Thanks to smartphones and tablets, people have access to more choices through the use of search and social networks, wherever they happen to be physically. This ability to research and ask – whether at home or at the time of consideration and purchase, has created higher expectations of the product and service they select.
Increasingly, excelling at delivering a coherent experience across multiple devices is crucial to customer acquisition and retention, especially for organizations with complex products or many service offerings across several delivery platforms.
Customer experience is a major component of the brand. Marketing owns it, and now requires information like customer feedback, analytics, and social activity to manage it well.
To deliver relevant offerings at every touch point of the customer journey, marketers need access to data across the enterprise. This requires collaboration and integration with IT.
Further, organizations that actively capture and leverage customer feedback in product and service delivery gain a competitive edge. Product reviews and recommendations, combined with insights gleaned through analysis of social interactions, are influencing the very nature of product innovation and service design.
IBM’s 2012 State of Marketing Survey# supports the growing importance of marketing information as a competitive advantage in industry, which in itself raises the importance of marketing’s role within the enterprise. Companies where marketers own business outcomes for products and services, pricing, and promotion simply perform better.
Both the implementation of technology solutions to support an on-demand customer experience across channels, and the creation of cross-functional teams to innovate in product development require closer alignment between marketing, information technology, and often finance.
CMOs and marketing groups are all too aware that their ability to integrate different technologies and measure results and ROI within current structures and resources remains problematic.
IBM’s survey highlights the challenge: while 71 percent of respondents believe integration across owned, earned, and paid channels is important, only 29 percent consider their integration efforts effective.
Because of its ability to capture and track customers’ buying preferences and past purchase history, technology has been moving closer to the store front and to customer-facing applications, and it has shifted from “nice to have” to necessity for marketers.
Data and intelligence are the key reasons why CMOs and marketing groups are increasingly either driving or influencing software purchasing and implementation decisions. CIOs and IT groups in top performing companies are partnering with the business to enable and/or guide the process.
The rise of channel agnostic commerce accelerated the need for marketing/IT alignment
Nowhere is the appropriate use of data more critical than in retail.
Retailers know that to create better experiences for buyers, they need to leverage the information they already have and keep deepening and broadening those data sets. Yet retailers are still struggling with making sense of data across enterprise functions. They lack the systems and /or integration and capabilities to help deliver consistency across all touch points.
For example, the replacement of ten promotion engines with a single one capable of serving up discounts in social, at the cash register, online, and in mobile. There is also the need for a single repository of product pricing and information, and unstructured content. This is easy to say, and complex to do.
Historically, enterprises have struggled with capturing and leveraging the information they already have about their customers to create a better experience for them.
In a 2012 benchmark report on how retailers were measuring up to the goal of omnichannel commerce, Retail Systems Research# found that although all the retailers surveyed believe the shopping experience should be consistent across all channels, only 32 percent have achieved that goal.
An overwhelming majority of respondents said they planned to consolidate the shopping experience, loyalty programs, social and digital marketing across all channels. However, more than half of the group surveyed lacked a single cross-channel view of the customer.
The survey uncovered a million questions retailers need to address before they feel comfortable making technology change decisions. Questions that go to the core of the business operations like:
- how to manage cross-channel incentives for in-store sales associates
- what role store associates will continue to play as part of that experience
- how stores can be utilized to provide a compelling local face to the retailer’s brand
- how to deal with price transparency and mobile price comparisons at the shelf
- where and how to deal with in-store pickup from online orders
- whether store inventory should be used for online orders
- whether social and behavioral information captured from online shoppers can be used to improve the in-store experience
Customers really don’t think about channels and don’t have time to play treasure-hunting games when the fundamental needs they want addressed are lacking.
Shoppers are routinely frustrated by gaps in the contemporary retail experience. Why if something is sold out online, can’t it be shipped from the store? Why does the website know me as a returning customer, yet the sales associate doesn’t?
Many of these problems arise from lack of back-end integration and are felt more strongly in retail experiences because of the direct nature of the customer interaction. However, similar issues plague all industries due to the widespread adoption and use of technology by customers.
Marketers can help address both sets of challenges by answering the organization’s questions about business issues and, thanks to research data and analysis, translating customer behavior into insight to aid in accelerating technology decisions.
Valeria is an experienced listener. She designs service and product experiences to help businesses rediscover the value of promises and its effect on relationships and culture. She is also frequent speaker at conferences and companies on a variety of topics. Book her to speak here.