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Customers continue to visit Amazon to discover new products or brands, yet their decisions are seldom influenced by digital ads seen on the site.
When customers visit Amazon, 65% said they don’t even notice the ads featured, while 25% find them “useful or relevant,” according to the “2018 Amazon Shopper Behavior Study: How Shoppers will Browse and Buy on Amazon,” a report from CPC Strategy.
According to the data, Amazon continues to improve its native advertising experience for shoppers, a move that ensures the company is helping consumers to find the right product, for the right price, at the right time. It also means additional digital ads are not paramount to driving sales.
For example, more than 50% of Amazon shoppers aren’t willing to go beyond the second page when searching for a product. Meanwhile, they are more open to trying new products, as 80% are open to “occasionally” or “frequently” trying new products or brands on Amazon. This is a huge jump from 50% last year. And customer reviews are not spurring this curiosity, as approximately 80% of these customers don’t entirely trust Amazon’s customer reviews.
Despite Amazon being their “go-to” shopping source however, 74.8% of Amazon shoppers still price check on other sites.
When customers are ready to make a purchase with Amazon, more shoppers are open to using voice-enabled devices. In fact, 14.2% of Amazon customers made a purchase via a voice-enabled device in the last six months, and 61.3% of voice-enabled device owners have an Amazon Dot or Echo, the study said.
“We expected that some Amazon shoppers owned Amazon’s voice enabled devices, and had made purchases using Alexa, but we weren’t prepared to see numbers like this so early into the game,” said Nii Ahene, COO and cofounder of CPC Strategy. “The battle for ultimate marketplace dominance isn’t over, but Amazon is off to an early lead.”
The human part of customer experience seems SO easy. Then why is it SO unique? Because it takes a human effort. In this video, I want to show you a few examples of companies/people that made a difference through human effort. Everyone knows what to do to win the heart of customers, still it remains unique: that is the paradox of customer experience.
More about Steven
Steven is an expert in customer focus in a digital world. He is a popular speaker at home and abroad. In his keynote presentations, Steven takes his audience on a journey to the world of modern customer relationships in a clever, enthusiastic and inspiring way.
Steven is the author of three bestselling books. He became known for his first book, The Conversation Manager, which won the award for most innovative marketing book of 2010. Steven also wrote The Conversation Company and his most recent book, When Digital Becomes Human. When Digital Becomes Human received the award of ‘Best Marketing Book of 2015’. Over 85,000 copies of his books were sold.
Steven is also an entrepreneur. He is a partner in consultancy firm Nexxworks, a co-founder of Zembro (a wearable start-up) and the co-founder of content creation company Snackbytes. He spent the first 12 years of his career as a consultant and managing partner of the innovative market research company InSites Consulting. During that time, the company grew from 8 to 130 staff with offices in 5 countries. Steven is also a part-time marketing professor at Vlerick Business School.
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In a world where physical and virtual environments are rapidly converging, companies need to meet customer needs anytime, anywhere. Here’s how.
Many of the executives we speak with in banking, retail, and other sectors are still struggling to devise the perfect cross-channel experiences for their customers—experiences that take advantage of digitization to provide customers with targeted, just-in-time product or service information in an effective and seamless way.
Companies can be lulled into thinking they’re already doing everything right. Most know how to think through customer search needs or have ramped up their use of social media. Some are even “engineering” advocacy—creating easy, automatic ways for consumers to post reviews or otherwise characterize their engagement with a brand.
Yet tools and standards are changing faster than companies can react. Customers will soon be able to search for products by image, voice, and gesture; automatically participate in others’ transactions; and find new opportunities via devices that augment their reality (think Google Glass). How companies engage customers in these digital channels matters profoundly—not just because of the immediate opportunities to convert interest to sales but because two-thirds of the decisions customers make are informed by the quality of their experiences all along their journey, according to research by our colleagues.3
To keep up with rapid technology cycles and improve their multiplatform marketing efforts, companies need to take a different approach to managing the consumer decision journey—one that embraces the speed that digitization brings and focuses on capabilities in three areas:
Let’s consider what an optimized cross-channel experience could look like when companies target improved capabilities in these three areas.
