cult. This brings us to the fol­low­ing ques­tion: why always seek for new­per­for­mance cus­tomers while you can achieve your busi­ness goals with exist­ing ones? Not only cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion is cru­cial to loy­al­ty and ARPU (Aver­age Rev­enue Per User), but it is ful­ly ben­e­fi­cial to your brand’s rep­u­ta­tion, and it’s abil­i­ty to attract new cus­tomers through word of mouth. Long sto­ry short: cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion is key to profitability.

User expe­ri­ence (UXP) as a dis­ci­pline is not new, but we first have to agree on what a ‘user’ stands for, and on what you try to improve in the end. To sum­marise a painful expla­na­tion, Cus­tomer Expe­ri­ence (CXP) is a holis­tic approach to cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion, it can be described as UXP applied to busi­ness con­cerns with a core focus on sat­is­fac­tion and ease of use. The last point is key to an opti­mised expe­ri­ence: remov­ing the has­sle and fric­tions on each step of the buy­ing process and pos­ses­sion cycle. To achieve this, brands need to step into cus­tomers’ shoes, to look through their eyes. To do so, cre­at­ing a Cus­tomer Jour­ney Map can be a great way to eval­u­ate and sum­ma­rize cus­tomers’ experience.

Per­for­mance is still a major issue, but by focus­ing on acqui­si­tion and/or trans­for­ma­tion, you’re com­pet­ing in a race to the bot­tom which will inevitably dri­ve you to ever shrink­ing mar­gins. By plac­ing Cus­tomer Expe­ri­ence at the top of your pri­or­i­ty list, you will com­pete to max­imise the per­ceived val­ue, which will allow you to main­tain (or even raise) your mar­gins. Put in anoth­er way: with a trans­for­ma­tion-dri­ven approach, only the cus­tomer wins, while with an expe­ri­ence-dri­ven approach, every­body wins.

Quick check­list to mas­ter Cus­tomer Experience

In order to max­imise your cus­tomer expe­ri­ence, I rec­om­mend to take the fol­low­ing actions:

(This arti­cle orig­i­nally fea­tured as part of an Upload Mag­a­zine “Cus­tomer Expe­ri­ence” spe­cial pow­ered by Adobe)