Digital customer experiences became the primary vehicle for engaging with customers and sustaining business growth during the pandemic. Yet, two years later, research shows that the quality of customer experience declined in the year through April 2022, with the number of companies rated as “good” falling to 22 percent, according to the latest annual study on customer experience from Forrester Research. The purchasing power of Generation Z and Millennials standing at over $165 billion, businesses face a new wave of heightened pressure in surprising and delighting at every touch point of brand experience.
By Rajesh Midha, CEO of Bottle Rocket
Digital customer experience has become ubiquitous. As we move from the era of digital transformation to what now we refer to as the Post-Digital Transformation Age, bringing together digital experience, physical experience, and solving deep human needs is the future. Businesses who have adapted are now wondering “what’s next”?
Excellent digital customer experiences and content
Consumers access digital applications 24/7 and expect to get the information they need within seconds. Welcome to the age of unreasonable expectations. It has become essential for businesses to know and understand customers’ preferences and norms. Customers know that if your brand fails to provide a personalized, frictionless, and attention-grabbing experience, there are other companies they can turn to with one swipe.
Think about yourself as the customer, and you will realize we all have been trained to compare experiences and more interestingly, compare our last brand experience to the next one. It is important to move away from thinking that providing customers with a digital interface is enough and focus on curating the best possible experience that lives up to customer expectations. If we take the QSR (Quick Service Restaurant) space as an example, Chipotle was one of the first fast-food chains that has enabled customers to order online or on the app and then pick up their orders without leaving their cars. By doing so, they have displayed a deep understanding of their customers’ efficiency needs and paved the way to the growing adoption of curb side ordering for a whole sector. At KFC Australia, secret menu combos put together by staff, who would subsequently post them on social media, gained popularity online and offline among existing and new customers. In response to this trend, and to entice more people to download their app, KFC released a secret menu. The chain has fulfilled its customers’ needs for excitement, discovery, and sharing experiences with a community.
Long-term growth, customer retention, and brand affinity lie in these unique experiences and connections.
Actionable insights powered by data
Even though customer data is readily available, there is a gap between the data collected and the data actioned upon. Companies are still struggling to understand the lifecycle of data, missing out on valuable insights. If we take the healthcare system as an example, we see big players such as Walmart entering the market with care services conveniently available in-store. Surgeries, primary care offices, and hospitals are finding themselves under immense pressure to retain the patients turned consumers, and are somewhat unable to tap into multiple opportunities in the urgent care market. Driving more engagement across the patient population starts with a simple push notification – if your patient has missed their flu appointment, why not send them a nudge and remind them, followed by an option to re-book or deliver the shot to their doorstep? Acting on data in a way that is useful to the customer is key to turning engaged customers into loyal customers or even advocates for the brand.
There are also different levels of maturity when it comes to data, and prediction data and algorithms will drive customer retention even more, than reactive data. If we are to expand on our previous example, what if care providers knew which patient would most likely miss their flu shot? Imagine the new level of efficiency this actionable data brings to the table, as well as the opportunity this scenario creates to form a closer relationship with the patient. Use data to identify who your best customer is: who are they? How did they find your business? What patterns do they make across your ecosystem? These insights will help you acquire more of this type of customer and drive the same engagement in other customers.
Emotional connection as a key differentiator
The emotional connection that customers create with a brand will make companies stand out in a “sea of sameness”. Digital customer experiences are no longer only frictionless, personalized, and contextualized – the brand experience has moved beyond utility. Aligning core values and extending participation will stimulate and shape emotional connections within individuals, driving loyalty to the brand. Research has shown that 89 percent of customers stay loyal to a brand if it shares similar values with them.
Again, it is crucial to consider yourself as a customer: what are the emotional states you are going through when engaging with a company, and what does it take to meet them? If you are hungry, you are in a hurry, so an easy-to-use and rapid interface is what you would be after, but if you are looking to experiment with new cuisine, an interface that guides you through the ordering process and gives you information on the culture behind the food and authenticity of the brand will captivate your attention.
With the experience market expanding and customer expectations growing in complexity, the post-Digital Transformation Age has arrived, bringing in new challenges for business leaders. Companies are turning to new digital tools to form deeper customer relationships and stand out from the crowd. Actionable data aids brands in being responsive to customer needs and delivering an experience that is beyond just efficient, an experience that becomes unforgettable.
This article was written by Rajesh Midha, CEO of Bottle Rocket.