The line between a digital experience that wows your customers, creates loyalty, and delivers increased revenue and margins, and one that sends them running for the doors is getting harder to navigate, but is now essential in every industry. Here’s how to do it.
The digital experience has become a primary driver of business value and competitive advantage.
No matter the industry or whether you sell to businesses, governments, or consumers, your customers now expect a digitally-enabled customer experience that is simple, intuitive, and engaging.
The line between a digital experience that wows your customers, creates loyalty, and delivers increased revenue and margins, and one that sends them running for the doors, however, is getting harder to navigate.
The need to create an exceptional digital experience is now essential to every industry, but some industry sectors have been on the front lines of this evolution. One such industry is the retail sector. Under constant threat of disruption, retailers have responded by continually developing new digitally-powered experiences that transform customer engagement.
Working with its clients to create these types of exceptional digital experiences, Kony, a leading application development platform, shared with me six essential elements it identified that can help any organization, in any industry, do the same.
The first step to creating exceptional digital experiences is deep and meaningful personalization. This is unlike the type of simple personalization techniques that many organizations use today, which, as a result, are insufficient and can even backfire.
The foundation of an exceptional digital experience is deep personalization rooted in analytics and delivered in real-time. Most importantly, organizations must use data on a customer’s past actions and engagements to anticipate their needs and desires, and curate an experience that is most likely to engage them — rather than one that merely shows them more things to buy.
This type of personalization demands that organizations develop a deep understanding of their customers and their interests, and do so from multiple data sources such as purchase history, browsing history, and loyalty data. Organizations must then use the resulting analytics to tune their interactions and deliver information and offers at the right time and via the most appropriate channels to enhance the customer’s experience.
Organizations must further apply personalization across the full spectrum of the customer’s journey and in concert with factors, such as seasonality, that may impact the experience the customer desires.
This first element leads to the second, almost ironic, element: creating a customer experience that is, in fact, customer-centric.
This element borders on being non-sensical. How can a customer experience, after all, be anything but customer-centric?
Despite all the talk about the customer experience, however, many organizations continue to look at that experience solely from the perspective of how they can use it to sell more things.
Kony found that those retailers that were most successful and created the most impactful experiences were relentless in focusing on the customer and their point-of-view as the primary perspective as they applied technology in their engagement with them.
This included approaches, for instance, like leveraging image-based product recognition to enable customers to take a picture of an object in their home and use it to find related products and accessories, and augmented reality applications which enable customers to visualize how a potential purchase will look in their home.
The critical common element in these approaches is that the retailers developed these innovations by seeing the experience through the customer’s eyes. While these new approaches often led to a purchase or increased revenue, their primary function was to help the customer explore and engage on their terms.
The third element is about connecting that customer experience to the organization’s brand promise — and then using forms of artificial intelligence (AI) to supercharge it.
For example, one retailer began by exploring how they could institute voice-powered product search into a mobile application. They quickly realized, however, that a customer might be searching for any number of things long before they were ready to purchase anything, including what they could make with an item they might purchase and videos that demonstrated how to do so.
They realized that they had a golden opportunity to bring their brand promise to life by using Natural Language Processing (NLP) to create a voice-enabled search capability that could serve its customers across multiple stages of their journey.
The fourth element of creating exceptional digital experiences is to flip a staple of marketing programs on its head: the marketing campaign.
Even the term campaign sends the wrong message. Campaigns are what armies or politicians execute to overcome an adversary — not exactly the greatest metaphor if you’re trying to create a differentiated customer experience.
Leading retailers, therefore, are using AI, analytics, and their resulting personalization capabilities to change the way they look at marketing campaigns.
Rather than using a marketing campaign to walk a customer down some pre-ordained path to a purchase, these organizations use their intimate knowledge of their customers to create contextual and highly personalized engagement journeys that enable customers to explore ideas and create the experience they want — which, not incidentally, often lead to better sales conversions.
In their efforts to create better digital experiences, leading retailers discovered that many negative experiences were rooted in one thing: customers didn’t know where to go.
After all, it’s difficult to have a great experience if you’re lost.
Using a combination of technologies to understand a customer’s physical location and then combining location with contextual data and analytics to predict customer needs, leading organizations transform the customer experience on a tangible level.
The industry refers to this application of technology as wayfinding, and it is applicable far beyond retail. Any company that physically interacts with its customers can dramatically improve the digital experience by focusing on this very physical issue.
The final element of creating exceptional digital experiences is to recognize that even in this global, digitally-enabled world, locality still matters.
Business needs often vary dramatically from geography to geography and from constituency to constituency.
On a global level, cultural nuances may drive this need. But needs can also vary significantly based on everything from local government regulations to micro-market demands. Likewise, regionally or globally dispersed constituencies often have their own unique needs.
Part of creating a personalized customer experience, therefore, demands that organizations meet these specialized needs or requirements, but do so in a way that doesn’t result in massive application creep.
The ability, therefore, to create micro-applications that perform discrete functions and then combine them to meet the needs of specific geographies or constituencies becomes a critical element of creating differentiated digital experiences.
As organizations grapple with changing market demands and customer expectations, the stakes keep getting higher.
Relying on the simple techniques of even a few years ago are not only insufficient, they are also likely to make an organization seem out-of-touch with its customers.
Organizations must, therefore, embrace both the technologies and the approaches that will help them create digital experiences that engage their customers in meaningful and impactful ways far beyond merely trying to increase transactional revenue.
Creating these types of experiences will demand a fresh look at both how organizations imagine and create experiences for their customers, and in how they apply their technology resources to do so.
Copyright © Intellyx LLC. As of the time of writing, Kony is an Intellyx customer. Intellyx retains final editorial control of this paper.