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Customer journey strategy and creating an omnichannel experience

Vandana Prabhakar

By: Vandana Prabhakar, Head of Pre-sales at Resulticks

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1. Taking a look at the industry as a whole, what’s the outlook and need for automation within the current marketing landscape?

The need for automation is largely driven by the challenge of meeting changing customer expectations while keeping in view a brand’s own top-line growth and operational efficiency. It is, therefore, not surprising that the marketing automation solutions market is set to exceed $6 billion by 2025, according to Frost & Sullivan. In addition, advancements in areas such as AI and technology are making marketing a major force driving business growth, rather than remaining the cost center it once was perceived to be. The future certainly looks bright.

2. What is customer engagement? Why does it matter?

Today, customer engagement is everything. It encapsulates every interaction a customer has with your brand. It defines how your brand must fulfill and deliver on its promises at every single touchpoint. A great deal of research has directly correlated great customer engagement with higher acquisition and conversions for brands. Getting customer engagement right is crucial for businesses to build long-term relationships and foster brand loyalty.

3. What are the most important components of customer engagement?

I would say the most important components are context, timeliness, and individualization of interactions. The good news is that with the power of omnichannel and automation today, brands can deliver on all three components.

Take, for instance, Jane, a shopping enthusiast. As she passes her favorite store on a lazy weekend, she would very likely be delighted when she receives not only a mobile notification offering a sweeter deal that matches her tastes, but a personalized shopping experience informed by her past online interactions with the brand. And it all begins with the store’s beacon recognizing Jane as she walks by. This is an example of how the syncing of online and offline channels can elevate customer engagement. And, by tailoring Jane’s experiences to her unique preferences and patterns, Jane feels more connected with a brand that understands her.

4. What is the difference between customer engagement and customer service?

Customer service is a subset of customer engagement. Customer service is mostly a post-sales activity that ensures purchase satisfaction or alleviates issues.

5. How can brands identify key areas of improvement throughout the consumer journey?

Customer engagement, on the other hand, covers the full spectrum of communications from awareness, consideration and evaluation to purchase and retention.

Data is a marketer’s best friend, and good data equips marketers with the ammunition they need to create those great consumer journeys. Acquiring high-quality data entails breaking down silos, consolidating data and deriving insights from a singular, 360-degree customer view. This unified customer profile, once achieved, allows brands to continuously augment the experience throughout the consumer journey.

6. What role does technology play in helping to amplify or enhance customer engagement?

Bearing in mind the need for the human touch, technology has become a key component for brands to amplify customer experiences at scale—and to do so faster and better. Technology not only enables marketers to move quickly to reach customers but also to shift gears as deeper insights are gained.

This ability to gather data and analyze it quickly allows marketers to continuously improve upon those great experiences from the first click to conversion and beyond.

7. What do you consider to be the next “big thing” in terms of marketing automation tools?

Omnichannel paired with AI. While this already exists today, I think its application will continue to expand as more companies see how much more effective and strategic it allows them to be. It optimizes resources and efforts while also facilitating the delivery of tailored, timely and relevant interactions in meaningful ways.  With more data maturity in consolidation and analysis, AI-powered engagement is now a very exciting prospect for customers and brands alike.

8. Every brand today wants to create an omnichannel experience; do you see a difference in how legacy and brick and mortar brands are approaching this vs. e-commerce and digital-native brands?

Digital native brands have an inherent focus on engaging customers through the various digital touchpoints in their DNA. Legacy brick-and-mortar companies have built the customer experience around their physical presence. That said, many brick-and-mortar brands are quickly catching up thanks to technology that is both abundantly available and affordable.

On the other hand, the physical store has shown a renewed relevance—with many digital-native brands like Everlane and Warby Parker turning to temporary pop-up shops or physical storefronts to increase brand awareness and reach. The key is in knowing how to ensure the omnichannel experience remains seamless and cohesive for customers.

Starbucks provides another great example of a brick-and-mortar business using digital channels creatively to engage customers. Although they can’t teleport a pumpkin spice latte (yet), Starbucks designed an app that merges the consumer’s digital and physical worlds. In addition to the app that allows customers to preorder a drink, collect loyalty points and reload card balances, the company also launched a skill on Amazon Alexa for ordering a coffee for pickup at the local storefront. It’s a very innovative example of how brick-and-mortar brands can adapt and compete.

9. What do you say to marketers who are skeptical of automation or feel it is too risky to alienate consumers with technology-driven errors?

While the traditional objective of automation has been to reduce bottlenecks and mitigate errors, every business needs to evaluate the impact of automation on how it connects with customers. Brands must take care not to lose the human touch while automating marketing processes. It can never be a case of technology for technology’s sake. Implementing a measure of human intervention at critical junctures can safeguard against unintentional errors and missteps that can admittedly cause serious damage to brand reputation and image.

10. How do you provide the best customer journey without seeming invasive/untrustworthy to your customers?

This is always a fine line to walk. However, there are a couple of guidelines that can help govern these interactions to ensure you deliver convenience and trust rather than frustration or offense.

First, as marketers, we leverage data about our customers to ensure we provide the best customer experience. Personal data should be collected and consolidated from the audience with consent, and it must be used respectfully, transparently and responsibly. Compliance with regulatory frameworks and legal requirements ensures we stay within these boundaries.

Second, moderate how you leverage this data to communicate with your audiences. Matching the right content with the right target audience contextually and at the right time plays a big part in preserving trust. While automation can help in making informed decisions, it is best to leave the decision making to your audiences so they feel in control.

11. Are there any brands with a customer journey strategy that stands out in the industry?

A number of brands are already trying new and creative approaches, both globally and across verticals. While we find a lot of examples in the retail industry, it’s been refreshing to see a number of other industries—such as consumer electronics, telecom, hospitality and even regulated industries such as banking or healthcare—beginning to deliver unique experiences.

The common denominators among those that are creating maximum impact are their strategies for understanding data, implementing a phased approach and completely aligning efforts and outcomes internally.  As technology evolves along with adoption, we can look forward to many more success stories and differentiated consumer engagement.

For more information, please visit Resulticks.

Head of Pre-sales at Resulticks