Every marketer and marketing student is familiar with the four Ps of marketing conceptualized by E. Jerome McCarthy in the 1960s — product, placement, price and promotion. These four principles have served marketers very well over the years, and businesses capable of nailing all four of these factors have usually found success. But there’s talk now that the 4 Ps aren’t enough in a consumer-focused era. There’s a new principle marketers must address, and it’s one that affects every aspect of the company’s marketing — the customer experience. Specifically, marketers must ensure that their E-commerce customer experience must be consistent across all channels.
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Evolving Principles for Evolving Consumers
The very presence of customer experience as a key principle for marketers is testament to exactly how much marketing — and the world of retail as a whole — has changed over the years. It wasn’t so long ago that the idea of the customer experience was barely a blip on the radar for the average retailer. Online shoppers were viewed as largely different from in-store buyers, and thus, the E-commerce customer experience varied significantly from the experience of a brick-and-mortar consumer, and the data gathered from customers was kept separately.
This was never viewed as a negative for online and offline retailers. It was simply the way companies operated, and how they saw customers interacting with the company. There was no need for the direct mail marketing team to sync up with digital or E-commerce marketing. These were essentially separate businesses under the same roof, and in a sense, they competed for business.
Times have changed. Retailers now realize that the various sub-divisions of the marketing team should work together, not separately, to generate as much business as possible for the company. The modern consumer doesn’t stick to one avenue for information; instead, they’re influenced by every message sent by the company — on social media, in print, via direct mail, through emails, commercials or YouTube ads. And it’s in the best interest of each business to make sure that all their marketing channels are in synch with each other. Failure to do so runs the risk of alienating the consumer, potentially sending them to a company that has a better handle on the customer experience.
The good news is that a great customer experience doesn’t simply help customers. It also helps companies become more effective marketers. The customer experience will only be very positive if you have a carefully curated marketing strategy and a thorough understanding of your audience.
Why Customer Experience Beats Price
This idea of a cohesive customer experience isn’t merely a concept that may or may not work for your business. Customer experience is very quickly becoming the marketing standard by which customers decide who to buy from.
The numbers bear this line of thinking out. Walker Information states that customer experience will soon be the biggest differentiator between brands, beating out both price and product by the end of this decade. Additionally, nearly 90 percent of marketers are already competing based on customer experience. Treating the customer experience as a future concern is not going to cut it. This is an important factor that’s changing the retail industry right now.
It’s not hard to see why. Whereas customers once considered price above all else, today’s consumers expect more than a good deal. They’re tired of being bombarded with generic marketing messages that treat them as a dollar sign. They’re sick of generic “Dear Valued Customer” form letters and seeing banner ads for recent shopping items that follow them all over the Internet. Modern customers simply want to be understood by the brands they support. And above all else, they want to feel valued.
A low price point can do many things for a business, but it can’t speak directly to an individual consumer and show that person exactly why the brand cares about them. However, a comprehensive and well-executed customer experience does exactly this. It shows people that their choice to support this brand was a good one, and that their loyalty will be rewarded by similar experiences in the future. This type of symbiotic relationship goes well beyond price, and it proves why people are willing to pay more for the guarantee of a positive customer experience.
The Data Needed for a Seamless Customer Experience
There’s no one right way to handle the customer experience. Your ideal customer experience solution depends on the particulars of your business, your competition and the industry in which you operate. But while there are several ways to do the customer experience right, there are many more ways to do it horribly wrong.
The most important factor in optimizing the customer experience is data. Data is the guiding force for the customer experience. When you understand how people interact with your brand across multiple platforms, you can tailor your marketing to the most popular and effective methods of communication. Without this supporting data, you’re just guessing. Not only is such an approach ineffective, but consumers will see right through it, ensuring that they’ll seek out a competitor with a more vested interest in treating their customers as individuals.
To really nail the customer experience, your best bet is to focus on specific data points across all of your consumer touchpoints. According to Adobe, only 20 percent of businesses look at each of the unique ways in which customers interact with the company, which means 80 percent of marketers are missing the mark in at least one medium. If you do nothing else to enhance the customer experience, taking the time to consider all your marketing avenues will put you ahead of the competition.
To go further in-depth, you’ll want to monitor data that has direct implications on the customer experience on your site, in your retail store, in social media, etc. Make sure to focus your data collection in these areas:
- Intent Data: Understanding the sequence of events that lead consumers to make certain choices — and why they make those choices — is crucial to the customer experience. This knowledge can help you to guide consumers down their desired path before they even know what they want.
- Predictive Analytics Data: Amazon derives as much as 30 percent of its revenue from the recommendations it makes to its customers. Being able to predict what you customer base might be interested in, particularly on an individualized level, will drastically enhance the customer experience.
- Customer Service Data: Go beyond focus groups and hypotheticals and look at what people actually think — what they complain about, what satisfies an unhappy customer, whether your approach is too invasive (or not invasive enough). Incorporate this feedback into the customer experience wherever possible.
Make the Customer Experience Part of Your Marketing Strategy This Year
As much as marketing has changed over the years, it’s sure to change even more in the years to come. And if current trends are any indication, the customer experience will become even more important to consumers. At its core, the customer experience is everything marketers should strive for — a seamless, cohesive marketing approach that makes individuals feel wanted and uses data to constantly improve the experience for company and customer. When the E-commerce customer experience is consistent across all channels, everybody wins.