Customer experience in the age of change, by Merkle’s Victor Madueno

There is a clear misalignment between the experience marketers think they are delivering and what customers really feel, writes Merkle MENA senior commercial director Victor Madueno.

As Covid-19 relentlessly affects organisations and consumers into the second half of 2020, marketers are continuing to evolve how they deliver consumer experiences. As consumers become increasingly digital and demand timelier and more relevant brand interactions, the need for modern marketing technology powered by first-party data has grown. From the impending death of the third-party cookie to the uptick in privacy regulations, to the changes in consumer behaviour caused by the global pandemic, marketers today are being forced to adapt to an increasingly challenging environment.

In today’s economy, brands need to embrace change and create opportunity by adopting a new paradigm, best represented by the equation: data transformation + digital transformation = customer experience transformation, where:

  • The privacy-safe acquisition, management, analysis, and activation of valuable data informs customer experiences in real-time;
  • The design and delivery of contextually relevant and personally informed customer experiences has an impact across marketing, sales, service, and commerce;
  • The orchestrated combination of all these elements results in a ‘total customer experience’ that drives competitive differentiation and measurable business results.

In our latest Q3 2020 – Merkle’s Customer Engagement Report, we have seen an even bigger gap than in Q2 between what marketeers think they are delivering in terms of customer experience, and what consumers feel those brands are truly delivering. There is a clear misalignment on the delivery of those experiences, but ultimately, it is what your customer feels what really matters.

The report found that 34 per cent of marketeers think they are delivering a good total customer experience to their customers, but only 18 per cent of customers believe that brands are delivering a good customer experience.

In the ever-changing quest to provide customers with exceptional experiences, marketers need to find the right technology to deliver on these expectations.

Our findings show an overwhelming correlation between enabling a good experience and delivering ROI. When asked to rate their platform on a scale of one to five, 89 per cent of respondents chose a four or a five, saying their current martech enables an omnichannel experience for their customers. This positivity is most evident among respondents in the travel, media, and entertainment (TM&E) and retail & FMCG sectors, who selected these options 93 per cent and 89 per cent of the time, respectively.

Our research found that only 26 per cent of marketers say they have a distributed streaming platform to leverage real-time data throughout the enterprise, yet 90 per cent acknowledge its importance in delivering the customer experience.

Understanding customer identity is the driving force behind journey orchestration. By necessity, this framework transcends pure marketing comms. Every touchpoint – from web visits to transactional app push notifications, and call centre conversations – must be considered within each customer’s journey as part of the value exchange from the data that an individual has shared. These interactions require centralised orchestration to deliver the consistent, hyper-personalised engagements that drive a connected customer experience.

Meet your customer once and follow him/her throughout an orchestrated framework. Don’t let awkward moments happen across their journey; they shouldn’t feel that they are meeting your brand for the first time, every time.

As marketers continue buying and integrating platforms within their customised marketing technology stack, we are advising customers to follow a “platform-first,” not “platform-only” approach.

Based on this platform-first approach, integrated media must adopt customer relationship management principles to drive the total customer experience – the one that management envisions, as well as the real experience your customers are demanding.

We always advise our clients to move away from channel-led, or stand-alone campaigns, and gear towards customer journey- orchestration frameworks to gain a total customer view. This is the only way you can understand the pitfalls of your strategy and the overall customer experience gap, and ultimately deliver a unified journey that delivers on your e-commerce ambitions.

Businesses require strategies to have a clear path to success. But in order to have a holistic and cohesive strategy across all your business touchpoints, you will need to build an orchestration strategy framework that stitches it all together.