The Customer Experience Economy
Customers today are bombarded with brand messaging & enjoy an abundant choice of channels & products. This necessitates marketers to seek customer experience as a differentiator & to do that- it all begins with an understanding of the customers & mapping out their experiences. In this article, I explore how brands who succeed, get the customer experience story right - by leveraging their marketing & customer journey mapping.
"You've got to start with Customer Experience & work back towards the technology..not the other way around." - Steve Jobs
From commodities to goods to services and today, experiences, marketers have shifted levers by differentiating their brand. Back in the late 90’s, Joe Pine and Jim Gilmore wrote a book on the experience economy and predicted that the drivers of the economy would shift from being a commodity (such as coffee beans) to a packaged product (such as packaged coffee powder) and eventually driving returns by building a great experience around a commodity, such as Starbucks. So the same coffee that was sold as beans gets more premium when Starbucks brewed it in a cup and wrapped it in an experience.
Now you can charge $4 for a cup of coffee, and Pine and Gilmore was predicting that we would be in this experience economy today, which is certainly true when you see how companies like Apple and Netflix have become experience leaders and are controlling the new markets.
"We are in the experience economy. This is important because all market changes are being disrupted now by experiences, and experience leaders are the ones who are controlling the new markets" - Sean Van Tyne , Advisory Board Member,Customer Experience - Thinking Engines Inc.
Why Customer Experience is so Important:
Today, brands that are not focussed on the entire customer experience are unable to stand out against competition and retain leadership. Every touchpoint with the customer counts. Every interaction matters. Brands are expected to live up to their promise at every moment. And to do so, everyone with a business must behave in ways that help make this promise ring true authentically.
The Watermark consulting study based on indexes like Gartner index and Forbes index, identified experience leaders and experience laggards, and then looked at those and compared on how well they did against S&P 500.
The leaders also benefit by not just having a larger customer base or better ARPUs but also by having customers who are more forgiving and stay longer with the brand. Another study done by the Temkin group (refer to the graph below) found that the real power of having an experience that creates a great brand, is that your customers are more forgiving. So there are a lot of reasons why you should care about your brand experience.
The need of the hour is to understand about your customers experience today across many channels that are accessible to them - right from offline modes (like conventional Mom and Pop stores) to online, social mediums that are right at the click of a button from their mobile device. Smarter companies are leveraging this by going Omni channel, where their customers are at the center of the experience and are looking at all the aspects of what their customers are doing.
When they visit the store, when they are looking through their mobile device, when they are on the web, how they react to your email campaign messaging, what are they searching for- this impact their Omnichannel experience and the smarter companies are thinking about their customer experience and their brand experience in that context.
Mapping your customers' experience with your brand across channels through Journey maps serves the purpose of a story teller. They tell us about the first time anyone ever heard about a brand, to the first contact they have with a brand and hopefully turn into a long term relationship that is measurable. It’s a map, at the end of the day, a map about what people are thinking, doing and feeling. The real ROI of a journey map is what we refer as the “Moments of Truth”. Moment of truth are key interactions with a firm’s brand, touch points where either you blow it and you lose the customer or you have done something that delighted them so much that you turned them into advocate.
"Today, brands compete on customer experience. A brand translates to customers as a set of experiences - tangible and intangible, intended and serendipitous. Brands create Brand Equity by making these experiences memorable, personalized & repeatable- by creating Moments Of Truth" - yours truly :)
Today, marketers understand that the path to purchase is not as linear. Buyers and browsers have more ways to interact with businesses than ever before, and the focus has shifted from getting people into your funnel to delivering an exceptional customer experience.
The figure above is representation of this funnel by Smartbear, and we can see how it has split it to Pre purchasing stage and Post purchasing stage. At the top of the funnel there is just early brand awareness, like, “oh, my friend told me about your brand” or “I read about it when I was doing some research”; and then there's some education where they do some research and especially for large purchases will do quite a bit of research and investigation before they make a commitment. Then they do some kind of evaluation or there's some kind of justification that that's what they want to do and then there's the purchase, and the purchase is the pinnacle where the transactions take place. Now, they have moved from a prospect to a customer.
As technology gets ever more integrated into our daily lives, the lines between channels continue to blur. Companies can’t afford to be reactive to the dynamic changes in customer behaviour; they need to be proactive with real time solutions and anticipating productive and effective strategies. The job of marketers and CX teams becomes even more challenging as they percolate the changes into the omni-channel structure. They need to eradicate the concept of treating channels as silos and instead, design seamless omnichannel experiences for their customers. It is important that customers view their interactions with a company as one experience, even though its over multiple, online and offline, channels.
This article is the first in a 3 part series on Customer Experience Economy & features insights.
Next up in this series - What is the true value of customer journey mapping, how to calculate the ROI of CX & how to stich customer experience together via your MarTech stack.