Imagine that a couple has just bought its first home and is now looking to purchase a washer and a dryer. Mike and Linda start their journey by visiting several big-box retailers’ websites. At one store’s site, they identify three models they are interested in and save them to a “wish list.” Because space in their starter home is limited—and because it is a relatively big purchase in their eyes—they decide they need to see the items in person.
Under an optimized cross-channel experience, the couple could find the nearest physical outlet on the retailer’s website, get directions using Google Maps, and drive over to view the desired products. Even before they walk through the doors, a transmitter mounted at the retailer’s entrance identifies Mike and Linda and sends a push alert to their cell phones welcoming them and providing them with personalized offers and recommendations based on their history with the store. In this case, they receive quick links to the wish list they created, as well as updated specs and prices for the washers and dryers that they had shown interest in (captured in their click trails on the store’s website). Additionally, they receive notification of a sale—“15 percent off selected brand appliances, today only”—that applies to two of the items they had added to their wish list.
When they tap on the wish list, the app provides a store map directing Mike and Linda to the appliances section and a “call button” to speak with an expert. They meet with the salesperson, ask some questions, take some measurements, and close in on a particular model and brand of washer and dryer. Because the store employs sophisticated tagging technologies, information about the washer and dryer has automatically been synced with other applications on the couple’s mobile phones—they can scan reviews using their Consumer Reports app, text their parents for advice, ask Facebook friends to weigh in on the purchase, and compare the retailer’s prices against others. Mike and Linda can also take advantage of a “virtual designer” function on the retailer’s mobile app that, with the entry of just a few key pieces of information about room size and decor, allows them to preview how the washer and dryer might look in their home.
All the input is favorable, so the couple decides to take advantage of the15 percent offer and buy the appliances. They use Mike’s “smartwatch” to authenticate payment. They walk out of the store with a date and time for delivery; a week later, on the designated day, they receive confirmation that a truck is in their area and that they will be texted within a half hour of arrival time—no need to cancel other plans just to wait for the washer and dryer to arrive. Three weeks after that, the couple gets a message from the retailer with offers for other appliances and home-improvement services tailored toward first-year home owners. And the cycle begins again.
As this example makes clear, the forces enabling consumers to expect real-time engagement are unstoppable. Across the entire customer journey, every touchpoint is a brand experience and an opportunity to engage the consumer—and digital touchpoints just keep multiplying. To maximize digital channels, companies need to focus on improving their “3-D” capabilities.
Even in this era of big data and widespread digitization of customer information, some companies still lack a 360-degree view of the people who buy their products and services. They typically measure the performance of direct sales activities such as product pitches and encourage downloads using “last-action attribution” analyses, which assess campaigns in isolation rather than in the context of the entire cross-channel consumer decision journey. Usually these data will have been stored in disparate locations and legacy systems rather than in a central server. Complicating matters further is the range and quantity of unstructured data out there—information about consumers’ behaviors and preferences that is, for instance, captured in online reviews and social-media posts. In our experience, this type of data is usually the least understood and therefore the least utilized by companies.
To get the full customer portrait rather than just a series of snapshots, companies need a central data mart that combines all the contacts a customer has with a brand: basic consumer data plus information about transactions, browsing history, and customer-service interactions (for an illustrative example of how companies can lose potential customers by failing to optimize digital channels, see exhibit). Tools like Clickfox and Teradata can help marketers gather these data and begin to pinpoint opportunities to engage more effectively with consumers across the decision journey. This collection effort requires input from people across multiple functions—a complex undertaking, to be sure, but the payoff can be big. Our work in this area suggests that the growth rate of earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization of grocers that focus on customer analytics is 11 percent, compared with just 3 percent on average for their main competitors. For big-box retailers, the difference is 10 percent compared with 2 percent.4
With a comprehensive data set in hand, companies can undertake the sort of quick-hit “shop diagnostics” that many tell us is lacking in their marketing and e-commerce programs. Using analytic applications such as SAS and R, and by applying various algorithms and models to longitudinal data, companies can better model the cost of their marketing efforts, find the most effective journey patterns, spot potential dropout points, and identify new customer segments. Based on its analysis of click-through behaviors, for instance, one regional retailer saw that a particular set of customers preferred digital shopping over physical and always read e-mail on Saturdays, and so the retailer altered its e-mail campaign to send this cohort online offers only on Saturdays.
