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The Times: Raconteur interview

How have consumer behaviours changed in recent years and what trends have driven those changes?

A decade ago Facebook was still competing with MySpace, while Amazon was primarily known for selling books and the iPhone had only just been released. Since then, these three giants have permanently changed customer behaviour.

  • Facebook has allowed companies of all sizes to get to their target audience for a relatively small cost, with their own content to boot. Customers are now primed to receive content, products and promotional material from social media and a more inclined to buy what their friends (and celebrities) share or recommend.
  • Amazon, meanwhile, has completely changed the whole e-shopping experience. Customers used to enter a physical store, and from this point, their shopping path started. Now customers can type in a few keywords to Google and immediately get results, reviews, price and shipping options. The average customer has come to expect that if they offer a product today, it will be delivered to their location tomorrow, whether they are at home, work and on the road.
  • The classic marketing funnel (Awareness, Interest, Consideration, Intent, Evaluation, Purchase) has accelerated to such an extent and customers are not willing to wait. This acceleration has been influenced considerably by smartphones, giving customers the option to find or buy anything they want from everywhere.

How have these changes impacted the way businesses view customer experience and their whole customer journey?

Nowadays, the customer journey for most businesses starts online and ends online. Mobile is dominating every single process of customers thinking. With new marketing channels such as Instagram shoppable posts, companies need to find the ideal mix that will deliver the best results for them. Therefore, understanding what triggers customer to buy their product is key to e-commerce success.

What tools and systems are giving companies the agility they need to deliver a modern customer experience?

At the heart of every single business should be a CRM system that collects information and data about customers. Your website should be designed as a conversion destination, and you should invest in marketing automation software to deliver the right message to the right audience, at the right time.

Marketing automation uses data stored in CRM to deliver personalised experiences via email, SMS, instant messages. This means customised content – your latest viewed product, products that best fit to your last purchase and more. Therefore your website needs to contain valuable content, have a clear UX/UI, and be mobile friendly.

The latest trends in customer experience are to create a personalised home page (hero image). For example, IKEA shows you a product category based on your previous customer behaviour on their home-page website.

Also, social media systems such as Hootsuite are necessary to manage all social media channels and provide customers with the latest content that drives engagement.

Where does AI come into this and how can it help increase productivity?

Lack of data was a problem ten years ago. Now companies are overwhelmed by the data they have access to and have no idea how to utilise it properly. This is where AI can be implemented.

Machine learning technology and AI enables companies to analyse vast amounts of data, create predictions and be always one step ahead of the customer. AI already reduces manual and repetitive tasks, while a wave of chatbots has helped to relieve the burden on support department.

How important is visibility in understanding and improving the customer journey, and how do cross-functional analytics tools help enable that?

It’s absolutely essential to optimise and continue to improve the customer journey. You need to be able to answer questions like:

  • Where my customers are coming from?
  • Why did they leave?
  • Why did they not purchase a product

Websites that provide the information that a customer is looking for quickly is likely to win. Use tools as Hotjar, which analyses what customers are doing on your website, and learn about their behaviour and how they have found your site from Google Analytics.

Setup chatbot that will be handy for your customer who got lost or have a question that hasn’t found on your website. Also, a significant part of this digital era is speaking with your customers face to face, get their thoughts and insights and re-build your website or communications strategy based on that. Customer-centric thinking is what makes a difference between successful and failed businesses.

These technologies help companies better understand customer behaviour by providing valuable data, but how can businesses utilise that data to continually ensure their products and services are meeting customer needs and expectations?

It’s about neverending testing. Data that you collect tells you what direction to go. For example, if 40% of visitors do not complete their order, you’ve got information that something is wrong with your shopping cart. It’s necessary to leverage the data and improve an issue that has been identified. After you have implemented a new shopping cart, you need to measure it again and again to reach the perfect results. This process will be continuous. Listen to your data and your customers, they will tell you what is wrong and what needs to be improved.

What are the challenges around implementation in practice?

When it comes to large companies, it is usually the c-suite. It has been proven that up to 60% of executives are not familiar with technology and that’s a reason why they refuse to implement it.

Implementation of 3rd party software that helps you improve customer experience can be expensive, consume a lot of time (to connect all systems, make sure that data exchange between them is working properly and more). This is related to human resources – developers, webmasters etc.

I think the most important part is to make sure you know what data you want to collect and identify the purpose of its use. When you have done this, you can start implementing the right technology.

How and why have customer attitudes towards complaining, and the way they do it, changed?

Amazon has set the Gold standard when it comes to customer service and those that aren’t able to or don’t follow the same standards are likely to receive more complaints because customers just expect you to be able to deliver the Amazon experience.

Customer complains evolved into feedback, reviews, Facebook comments, opinion blog posts (good or bad) and companies have to take care about their brand – meaning responding Facebook comments, reviews on comparison sites etc. directly. The customer has the power to ruin your business, that’s why customer-centric thinking is crucial when it comes to protecting your business and enabling it to grow.

How can businesses be proactive by creating resources on their website that customers can consult before needing additional assistance?

A handy tool that I have found to help solve this question is Intercom. It gives you valuable data such as what your website visitors are searching for and what are their issues.

Based on this, Intercom gives you a list of topics that you should create content around. So you can prioritise your tasks and do what your visitors/customers are looking for and not what you are thinking is the most important.

What is the importance of a customer’s first order with a company? How can companies ensure they get this right?

The first order is absolutely crucial. The first experience that a customer has with your brand will determine whether they will purchase with you again or not.

The key is proper communication across every single step of a customer journey – period! When we look at the post-purchase part of the customer journey, you have to make sure that after order the customer has received a confirmation email. You then have informed to inform them about order movement – from warehouse to store (shipping).

Ultimately, you need to deliver their product in time, in proper packaging with all necessary documents – also add in a discount coupon to motivate them for the next purchase. After one or two weeks the customer should receive a questionnaire about their order to make sure everything went well. Collect feedback and improve your order process.

How do you ensure that you are doing this right? Listen to your customers, especially those who complain the most. Repeat purchasers is a sure sign that you are doing the right things.

Please provide an example of a company that offers an excellent ‘first order’ experience for customers and therefore reaps the rewards in long-term loyalty?

IKEA. Let’s assume that you have purchased a new bed for your bedroom. IKEA goes further and automates the email sequence, providing you with additional, valuable content – such as design, what kind of mattress you should buy and smart recommendations to get you back to the store. The IKEA Family Club also provides you with valuable content and information that keep you engaged, with the intention of turning you are into a loyal customer.

Published in Média


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