Marketers are data-obsessed; we want to know everything we possibly can about our customers. We invade their lives to leverage some of the most personal and important information. Yet the experience for the customer is often underwhelmingly generic and provides no obvious value.
Data collection is an issue right now — not because customers don’t want to give their data, but because they don’t see anything in return. They assume marketers are utilizing it like a shadowy backroom broker collecting and sharing information with no transparency to those that are affected.
In truth, data is unwieldy and difficult to utilize, and it’s challenging to find many valuable use-cases without the right structure and platforms. The furthest some brands get with data is rather basic segmentation. Again, while those fundamental segments are helpful for marketers at a basic level, they still don’t provide the transparent and obvious connection that customers want.
Transactions involving data are every bit as valuable as those occur with any currency. As customers, what we want in return for our data are tangible benefits to make the shopping experience positive, personable and informative to our needs. As a marketer, we often coldly refer to our use of customer data as segmentation. As a customer, I simply ask that you get to know me. Marketers need to bring these two ideas together.
We’ve gone a bit too far with our excitement and zeal for the opportunities that personalization has opened up, such as targeted product recommendations, cross-selling, upselling, enhanced life cycle, and increased purchase frequency. That’s where we are today. While marketers may get something for those efforts, the customer is rarely aware of any obvious benefits.
The reason personalization has the possibility to be so impactful is that brands are too big and e-commerce is too cold to provide a human touch. We can’t provide the boutique store experience any longer.
But personalization changes that. Data doesn’t just help increase total dollars spent, it empowers brands to scale the boutique experience by actually getting to know their customers, by welcoming them properly, and by tailoring the user experience to their interests in and needs for particular products, as well as to real-world events taking place in their lives. Personalization enables us to bring back the small-scale experience.
Chik-Fil-A is a consistent leader in customer satisfaction in the quick-serve restaurant industry. The reason is quite simple: They’ve trained their customer-facing employees to say “please” and “thank you.”
Small pleasantries and a smile can go a long way. Imagine if associates could evolve that with a name, an order history, frequency and other data points. What if “hello” became “Hello, Evan, how’d that striped button-down shirt work out for you a couple of weeks ago?” What would that do for the customer experience and customer satisfaction if we could leverage data to foster relationships?
E-commerce marketers have lots of data, but the warm personal welcome is a larger challenge. Obviously, the personal interaction isn’t as easy. But there are still ways to make the customer feel known. In fact, just remembering them without forcing them to log into accounts non-stop is a great starting point.
Don’t underestimate the power of pleasantries and questions. Ask them about their last orders, but not in a typical “please take this survey” way. Genuinely ask how they liked the products and if they got what they were hoping for from the experience. Even a simple “yes or no” call to action can help improve customer satisfaction and give the brand even more actionable data points.
The idea of scale is easily one of the most challenging barriers for marketers. Authentic experiences are resource-intense and challenging to automate or optimize for larger brands with many locations or customers.
There are essentially two options to overcome scale for store experiences.
First, what’s mostly in the market today are customized and creative local experiences selected in a small group of markets. The end goal is to bring local experiences to the masses through media and social channels so that customers can live vicariously via YouTube, Twitter and Instagram through those that attended.
It’s a solid middle-ground option given the barriers to scaling those experiences. There’s a better, more personal option to really connect with customers, though.
Brick-and-mortar brands already have a massive group of associates on the ground at the local level that are managing their stores, stocking product and working the floor. Put your trust in them to manage customer experiences. Those same associates already know their best customers, why they buy, if they have kids and their personal interests.
All it takes is a tablet connected with customer data and the autonomy to provide exceptional service. Marketers can also evolve that idea by allocating products and gifts that associates can give to customers based on how those experiences develop.
If a customer wants to try a lipstick at a beauty store, it’s in the associate and the brand’s best interest to give them a sample. That same strategy is also effective in other markets. The idea is that associates know their VIPs — let them provide better service without the big-brand mentality getting in the way.
The customer experience of boutique retailers has very real impacts on revenue, purchase behavior and recommendations. The problem is that it’s extremely difficult to prove. And while numbers and figures are everything, some leadership teams understand the qualitative value that a great customer experience can have on the brand’s sentiment and brand equity.
Brand equity is the most underrated and somewhat unprovable KPI in the industry. Net Promoter Scores are perhaps the closest measurement, and a high NPS typically correlates to a brand having robust DNA and customer satisfaction.
Marketers selling leadership on the value of brand equity and the value of a personal relationship with customers can utilize NPS as a starting point. From there, evolve the experiences and use standard A/B tests for optimization. NPS scores should be measured consistently when changes are made to experiences to understand the impact.
Using NPS is a great way to gain buy-in from leadership by making them feel comfortable with a tangible and familiar metric.
Amazon has staked its entire reputation on trust — that packages arrive promptly, that reviews are accurate, that convenience is always possible and one click away.
Meanwhile, Sephora has empowered its associates to take customer service to a new level with makeovers, recommendations and a palpable sense of customer satisfaction.
Boxed, for its part, has become an upstart based purely on customer experience, recommended products and customer satisfaction, employing some creative ways to keep customers engaged with surprise-and-delight special shipments and a hand-written note in every box.
Spotify found a way to make customers feel heard through hyperpersonalized music selections and introducing customers to new artists and genres. They’ve embodied the idea that every customer action deserves a response — in this case, new music recommendations.
Each of those brands has made a pact with customers that it’s going to serve them better. They’ve pledged that at each touch point, they’re going to get to know you better. It’s not the product, it’s the relationship that has elevated them to become great brands. The more you get to know your customers, the more loyal they’ll become.