Additionally, by using business-process software and services from vendors such as Adobe Systems, ExactTarget, Pegasystems, and Responsys, companies can identify in real time the basic “triggers” for what individual customers need and value—regardless of the product or service—and personalize their approach when making cross- or up-sell offers. They can also use these tools to generate automated reports that track customer trends and key performance indicators. For instance, the regional retailer’s analytics suggested that two of the customers who read their e-mail only on Saturdays were in the midst of a career change; both had revised their profiles on LinkedIn within the past three days. Based on its analytics efforts, the company was able to create targeted offers for each—one received information about laptop bags (based on her previous purchases) while the other received information about suits (based on his previous purchases).
Already, the companies employing these types of advanced analytics have seen significantly improved click-through rates and higher conversion rates (between three and ten times the average). Additionally, McKinsey analysis shows that using data to make better marketing decisions can increase marketing productivity by between 15 and 20 percent—that’s as much as $200 billion ≈ cost of NASA Space shuttle program
“>[≈ UN estimated cost to end world hunger, 2011] given the average annual global marketing spend of $1 trillion ≈ Value of US natural gas reserves”>[≈ Public US health care spending, 2005].5
Careful orchestration of the consumer decision journey is incredibly complex given the varying expectations, messages, and capabilities associated with each channel. According to published reports, 48 percent of US consumers believe companies need to do a better job of integrating their online and off-line experiences. There is a premium for getting this right. One major bank unlocked more than $300 million in additionalmargins by making better use of digital channels. It tapped into underutilized customer data and delivered targeted marketing messages at various points in the purchase-decision process. The bank used the data, plus various personalization and testing tools, to inform changes in marketing campaigns for certain product lines; every next step for every customer was progressively tailored to help the customer take the best action.
Digital natives such as Amazon, eBay, and Google have been leading the pack in resetting consumers’ expectations for cross-channel convenience. (Think of eBay’s Now mobile app, which provides one-touch ordering from any of eBay’s retail partners and same-day delivery in some US cities, or Amazon’s recent incorporation of a help button in the company’s latest-generation Kindle Fire tablet, linking users to a live help-desk representative.) These players have perfected the ability to test new user experiences and constantly evolve their offers—often for segments of one.
This lean, start-up approach might sound counterintuitive to large, entrenched marketing organizations in which decisions are made at a snail’s pace, but test-and-learn methods can help companies decide how best to optimize (and customize) critical design attributes of the consumer decision journey at various points along the way. In the appliances example discussed earlier, the retailer’s customer analytics allowed it to design an experience for the couple that was completely customized to their context—from their initial online searches to their physical and virtual interactions at the store and to their follow-up with the company postpurchase. Rather than push what could be construed as intrusive (even creepy) messaging, the retailer provided Mike and Linda with the most useful information at every point in their decision journey and offered the easiest possible path to purchase and delivery.
To create similarly frictionless experiences, some companies have created 24/7 digital “window shops” to test product ideas and customer interactions and collect rapid feedback without the need for additional labor or inventory. Several companies that offer inherently complex products or services have incorporated “gaming” elements into their experiences—tweaking the navigation, content architecture, and visual presentation to allow consumers to trade off and test various options and prices associated with a product before making a decision. One financial-services firm redesigned its mobile app for collecting credit-card applications to incorporate the customer context. Previously it had a one-size-fits-all interface; in the redesigned version, various elements of the mobile app’s interface—such as pricing, stage of process, and designated credit limits—are dynamically generated based on existing customer information. And the app’s page layout and navigation are rendered simply, allowing for easy completion within just a few clicks. The result has been a significant uptick in online applications.
