The digital customer experience is much more than just buying a US$10 t-shirt from Amazon or visiting a store to check out an augmented image through a digitalized mirror. It’s a series of experiences that continues with each new interaction – online and offline, digital and nondigital.
Whether looking to buy a $2,000 television or a $40,000 car online, most consumers choose to examine various comparative prices and services. However, processes supporting this buying experience are becoming increasingly fractured. Many customers leave online shopping sites or stores at the purchase stage, feeling confused and frustrated by inconsistent information.
Connecting online and offline experiences
Inconsistent customer information prevents the buying experience from progressing towards long-term loyalty. The digital customer experience should provide an integrated experience at all stages – from purchase consideration to the post-purchase stage – so that shoppers can fully participate in the purchasing process. Additionally, meaningful relationships are best established by leveraging affective behaviors that can encourage customers to engage with the brand more fully.
However, the more complex the product, the more challenging the ability to satisfy consumers with just an online experience. Delivering appealing products and services to customers becomes more critical as expectations grow more demanding for online than offline purchases.
On the contrary, finding and comparing information in a physical store is not as easy as on an e-commerce site. Instead, many customers augment their offline experience by searching for information on product features and prices with their smartphones. This behavior is inspiring more and more brands to link their offline and online experiences by leveraging a variety of new technologies, such as smart, connected screens and mobile apps.
A prime example of online companies going offline is Hema Xiansheng. Based on the Alibaba platform, the digital fresh food store provides unique shopping experiences through online and offline boundaries. This includes adding a shopping cart, using a QR code scan, paying through facial recognition, and receiving the online order within 30 minutes. These unique services enable the business to achieve sales per unit that is estimated to be three to five times higher than those at regular supermarkets. Meanwhile, the customer experience at offline stores often leads to future purchases offline.
Best practices for connecting digital customer experiences
Managing a dynamic, changing customer experience requires a business strategy that includes expanding existing digital marketing, redesigning customer experience management processes and systems, and implementing intelligent technology across the enterprise.
The ability to engage in such a profound business transformation calls for a strategic framework that consists of six fundamental areas:
- Adoption of business platform technology
A platform is required to support channel information integration, real-time data collection, and data analysis for experience management at the individual customer level. This platform should support the workflow in which various customer touchpoints and experience elements can interact. The combination of the consumer experience management system, digital commerce, and more digitalized and intelligent ERP will serve as a platform for connecting overall digital customer experience management.
- Acquisition of 360-degree customer insight
The capability of merging and analyzing online and offline customers’ master data, activity data, and sentiment requires combining diversified customer databases in the company, implementing integration strategies for data obtained from a variety of information sources, and using link modeling for analyzing customer and product interaction data.
The architecture of digital marketing allows corporations to create a 360-degree view by connecting store point-of-sale (POS) data with ERP sales data, digital marketing, commerce, and CRM data.
- Optimization of customer experience data
An optimized system should be established for collecting and validating diverse customer data from the customer’s journey and utilizing it for customer experience management. Information collection, validation, enrichment, segmentation, personalized campaigning, and interaction must be systematically connected.
- Real-time predictive analysis and response
Every stage of the customer journey should be managed with a unified, real-time approach. Businesses should not only monitor performance through critical indicators, such as the speed and appropriateness of a response, but also by leveraging predictors to determine how to influence the next stage of the customer experience.
This analysis can be handled with closed-loop customer feedback, which is enabled by measuring experience data (X-data) and operational data (O-data) for customer services with a variety of views into survey functions.
For most brands, the size and complexity of Big Data are a significant barrier to real-time analytics performance. Customer insight and experience data are massive in volume, bogging down the processing speed of the business system. But eliminating old and outdated information is not an easy decision since it may be an essential asset for time-series analysis of customer buying trends.
Although customer insight and experience data do not necessarily need to be stored in the same repository, they should be warehoused and organized hierarchically based on usability. Recent advancements in dynamic data tiering technology with an in-memory database are making this task easier to achieve.
- Effective digital channel execution
This best practice allows businesses to select a productive channel at each stage of the digital customer journey, establish appropriate operational goals for each channel, and allocate resources accordingly. Different approaches are also required, depending on who owns the interaction point – whether it is the brand, partner, or customer or social and external.
For more insight, download a free whitepaper from IDC about how to drive a great customer experience from the design of new products, through to their operation at a customer.
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