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Seven Trends for a Winning Customer Experience
By Andrew Macey, Vice President, Strategy, SapientNitro
A couple decades ago, the brand experience was much different than it is today — and much more simple. The consumer experience was historically controlled and managed primarily by the brand, and the consumer played a somewhat passive role. Moreover, the stages of awareness, perception, involvement, and loyalty were orchestrated by the brand to proceed in a linear fashion. Since then, however, the world is a very different place, and today’s consumer bears few similarities to the consumer of the past. Smart phones, ubiquitous internet access, and social networks are pervasive. And yet, while current technology has made connecting and interacting with a brand even easier, it has also stirred up some challenges. So where will this shift take us next? There are several relevant trends to be aware of — and to consider — as one thinks about merchandising and marketing in today’s digital environment, and before planning the next campaign. 1. The pace of adoption and consumer acceptance has increased significantly. Adoption of new ideas and technologies is moving faster than typically has been true historically. Consider that Internet and cell phones have seen a 70% consumer adoption in just 15 years. In contrast, cars, phones, electricity, stoves, dishwashers and similar technologies of the past each took more than 60 years to reach the same 70% acceptance. Today’s inventions are latching on and taking off with unprecedented speed — a speed which makes it all the more interesting a question as to whether one should be a first-mover or a fast-follower. 2. eCommerce and mCommerce markets are large, and continue to grow more quickly than traditional channels. In 2009, eCommerce sales worldwide were $8 trillion in revenue. But by 2013, that number is expected

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to have doubled in size. The mCommerce (mobile) market in 2010 was $42 billion and is expected to be $68 billion by the end of 2013. Whereas offline commerce only shows a 1.8% projected CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate), digital, in comparison, is expected to have 15% CAGR over the next five years. Web-influenced sales will grow at an estimated 21% CAGR, and already influence approximately twothirds of all commerce in some way. 3. Cross-channel customers spend more. Cross-channel customers spend about 50% more spend on average, making them more valuable than those who spend in only a single channel. While most retail revenue still comes from stores by far, it’s important to understand how greatly online affects traditional channels. A Sapient Consumer Survey, conducted in December 2010 revealed some interesting data about cross-channel customers: • • • • • • • • 53% purchased in-store after conducting online research 44% bought online after looking in-store 40% compared prices before making a purchase 35% looked for discounts, deals, coupons, or discount codes 33% emailed or texted someone to tell them about a store experience 30% used their smart phone while shopping to try to find a better deal 27% bought an additional item when picking up an online order at a store 22% bought an additional item when returning an online purchase to a store

It is in every brand’s best interest to find ways to cater to these highly profitable, cross-channel consumers and to make the movement between channels easy and seamless. 4. Social media creates mass personalization. By adding a few lines of code with tools like Facebook Open Graph, sites can provide incredible contextual relevance and give users “Pandora-like” experiences easily. Brands can now tailor experiences to social-affinity based behaviors, and deliver experiences that are highly personalized. While consistency throughout a brand’s messaging and content are still paramount, it no longer means that each customer needs to experience it in the same way in a static format. Shopping histories and real-time data means that each interaction with the brand can now be personalized to the user, and the consumer decides what, when, and how to experience the brand — it could be via online, via mobile, or in-store. The consumer gets to decide how to interact. 5. The path to purchase is now non-linear. For many years, the path to purchase revolved around a linear progression of events, as consumers moved from awareness to store interactions, to purchase, support, and loyalty. Today, however, consumers can research online and buy in store, or walk in-store and compare reviews and offers via mobile, or buy online and pick up in-store. With today’s pervasive access, constant mobility, and high-speed bandwidth for rich media, there are nearly infinite options to reach the same end goals. Consumers demand a digital experience that reflects needs throughout the customer lifecycle, across channels, that builds loyalty over time

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6. Consumer can participate with brands in a way not previously possible — and disproportionately influence brand perception. Consumers have always had the opportunity to be proponents of a brand, but postings, online feedback, blogs, ratings and more make the ability to influence brand perception more visible. Individuals can write and comment 24/7. There is significant evidence that negative reviews and postings carry a lot of weight relative to positive postings, and that readers often value individual postings more than information from brands and third-party organizations. Because of this shift, manufacturers and retailers must deliver content and promotions that customers will find relevant and trustworthy. The best customers should be engaged and rewarded, and brands must build a network of advocates. 7. Marketing needs have changed. Historically, 1:1 marketing was the goal, i.e.: the ability to push relevant offers, information, and promotions to an individual based on a deep understanding of who that individual was and on what s/he had previously purchased. The customer would be targeted based on pre-defined criteria and preferences. Those personal experiences were based on past behavior patterns and historical purchase patterns. But that’s not good enough anymore. Now, the aspiration is real-time, experience-based marketing. Loyalty card data combined with techniques like location-based services via GPS make it possible to offer consumers different promotions on a real-time, location-sensitive basis as they walk down a store aisle. Customers respond to different messages based on how they interact with a brand at a given point in time, and new CRM and campaign tools are needed to support those varying experiences. Examples: Let’s look at two examples of brands that are taking advantage of these trends and creating seamless experiences across multiple channels. MetLife Central | Interactive Stadium Experience MetLife wanted to reposition its brand, and to reach new audiences, at the new Meadowlands stadium, home of the New York Giants and New York Jets. To do this, they sponsored online and in-venue digital engagements centered on a custom membership club, which was supported by social media and local area marketing. MetLife’s goal was to do something interactive that got people talking and engaging with the brand in a fun and interactive way. The new concept was a program that used both digital signage and a loyalty card application. When a customer applied for a loyalty card, not only did MetLife develop a lead, but that particular person was also entered into a weekly contest. The adoption exceeded expectations and created a seamless, cross-channel MetLife experience that built awareness with a consistent message and feel for the fans in an engaging way, whether on the television screen, a digital sign, a smart phone, or a computer. MetLife successfully created an integrated experience for the consumer that brought together two things: the fusion of social, mobile, and digital elements, as well as the foresight to make it easy to move across channels.

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AutoTrader UK | The Snap-It iPhone Application AutoTrader created a cross-channel plan between commercial transactions and mobile phone use, enabling a relationship between the consumer and the seller than hadn’t been possible in the past. The Snap-It iPhone mobile app gave consumers in the UK the ability to shop for a vehicle any time, any place. Instead of limiting the shopper to traditional means of vehicle purchase, potential consumers looking to purchase a vehicle can now take a picture of a license plate on any car they see and like. The new mobile application then does a reverse lookup of the license plate, and cross-references that particular car with similar cars available on AutoTrader in a given geographic area.

Looking to the future Today’s consumer has changed. And so has today’s marketer. As these trends unfold, it’ll be interesting to watch the progression and implications of these changes in this non-linear, cross-channel, fastmoving world. Are you prepared for it?

Andrew Macey is Vice President, Digital Strategy at SapientNitro (www. sapientnitro.com), where he is primarily focused on helping companies think through the challenges and benefits of future business models, organizational capabilities, and new ways to create meaningful and rewarding experiences across channels for business and consumer customers.
 

© Sapient Corporation, 2011

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