In our experience, too many companies are afraid to launch “good enough” campaigns—ones that are continually refined as customers’ purchase behaviors and stated preferences change. Under the direction of conservative senior leaders, teams tend to launch campaigns that take too long to get off the ground and end up revealing few new insights. Instead, they must be willing to conduct lots of small-scale experiments with cloud or proxy website services to pilot new designs and prove their value for investment.
These types of agile, data-driven activities must be supported by an organization that has the right people, tools, and processes. Many companies will have some of the talent required, but not all, and executives will inevitably face resistance when it comes to introducing lean tools and techniques into their sales, marketing, and IT processes. The most successful omnichannel marketers we’ve seen have established centers of excellence in both analytics and digital marketing, and they practice end-to-end management of microcampaigns. Their campaign-building processes typically include systematic calendaring, brainstorming, and evaluation sessions to allow for one-week and two-week turnaround times. And roles and responsibilities are clearly defined. Far from creating a rigid, hierarchical process, this model frees up individuals to iterate quickly—what is sometimes called “failing fast forward” in the world of high tech.
At one bank, for instance, business-unit leaders gather each month to talk about their progress in improving different consumer journeys. As new products and campaigns are launched, the team places a laminated card illustrating the journey at the center of the conference-room table and discusses its assumptions about the flow of the experience for different segments and about how the various functional groups need to contribute: Where does customer data need to be captured and reused later? How will the design of the campaign flow from mass media to social media and then on to the website? What is the follow-up experience once a customer sets up an account? The team has also appointed dedicated mobile and social-media executives to become evangelists for strengthening the omnichannel experience, helping business units raise their game along a range of consumer interactions. The company’s first wave of fixes and new programs generated tens of millions of dollars in the first six months, and the team expects it to continue scaling beyond $100 million [≈ Large city office building] in added annual margins.
Building an agile marketing organization will take time, of course. Companies should start by assembling a “scrum team” that will bring the right people together to test, learn, and scale. The team should incorporate cross-functional perspectives (marketing, e-commerce, IT, channel management, finance, and legal), and its members must adopt a war-room mentality—for instance, making tough calls about which campaigns are working and which aren’t, and which messages should take priority for which segments; launching new tests every week rather than every six months; and mustering the IT and design resources to create content for every possible type of interaction.
Companies likely will need to hire people with skills that differ from the ones they rely on now. Some organizations have developed innovative, venture capital–like strategies for finding and recruiting the people they need. Staples, for instance, has built an e-commerce innovation center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to better recruit technology talent from nearby Harvard University and MIT, and it recently bought conversion-marketing start-up Runa to act as a talent hub on the West Coast.
New types of information systems may also be required. The best technology solutions will vary according to a company’s starting point and objectives. Generally, though, companies will get the best results from tools that enable large-scale data management and the integration of databases; the generation of next-best-action and other types of advanced analyses; and simpler campaign testing, execution, and metrics.
Companies need to make strategic decisions about the best pathways to build customer value. Many cite digital as one of their top three priorities in this regard, but few have taken the time to measure the level of digital maturity their organization has achieved. A company’s digital quotient (DQ) is a function of how well defined its long-term digital strategy is, its effectiveness in implementing that strategy, and the strength of its organizational infrastructure and information technologies. The companies that incorporate the notion of DQ into their short list of performance metrics can more effectively monitor their progress across the digital capabilities we’ve outlined here, enabling more targeted investments and accelerated rates of digital growth.
Indeed, the companies that ultimately succeed in omnichannel marketing and sales will likely resemble tech companies and, interestingly, publishers—effectively using big data and digital touchpoints to drive growth and reduce costs, while producing and managing a variety of content (catalogs, coupons, web pages, mobile apps, and user-generated content) in real time across multiple platforms to create breakthrough customer experiences. This means rethinking the analytics that inform their segmentation strategies, the flow of the experiences they design, and the way they set up their internal operations for faster iteration and delivery of service.
