Whether you’re a traditional retailer who’s launched a digital branch, or a digital-only brand who relies solely upon eCommerce, we all know that customer experience matters. That is why it is essential to have a customer experience strategy in place to be competitive in today's eCommerce landscape.
Customer experience (CX) refers to every interaction that a customer has with your brand, throughout their entire buyer’s journey. From their very first contact (direct or indirect) with your company, to becoming a repeat and loyal customer, each interaction matters, and comprises the customer experience.
Why Customer Experience Matters
A customer experience strategy is critical for a number of reasons. Not only do customers want a meaningful experience - but nearly 90% of customers are willing to pay more to get one.
Additionally, customers who are happy with their experience are significantly more likely to be a repeat customer. This is particularly important for your bottom line, as increased customer retention is tied directly to increased revenue.
In fact, for B2B companies in particular, improving customer retention can have massive impacts. B2B brands that increase retention by just 5% see profit increases anywhere from 25% to 95%.
Customer churn costs US businesses alone an average of $136 billion per year, but loyal customers spend 23% more than average customers.
In short: a better CX strategy establishes a better customer experience, which results in loyal customers, who spend more, and are far less expensive to retain versus the costs of acquiring new customers.
Additionally, in the ever-growing eCommerce space, delivering superior customer experience is key in setting yourself apart from your competitors. One study even indicated that 81% of companies consider themselves to be competing mostly on the basis of CX.
Customer Service vs. Customer Experience
Now, let’s not confuse creating a meaningful customer experience with delivering good customer service. Customer service is just one part (albeit a critical one) of delivering a positive experience for your customers.
Think about how you are generally introduced to a brand. It’s not by contacting their customer service department.
Perhaps it’s browsing in-store and interacting with an employee. Maybe you scroll past an ad on social media and click through the company website. Or, you might ask Alexa to find a product for you and place it on your Amazon list.
Some of these things, like speaking with an employee while you shop at a store, involve customer service. But many of them do not. In today’s digitally-driven world, many customer experiences may not involve customer service at all, and will be powered through technology instead. That doesn’t mean you can’t still deliver a superior customer experience.
Consider this example: you order glasses online. They arrive, you test them out, and you realize that you need to get them fitted to your face. You make an appointment in-store, and the technician is incredibly friendly and helpful. That’s great customer service. Two years later, before your glasses prescription expires, you receive a reminder email from the same company. They offer you an exclusive discount and an easy way to upload your new prescription, or to simply come into their stores for an eye exam. That’s a great customer experience.
This scenario is just one example of how technology can assist brands in being proactive, and providing a personalized customer experience. From suggested items based upon past purchase history, to target email campaigns, to social posts designed to reach your desired audience, you can grow loyal customer relationships using techniques that go beyond good customer service.
Developing a Customer Experience Strategy
Of course, it takes a solid CX strategy to deliver an outstanding customer experience. A CX strategy is the plan to deliver personalized, meaningful, positive customer experiences, throughout every interaction in the buyer’s journey.
Let’s break down seven key steps to building a successful customer experience strategy, and ensuring satisfied, repeat customers.
1. Establish Your Core Principles
Establish core principles that define your brand, and that you want to be carried throughout every element of not just the customer experience, but your team member experience as well. What does your brand stand for?
These principles will guide your strategy, and serve as a baseline to which you can always refer back. If something doesn’t fit your principles, it’s probably not a good strategy.
Use this as an opportunity to identify and create long-term business goals. How can your CX help you achieve them?
2. Understand Your Customers
It seems obvious, but you need to know your customer inside-and-out. Do some user research and identify the types of customers that your brand is targeting.
In order to deliver meaningful experiences, you have to know what your customers care about, where they spend their time and money, how they prefer to communicate, what devices they utilize, when they’re most available, and other key details.
Many businesses achieve this by creating customer personas. Then, they develop segmented communications, strategies, and tools that fit each customer persona.
