Increasingly, companies are very interested in how they can engage with, nurture and build loyalty with their customers better, given especially the digitisation of channels for marketing, sales and distribution. It is important to understand that customer experience is not something that can be dealt with piecemeal, and instead it is how positive or negative the entire journey is that matters, more so than ever before. Agility can help clients map these journeys and develop targeted interventions that make a difference.
Jeff Bezos | Amazon
“We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.”
First there was price, then product, now its experience
Price: During the industrial era up to 1900s, as the industrialised complex was able to generate high volume of goods and trade became global, price and availability were the key differentiators amongst competing products. Whether it was a bar of soap, a shirt, or a pair of shoes, ultimately the decision customers made was based on price and whether or not the product was available to customers in a given market, i.e. if their was a shipping route between supply and demand.
Product and branding: Large scale production in pursuit of economies of scale quickly saturated the market with products and services, and the need to differentiate thus increased through targeted appeal to specific customer segments. The era of branding then came to pass; companies adopted slogans, hired ambassadors, used snazzy logos, and built presence on radio and television. By the 1970s and ’80s, manufacturers fully recognised the way in which consumers developed relationships with their brands-and how they could infuse them with a clear proposition, values, and special qualities to broaden their appeal.
Experience: Given the rise of digital and mobile, super-brands like Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple have reset customer expectations and significantly raised the bar for brand experiences. Interactions are seamless, contextual and relevant, and increasingly based around ecosystems of integrated products, services and information: through both physical and digital. Even physical brands such as Apple, Samsung, P&G, Unilever and BMW have intertwined digital experiences through social media engagement, content marketing, online loyalty, and ecommerce sales, to name a few, in order to maintain their relevancy in an ever more noisy and confusing consumer marketplace. According to Walker Research, by 2020 customer experience will overtake price and product as a main brand differentiator.
How experience manifests itself is diverse
Today the internet has added multiple layers of dimensionality to the experience. In summary, the following are worth noting: targeting and personalisation, social and peer influence, digital marketing and sales interactions, and digitally enabled CVM e.g. loyalty schemes and promotions.
Take physical goods and services today as an example. If purchased online they are delivered through a dizzying network of interactions; from a customer making purchase on an online site, signaling the purchase to the provider over the web, cross-referencing to live inventory as that happens, to the eventual last mile delivery utilising one of many ecommerce enabled logistics provider. Lastly, an email confirmation and thank you that goes out to the customer, inviting him or her to post a review on the website. The review then serves as a consideration trigger for other purchasers of the product further down the road. There are many potential failure points leveraging infrastructure of third parties that could lead to negative experiences for the customer.
As for virtual goods and services, such as Netflix, Facebook and Google, the bar is even higher. To start with, the competitive landscape is truly global as the internet knows little to no geographic boundaries. And with business models generally being ad-funded or freemium / with free trial, ultimately the deciding buying factor for a consumer is whether the experience is up to their expectation. This may sound trivial, but in a marketplace where competition is as infinite as the world expansive, meeting an ever evolving customer expectation is not an easy feat.
Steve Jobs | Apple
“You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology, not the other way around.”
The average number of steps and potential points of failure and drop-off for a consumer to make a purchase of a physical product is at least five, considering buyers often start their journey searching on Google and may later sit on their checkout carts for days before committing to an actual order. These are some stats for an average ecommerce purchase:
Click rate / site landing from search ~3.5% on average
Product view detail from landing ~45%
Add to cart from product view ~30% on average
Purchase from cart ~20% on average
Repeat purchase rate ~20% on average
In other words a 0.02% purchase rate from initial search intent
Needless to say, there is much room for improvement. There are three non-MECE dimensions of compounding: (1) every funnel step improvement if repeated at every step has exponential potential impact, (2) repeat behaviour that comes about from repeat purchasing and loyalty brings users back into the funnel multiple times, (3) as most digital businesses are heavily reliant on new users, improving the funnel for them pays great dividends over the mid-long term.
Taking a total market viewpoint
It is important to be mindful that customer experience is not static. Fundamentally, as more and more companies offer products and services to the same finite customers, the expectation of those customers tend to change dramatically with time. While 10 years ago, you would compare an online video service to a rudimentary (at this time) YouTube proposition, today YouTube offers a best in class user experience, along with other players like Netflix and Amazon Prime. While 10 years ago prospective buyers would only price-check online for prices of items they found in physical stores, today 90% of buyers read reviews and 84% trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. And today, there are literally thousands of alternatives for consumers to access a particular good or service.
At Agility we recommend that, beyond data from the business realities of today, a deep study of current trends we see across the marketplace - for example, cutting across competitor propositions and statistics, broad long-term trends in consumer psychography and demographics, primary and secondary consumer research, benchmarked and standardised operational statistics - in order to better forecast future evolution of market and business realities and develop robust interventions that have a lasting impact to the business.
What do you think are problems faced by your customers as far as their journey's are concerned?