The customer journey tells the story of the customer’s buying experience: from discovering their pain, to researching solutions, entering the sales process, and eventually into a relationship with your business.
There are four components that make up the journey: persona, properties, path and purpose.
Persona marketing begins with detailing, in a very specific way, to whom you are marketing.
You start by creating a fictional character based on common traits and then target your marketing accordingly.
Persona traits include a combination of demographic information, motivations for buying, and typical day-to-day behavior.
A well-detailed persona should take up a full sheet of paper. It not only lists their characteristics but tells a story about who they are and why behave the way they do.
This characterization of your customers focuses your marketing efforts. Instead of trying to market to the masses, you focus on a few distinct individuals.
Because these individuals represent a much larger population, what speaks to them will speak to your entire market base.
About 70 percent of the buying process occurs anonymously, and it takes place on a combination of different web properties.
Properties are all the places a customer can research and discover your brand, product, or industry online. This could include your website, a mobile app, social media page, YouTube, or customer review site.
Businesses need to know where their customers go to obtain information and to find solutions.
The path details the sequence, or the order, in which people interact with you leading up to a purchase.
Studies show users visit your website several times via multiple marketing channels (such as email or social media) before they engage with you.
Social media and email marketing bring first-time visitors back to the website a second or third time. Branded search (searching your brand name in Google) or going directly to your website are used just before making a purchase.
Knowing which channels are used at the beginning or end of the customer journey could influence how you value and prioritize them in your marketing.
Determine the purpose of each property in the customer journey, as it relates to the buying funnel.
The buying funnel represents the sequence of steps a buyer takes before making a purchase. It begins with becoming aware of their problem, then a consideration of available options, developing a preference, and ultimately through to purchase.
Does the property help the customer during their opinion and consideration phase? Does it convince them that you are the best choice in the market during their preference and purchase phase?
Different messaging works better, depending on where someone is in the funnel. Promotional messaging is ineffective early in the customer journey, but it becomes more effective the closer someone is to purchasing.
Every property in the consumer path has a purpose that fits in this buying funnel. When those properties successfully deliver on that purpose, you sell more.
Here’s how to foster constructive collaboration between your sales and marketing teams.
Marketing and sales teams typically work on an assembly line of leads: marketers generate leads for salespeople to transform into revenue. However, this process could be even more effective if the two departments combined their resources and insights, notes Brian Solis, principal analyst at Altimeter Group. “Just because they [marketers and salespeople] haven’t worked closely together doesn’t mean it has to remain that way,” Solis says. “Companies are beginning to realize that they can create a new type of team that works together.”
1. Build a Foundation for Innovation
Only 44 percent of respondents think their organizations’ sales and marketing teams work “somewhat well together,” reported Seismic, a sales tools provider, which polled 200 business professionals. “This isn’t surprising since there’s a lot of natural tension between sales and marketing and it takes time for these departments to shift gears and start working more efficiently together,” says Seismic CEO Doug Winter.
Indeed, making cultural changes at an organization are often more difficult to manage than implementing a new piece of software, says Tamir Sigal, CMO at GMC Software, which develops customer communications management software. Last year, Sigal helped his own company’s sales and marketing teams work more efficiently together. “The key challenge was changing the culture of the organization,” he says. “For example, I assumed all the salespeople knew what marketing did but we discovered more education was needed.”It’s also critical to have the support of executive leaders. “It has to be a top-down strategy if people are going to take any changes seriously,” adds Samantha Couzens, GMC’s senior director of Americas field marketing.” Given that the directive to drive more collaboration came from GMC’s CEO, the next step—implementing processes to help the sales and marketing teams actually work more closely together—was easier, Sigal adds.
2. Create a Culture of Trust
While both sales and marketing teams knew they had to work together, they needed an action strategy. The company found that having business development leaders from the sales side collaborate with the marketing department on developing leads created a smoother leads pipeline for the sales team.
“The business development leaders work with marketing on things like account mapping and planning campaigns, which creates a tight-knit group,” Couzens says. “It helps build trust because you’ve got the business development reps qualifying prospects before they reach the sales team and the marketing team gets a better understanding of the types of leads that they need.”
