Have you ever seriously asked yourself why customers like working with you and/or your business? Shortly after joining Office Depot in 2010 as its President of North American operations, Kevin Peters did just that. As he related to a packed crowd at Forrester's Customer Experience Forum in New York recently, Peters traveled in cognito to more than 70 stores across the United States to better understand the Office Depot customer experience.
Peters found that Office Depot was offering a decent customer experience overall, but it wasn't enough. Moreover, stores were collecting a lot of data that was ultimately irrelevant to this end." They were interesting metrics," he said, "but who cares, because they were not impacting the customer experience."¹
As Jeff Cram, co-founder of ISITE Design, noted in his recent Fast Company post recapping the event, attendees at the Forrester Customer Experience Forum were all abuzz about a future that is digital, mobile, and most importantly, customer-driven.
"The world has changed and the balance of power has shifted to the customers," says Harley Manning, Forrester's Vice President and Research Director. "We can prove customer experience correlates to loyalty." Write this down, Manning said: "I need my customers more than they need me."¹
The speed with which consumers have shifted to all things digital/social/mobile has taken many companies by surprise. "It's like skating to a ping-pong ball," said Phil Bienert, Senior Vice President of Consumer Digital Experiences at AT&T. "Our customer is digital first and wants to do everything with the ease of touching fingertip to a device."¹
PERSONALIZATION AND CONTEXT
With consumers adopting evermore numerous channels and devices to access information and interact with brands, businesses are scrambling to figure out how to deliver a more unified customer experience. In the wake of this, two new mantras are on the lips of every marketer: personalization and context.
At the Forrester event, Ron Rogowski co-hosted a presentation entitled, "The Future of Personalization Is...Context!" He noted that personalization is "...about understanding what someone needs and presenting it to them in a non-creepy way." In her presentation on "The Future of Mobile," Julie Ask underscored this sentiment: "The line between creepy and helpful is thin..."² In essence, marketers want to know everything they can about their customers, but they don't want to necessarily let them know that.
Context is all about providing content that is relevant to the immediate needs of your target audience, and is geo-specifically available to them in a real-time environment. All of this is in reaction to more demanding consumers, who expect to find exactly what they want when they want it.
As a larger number of users become more familiar with social/mobile technologies, they'll likely use them in more complex ways: sophistication breeds heightened expectation. Consumers will favor brands that provide context and relevance to their daily lives. Businesses can accomplish this by producing quality content that is not only relevant to their brand's target audience, but promoted (and optimized) over multiple channels such as web, mobile and social, and accessible to them on demand.
For many, this presents a daunting challenge that will likely put a strain on existing resources. If this is the case for your brand, you may want to consider outsourcing to an inbound marketing services agency that specializes on all aspects of digital marketing.
Whether you choose to outsource or insource, I suggest you take a cue from Forrester's Customer Experience Forum and prepare your business for a future is digital, mobile, and customer-driven.
¹ FastCompany, "Attention Office Depot Shoppers: Undercover CEO In Aisle 5"
² Webtrends, "Forrester Customer Experience Forum Recap"
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