3. Determine Your Channels & Internal Framework
What channels does your business currently use? How are these channels integrated with one another? Can you (or do you) deliver a seamless customer experience, regardless of platform or device?
Develop an omnichannel approach that will connect your customer experience across all channels, ensuring that no matter how the customer interacts with your brand (i.e. in-store, on the website, via voice or social commerce), you’re delivering equally good experiences.
Then consider what information you can gather from each channel, and how this data is being shared internally. What can you learn from your social media followers’ habits that might shift the way your email marketing is designed? How do you track a customer who may access your brand on multiple platforms?
Once you fully understand who your customers are and how they are using your channels, examine how your teams are prepared to meet their needs. Do you incorporate this information into onboarding and ongoing training? How is your customer service team equipped, and does it match the information you’ve gathered?
These are all important questions to ask as you build and tailor your strategy.
4. Make it Easy & Convenient
A great customer experience is always going to be one that’s simple and convenient. No one wants to waste time trying to navigate a website on their phone that isn’t optimized for mobile. If a “Buy Now” button isn’t obvious, if a person has to go fetch their credit card from another room rather simply connecting their PayPal or Venmo accounts, if they have to set up an account rather than logging in via Google of Facebook - all of this can complicate or even derail the buyer’s journey.
5. Emphasize Personalization
The best customer experiences are often personalized. They meet the needs of an individual customer, not just a user persona, and they leverage technology to do so.
Creating meaningful personalizations can be tricky. Customers don’t want to feel as if you are spying on them, but they often take advantage of “suggested purchases” or “style this item” features.
Data-informed segmentation can help you achieve this, as can personalized marketing strategies. In fact, brands using email personalization generate 17% more revenue through their campaigns than the average marketer.
6. Build a Connection
There’s a famous phrase, “people won’t remember what you said or what you did; they’ll remember how you made them feel.”
Consider brands with cult followings. Most Starbucks junkies won’t visit Dunkin unless they have no other options. iPhone users scoff at Android owners. People pay attention to Taco Bell and Burger King in large part because their social media is so witty and distinctively irreverent.
What makes your brand unique, and how can you build an emotional connection with your customer based upon that?
Perhaps it’s through superior product quality (i.e. iPhone users prefer their phone’s capabilities to those of an Android; Starbucks drinkers may prefer the variety of beverages) or an outlandish sense of humor, like Taco Bell’s.
But what about through the strongest appeal of all - emotion?
You’ve seen the viral posts: airlines that go the extra mile to get someone home on time to a funeral, wedding, or graduation; brands that send personalized thank yous to customers; the company that messes up an order and responds not only with a correction, but a bonus item and an apology. These kinds of gestures can go a long way in building brand loyalty.
And while you can’t provide this level of customer experience to every customer, social media is a powerful tool. Use it to interact with your customers, and your customers will certainly use it to give you a shout-out when your business goes the extra mile.
7. Collect Feedback & Track ROI
Finally, be sure to collect feedback, track ROI, and make adjustments in real time. You can’t be sure you’re providing a top-tier customer experience if you never ask your customers!
There are a wide variety of ways to do this - surveys, follow-up emails, reviews, focus groups, etc.
Equally as important as surveying your customers is surveying your teams. Often your team members may have insights on campaigns, web designs, marketing strategies, customer service protocols, and other aspects of your customer experience. Without a consistent, frequent way for employees to share and act on these ideas, it can be challenging to continually enhance the experience you’re delivering. Once-a-year surveys just won’t cut it anymore.
Amazon, for example, has a robust employee idea program in which employees cannot only make suggestions, but are often then empowered to implement them. Determine how your company can create an environment of continuous feedback and innovation.
In today’s ever-evolving market, customer expectations shift even more rapidly than technology does.
To build customer loyalty and ultimately increase sales, you’ll need to deliver an exceptional customer experience.
Not sure where to start in developing your strategy? Contact our team of experts at Object Edge for a free consultation call.