Promoting constant and open communication is important, agrees Austin Paley, director of corporate marketing, at marketing firm Blue Fountain Media. “In digital marketing, the industry is ever-changing, including standards, guidelines, and trends,” Paley notes. “And so we wanted to manage expectations that our sales team was setting with our clients when they were putting together plans.”
The company’s salespeople therefore began including its marketing team in sales conversations with potential clients. This added “legitimacy” to conversations since Blue Fountain’s experts “could further reinforce what our salespeople were vocalizing,” Paley maintains. It also reinforces the feeling that marketers and salespeople are working toward the same goals—meeting customer expectations and driving revenue. Additionally, the marketing team shares industry-related news with the sales team and educates them on special services and offerings as needed.
3. Stay on Track with Data Insights
Once the communication process is in place, keep it moving smoothly. The teams should be encouraged to discuss any frustrations or issues in a constructive manner. Unclear objectives and metrics are a common source of frustration. Therefore, it’s important for the teams to agree that marketing will deliver a certain number of leads that meet a certain quality within set deadlines, and that sales will pursue a certain number of those leads.
“A sales team is responsible for closing what the marketing team is generating when it comes to leads,” Paley notes. “Make sure you’re having a conversation and understand who to go to and how you all can achieve a common goal collaboratively.”
Performance tracking and other data analytics are an effective way to make sure everyone is meeting their goals. For instance, it’s important that “everything marketing does is measurable,” Sigal says. “Whether it’s a new social media campaign, a piece of collateral, or an ad, it has to be clear how this will be measured and what constitutes success.”
Data also plays a critical role in giving organizations insights into the customer lifecycle. With a closed-loop integration, salespeople can track the online behaviors of their leads to make more relevant calls. And marketing can get a better understanding of where their best leads come from to better allocate their time and resources.
The value of accurate, integrated data can’t be understated, Paley notes. “The biggest challenge we were faced with while aligning our sales and marketing more closely was having the appropriate data to understand our leads on a deeper level,” he says. Coincidentally, Blue Fountain Media and GMC Software both use Salesforce.com for marketing and sales purposes, but there are a slew of other CRM and data analytics platforms to choose from.
4. Don’t Forget about Customer Service
Connecting sales and marketing teams internally represents only part of providing a seamless customer experience. Customer service is another critical component of the customer journey. Ironically, many companies forget to include customer service in their strategies for a better experience, Solis notes.
Business leaders have “good intentions in connecting their sales and marketing teams, but they have to remember that customer service must be included too,” he says. “Customer service isn’t just for when something goes wrong, it can also be a way to build relationships.” Customer agents, for example, who have access to the latest offers and product information can provide callers with more knowledgeable answers and give personalized recommendations.
Furthermore, customer feedback surveys can alert marketers and salespeople about the areas they should focus on, Sigal adds. Insights from surveys “become an actionable list to improve what we deliver to the market, how we onboard our customers, and how we service our clients,” he says.
Connecting customer service into the sales and marketing cycle is important, Paley agrees. In fact, not integrating customer service into a company’s marketing and sales efforts points to a problem within the organizational structure.
“If customer service is an entirely different entity it suggests that marketing and sales teams aren’t selling the service honestly or clearly enough,” Paley maintains. “If you need a dedicated team clarifying why or how a service does or doesn’t work outside of the buying process that is something a company should work to address—any questions a customer has should be addressed before he even knows he has them.”
There are multiple ways to build a collaborative customer journey within an organization but applying the fundamentals—fostering a culture of innovation, building trust among employees, using data-driven strategies, and including customer service into the overall strategy—sets companies up for success.
A talk Marc gave at the UI20 conference in Boston, November the 3rd, 2015.
This is Service Design Thinking: http://www.thisisservicedesignthinking.com
This is Service Design Doing: http://www.thisisservicedesigndoing.com
1. The typology of journey maps
2. Customer experience research
3. Prototyping services
4. Service design and start-ups