- Focus on the customer journey to get the blend right
Our world, The New World, presents us with new realities and challenges. To survive in this changing world we must learn to adapt to the demands of our current (turbulent) business environment, dealing with uncertainties and the high expectations of our main target – The Customer. In a world where change is happening faster than we learn, keeping up with fast-paced change can be daunting and distracting at times. However, this state of affairs also presents us great opportunities with implications for knowledge acquisition, mindset changes and, above all, value addition.
The principles of marketing remain the same. However, their application in the light of the rising use of digital platforms and how they are deployed have been transformed significantly. These changes have affected core business functions, including marketing where engaging the customer has become a very significant part of business planning and execution. The truth about digital applications is that they are not confined to marketing but, on the contrary, have multidisciplinary implications with cross-functional impact.
A brief definition. Digital marketing is any marketing that uses electronic devices and can be used by marketing specialists to convey promotional messaging and measure its impact through your customer journey. Typically, it refers to marketing campaigns that appear on a computer, phone, tablet or other device. This includes online video, display ads, search-engine marketing, paid social ads and social media posts.
Digital marketing is often compared to ‘traditional marketing’ such as magazine ads, billboards, and direct mail. Oddly, television is usually lumped-in with traditional marketing. These days as a marketer, it is important to take advantage of the digital world with an online advertising presence by building a brand and providing a great customer experience that also brings potential customers and more with a digital strategy.
To harness this new reality senior managers must have a strategic leadership oversight to ensure the customer experience is managed with cross-functional alignment, such that responsibilities for addressing the customer’s needs are a shared endeavour for all internal stakeholders. This has become even more necessary in light of the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has severely impacted customer behaviour changes and made it important for organisations to radically adapt to emerging developments – most of which are unpredictable.
In reaction to these developments, business processes must learn to gear-up rapidly to react to these major disruptions. Organisations must therefore reshape and adapt by using appropriate tools and practices to achieve their goals. This need is driven by the fact that Customer experience is not simply the domain of marketing and it spans across the whole enterprise, with every function potentially affecting customer-centricity. According to experts, in today’s customer-centric world, digital marketing and customer experience are intertwined.
Therefore, digital marketing activities should be conducted through the lens of customer experience. According to CX thought-leader Dutta Satadip, each customer’s relationship with an organisation is a sum of all their experiences starting with initial brand-awareness and lasting through to their post-purchase level of engagement. In today’s world, this journey is largely influenced by the use of digital platforms where opportunities abound for personalising customer engagements. The relationship with the customer is therefore key to the success of every business.
This is where digitisation plays a pivotal role. To begin with, business processes must blend effectively with digitisation if one seeks to excel in today’s world. Next, your digital marketing strategy must synergise with your customer experience strategy. The relationship between digitisation and customer-centricity must be a symbiotic one to ensure there is alignment with the direction of the business. Finally, your focus must be on the entire customer journey; this way, your internal processes will always mirror the customer’s expectations as your teams focus on understanding their needs at all touch points.
Getting the blend right
Robert Rose, Chief Strategy Officer at The Content Advisory – a business that helps businesses to create and measure enterprise content, uses this cocktail analogy. According to him: “If an organisation’s goal is to deliver value or solve for a job-to-be-done without regard to its brand or product features, then the focus (or the majority of the drink) is customer experience. However, if our goal is to persuade, or move an audience to take a deeper action toward a purchase, then it would seem we’re adding some marketing to the cocktail”.
Marketing aims at persuading customers to react by purchasing a product. Digital marketing seeks the same goal; however, we have learned from research that these goals are best addressed when the customer feels valued. Where your online platform enhances the interactions such that customers are assured of great attention to detail when addressing their needs, you achieve a better effect than when your site or app is built to enrich your tech-savvy teams focused on accelerating innovation.
Your customer journey will look more promising when the business has full insight into how customers interact with its online platforms, with actionable insight-inspired plans designed to drive business results; or when cross-functional CX teams from Engineering to Customer Success are empowered through digital experience data – cutting resolution times and boosting customer satisfaction.
Digital marketing v customer experience strategy
The relationship between customer experience and digital marketing is not an either-or relationship. Simply put, as a business, when planning your digital strategies you need to take account of the customer experience. Not doing so will lead to a situation where the user experience of the brand and the time and budget you invest in digital marketing will never live up to their potential.
So, we must accept the fact that there is no such thing as customer experience or digital marketing. The quest to become an experience-oriented business is by no means easy. As a business, when you undertake this journey you will need all hands on deck. That way the responsibility does not stay only with marketing, it becomes the preserve of the whole business. Not accepting this new reality can potentially cede the business to your competitors, and you don’t want that.
In the words of Forrester analyst James McCormick, speaking at a forum on Digital Marketing recently: “We’ve given customers many digital ways to engage with us, and they can engage with our competitors, too”. According to him, customers can easily move on to a competitor if their experience with your brand is unsatisfying.
Thus, not leveraging digital marketing has the potential risk of increasing customer attrition rates. This is where customers vote with their feet. The fact is we have reached the point where customers dictate their relationship with brands, and not the other way around.
Focusing on the customer Journey
In light of these developments, what should the future of your business look like? Instead of focusing solely on marketing-only metrics, our focus on data must encompass the entire customer lifecycle. Experts advise that instead of targetting new audiences who have a close resemblance to existing customers, we must look more in-depth into current customers’ product engagement and support issues.
This way, we are better able to determine if these customers are the right fit and contribute significantly to the bottom line; or whether our present customer base is draining our resources because of the lack of product-market fit. Furthermore, it is vitally important that we don’t confuse the customer’s journey with our marketing processes or siloed organisational structure.
This happens when as an organisation we focus on our internal functions such as brand, demand generation, sales enablement, sales and customer service, etc. – thus limiting the types of customer experience we provide by these business functions.
We must be wary of going to extremes when developing experiences. Remember the danger of ‘navel-gazing’, wherein we are excessively obsessed with ourselves, on our brand and services at the expense of a wider view from the customer’s perspective.
The warning here is that we must avoid the lure of only developing ‘content marketing’ (customer experiences) at the very beginning or end of the customer’s journey, and in between focus on digital marketing and selling. Instead, let us take advantage of the myriad opportunities to balance and mix-up the kinds of experiences we are creating at every point of the customer’s journey.
The future of our ecosystem will be influenced largely by digitisation as we see government services and private entities increasingly transforming from brick and mortar to digital platforms.
From a consumer perspective, using intuitive and user-friendly platforms makes payment transactions easier – as evidenced by the use of mobile apps for services such as transportation, couriers, normal day-to-day transactions, and other payment arrangements offered by emerging and existing Fintechs.
Factoring these developments in our journey-mapping and customer experience is the way forward.
|The Writer is a Management Consultant (Change and Customer Experience). He can be reached on 059 175 7205, [email protected], https://www.linkedin.com/Kodwo Manuel|