Technology and the customer experience
My first post on the concept of customer experience examined its rise in prominence as a key competitive differentiator for organisations over recent years. In particular I explored the major role technology has played in driving a renewed focus on the customer by giving them greater power, voice and control, as well as increasing the choices available to them through the removal of many of the barriers to market entry traditionally faced by non-enterprise organisations. Here I’ll look at another aspect of technology’s impact on the customer experience; namely, how continual digital innovations present new challenges, and opportunities, for organisations seeking to deliver an exceptional customer experience.
Right here, right now
Firstly, let’s turn to one of the most ubiquitous topics around today: mobile. In the last decade the mobile web has gone from being seen as a ultra-modern service enjoyed by a select group to a commonplace part of most people’s daily lives, and expectations of the channel have risen in accordance with this exponential growth. Mobile users now demand access to content and services anytime, anywhere, and with the number of smartphone owners worldwide expected to exceed 1.75bn by the end of this year, it’s an audience no organisation can afford to ignore.
However, mobile service providers haven’t made tapping into this market an easy task; the volume and diversity of devices on offer mean there are more ways your content may be displayed than ever before, requiring more strategic decisions, more designs and more testing in order to ensure a high-quality experience for all of your customers.
The fact that likely user behaviour also changes depending on the platform or device being used (browsing at home is often done on a tablet, for example, while mobiles can be employed on the move to find very specific pieces of information) makes a one-size-fits-all approach ineffective, inefficient and even potentially damaging to your brand.
Fortunately though, there is a wide variety of solutions available to help manage this fragmented and complex landscape, including mobile-specific sites, native and web-based applications, and responsive and adaptive designs. Software providers, too, are stepping up to the challenge with increasingly smart content delivery systems (of which Sitecore is one) able to detect what device an individual is using and automatically serve the appropriate content, for an optimised experience that is as relevant and valuable as possible.
Don’t you know who I am?
Of course, these days a personalised experience means far more than reacting to the device being used, just as consistency is no longer solely about the recognisability of your brand across different platforms and channels. People expect organisations to remember their past interactions and use this information to tailor the experience at a micro level; no doubt influenced by the service they receive from leaders in this area such as Amazon. In fact, last year an Adobe survey revealed that 88% of EU and 94% of US respondents were neutral or positive about customisation, suggesting that users don’t mind data being collected as long as it is used to deliver value to them.
The potential to provide these valuable contextualised experiences also continues to grow as organisations are able to capture, store and apply more information than ever before. Today, progressive organisations can see the history of a customer’s interactions across every touchpoint and at every stage of the purchase lifecycle, helping identify patterns in behaviour in order to predict and anticipate future actions and needs most effectively. Data can also help inform and drive business strategies, by highlighting opportunities for new products that serve previously unmet needs and uncovering lucrative audience segments that are not currently being targeted.
However, while it can be tempting to get carried away with the possibilities of applying data to improve decision-making processes and generate value for your organisation, the rise in data-producing technologies also brings with it new challenges (something we’ve covered in more detail in our big data white paper). For example, more data sources, types and formats now need to be cleansed, aligned and connected in order to ensure the accuracy and relevance of analysis, and teams also need to be able to react incredibly quickly to any findings in order to maximise returns. As a result, solutions that provide easy access to joined-up, real-time data insights have become a priority for many organisations.
A global footprint
As I mentioned briefly in my previous post, technology has had a noticeable impact on the potential for organisations to do business globally, by significantly reducing the overheads required to break into and effectively serve new geographic areas. Consequently valuable markets such as the BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, India and China) are now within the reach of many Western organisations, not just those few that have traditionally dominated. However, this also means that more organisations are attempting to balance the requirements of a worldwide customer base with the need to deliver the locally-targeted, context-aware experiences that customers demand; a complex task that is vital for international success.
Technology has again responded to these trends though, and today it is easier than ever before to serve geographically-disparate audiences while maintaining central control over your brand and business activities. By using content management systems to create multi-lingual sites you can reach out to customers and prospective customers with messaging that is relevant and familiar, while further increasing the power of your site through the use of personalisation tools and strategies that enable content to be tailored in response to specific cultural requirements and individual user preferences.
Global considerations don’t stop at your front-facing website either, and here too software can help your organisation manage these demands. Back-end systems can be used to co-ordinate and support core business tasks, from order processing to customer relationship management, extending the positive experience far beyond digital channels to increase return visits, repeat purchases and customer loyalty.
While this post has covered just a few of the most pressing considerations for organisations today, it’s clear that the impact of technology on driving new customer experience trends can’t be underestimated. As this looks set to continue, the most successful organisations will be those able to take a flexible and nimble approach to identifying which emerging technologies will help support their business goals and rapidly taking action to implement high-quality solutions, no matter what the future brings for the digital sector.