We live in the "me" economy, in which young and old are becoming more demanding of our digital commerce experiences. As a consequence of this, investment in Customer Experience is fast becoming the basis upon which businesses are developing their present and future competitive advantage, fuelled primarily by digital innovation. The pressure is on businesses in all sectors to deliver products and services on their customers' terms, removing all hurdles and frustrations to please the customer, or more importantly, not to displease them.
As the perfect Customer and Brand experience is sought, and customer journeys are buffed and shined, businesses and agencies alike are increasingly turning towards data for the answers - like the Evil Queen looking into the magic mirror -
Magic mirror in my hand, who has the slickest Customer Experience in the land?
Why is data now deemed
so important? Well, two key reasons - the abundance of data, and the computational power to process it. In 2017, electronic device users managed to generate 2.5 quintillion bytes of data per day (in case you're wondering, that's 2.5 followed by 30 zeros) through google search, shopping, Facebook etc., and that has equally led to an estimation of circa 90% of the world's data having been created in the past two years. At the same time Google, in support of its own machine learning models, announced an upgrade to their version of the Tensor Processing Unit (TPU) - a very, very fast CPU - that would be made available to the public. One cannot pretend to understand how much data or computational power this represents practically, nor pretend that every byte of data is relevant, but a percentage most definitely will be, and when combined with your internal business data, it will be a powerful resource that can help shape the future of any business.
The time for analysing data solely for historical business reports is long gone, and similarly for standard digital performance reporting. The rise of digital first start-ups, has validated the leveraging of quintillion bytes of generated data for business gain. This data will not only inform business performance, but also shape the business, from wider strategic decision making through to organisational structure, ways of working, future innovation and importantly, the manifestation of this through Customer Experience. And let's be clear, it's not just the rising stars taking advantage of this. Data and insight in its most advanced form is helping drive the smartest and fastest decisions of the big Retail and FMCG corporations with unerring accuracy. It is this speed and accuracy of decision making which is bringing these businesses their competitive advantage, especially in the area of Customer Experience.
It is therefore the time for every business to up its game when it comes to insight. The standard mix of manual quantitative digital performance analytics and qualitative customer survey analysis is now considered the minimum level, and the lesser sibling to the new darlings of the industry - predictive analytics and machine learning. In order to achieve the same levels of competitive advantage of the market leaders, a new level of data analysis across all forms of data is needed; its need is to fuel new thinking that in turn will lead to new differentiated digital customer experiences, avoiding the current "me too" centre ground of digital customer experience.
Whilst this is the aspiration, many still believe that advanced analytics is out of their reach and gravitate to "traditional" Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) approaches instead, focusing solely on the digital funnel that navigates customers to the point of purchase. Web Analysts and UX specialists work in tandem, mostly in isolation, with a small set of data and their intuition to hand, to eradicate points of perceived friction. With such a narrow focus they typically do so with little consideration to the wider picture of what makes a Brand, and what attracts customers to interact with it. One can only liken this to taking an electric sander to a piece of old furniture, and stripping away any charisma it once had into something that is mass-produced, non-differentiated and wholly expected.
Whilst believing machine learning and big data is beyond them, many digital departments perceive a frictionless journey = improved conversion rate = improved customer satisfaction; well we know it's not always the case. Delivering the "expected" is likely deliver some short-term optimisation gains, however this approach is operating at the lower echelons of insight maturity, doesn't leverage the rich data available, and will definitely not deliver longer term competitive gains. It will also slowly but surely erode the essence of any Brand, not build it, leading to higher customer churn, greater reliance on the discounting drug, and ultimately hit both the top and bottom line.
When it comes to Brand, friction, or perceived customer inconvenience, can also be a positive thing - Guinness takes a while to pour but you wouldn't have it any other way -imperfection drives uniqueness, or the
Our view is that every business, big and small, must look at the bigger data picture when addressing Customer Experience, and must do this through more than one lens -
Interface being the primary ones. It requires an integrated approach to delivering the best experience and a much deeper, more coherent set of insight is required to truly understand the cause and effect of change across these intrinsically related areas. It is also where the daily helping of quintillion bytes of customer and competitor generated data along with those TPUs and machine learning comes into play.
The job of making sense of this data is not easy, and let's be honest, it's where the data scientists are making their money. Where an army of humans could not make any sense of the individual factors influencing their business in a meaningful timeframe, machine learning with data scientists at the helm, armed with various algorithms, can make "light" work of vast complex data and spot relationships never seen before between the four key levers. In doing so, businesses will identify better opportunities with greater synergy across all four levers that will ultimately bring greater yield.
By taking this approach, business will not only eradicate friction from the purchasing journey. They will also ensure the entire customer journey from awareness to purchase, to long term relationship building and repeat purchase, creates a positive, enhanced impact on the customer experience, making every interaction, however momentary, a rewarding one that feels better at every step. This is where other bigger KPIs such as revenue growth, cost to serve and customer lifetime value will trump conversion rate on its own.
And it's not just us who think that you cannot address any of these factors or levers in isolation. Simply looking at the changing accountability of the CMO is very revealing. Their remit is becoming broader than just marketing, with some even transitioning into the role of Chief Customer Officer (CCO), ultimately owning all interactions with the customer and everything which affects the associated experience.
Magic Mirror in my hand, who is the fairest of the land? My Queen, you are the fairest here so true. But Snow White beyond the mountains at the seven Dwarfs is a thousand times more beautiful than you.
Keeping ahead of the competition, warding off new disruptor brands that spring from nowhere needs a new approach, one of foresight and business collaboration. To really harness this holistic insight and turn it into tangible change, it requires a similarly joined up organisation, and not one that is silo'd where each department goes off and does their own thing. If you're thinking this won't work in your business, well you need to find a way as it needs to happen, as it is happening elsewhere. This is a burgeoning new trend and approach to business transformation, one of insight/strategy/creative/ technology, and is surely the zeitgeist of business and the digital industry in 2018 and years to come, and one that will shape both Customer Experience and entire business models alike.
This must be a when, not an if approach, as these changes are fundamental to all businesses, large or small. Taking these steps will take data to the next level and bring synergised business change to the Customer Experience, and those which do so will ensure they remain the
fairest of them all.