My inbox regularly gets flooded with a plethora of trends but for some strange reason most of them are on technology, big data and analytics. I am a believer in technology, but I am also of the firm opinion that technology is an enabler. Marketers can never delegate their job of thinking for their brands and customers to technology. And in this context, I have put together five key customer experience trends that I have picked up over various discussions with CMOs, CDOs and CAOs across Industries in India.
Trend #1 – Convenience Marketing
Convenience has always been a core customer service principle, but it has taken centre stage recently and how! Brands like Tesla, Amazon, Netflix, Zappos, Uber are prime examples. If you think about it, what separates the successful companies/brands form the rest? Well, mostly, they are just easier to do business with. Convenience isn’t just a competitive differentiator, it is the entire business proposition! Convenience is most compelling to customer conversion journeys. Today morning I just paid more for petrol, because the petrol pump was right there! It was the right product, at the right place, at the right time! Everybody wins! Now, think of it, I am looking for a shirt online and just when I have chosen one the right shade of trouser shows up next to it. High chance I would add it to my cart, right? Or, say I am walking past a Raymond store at Shoppers Stop and I get an offer to redeem my points, quite likely that I will, right? In today’s interesting push and pull landscape there is a great need for convenience. By focussing on personalised, location based and contextual content – convenience will be one of the single biggest driver of marketing efforts in 2019.
Trend #2 – Conversational Marketing
From monologue to dialogue brands will need to have more engaging conversations to drive Customer Experience and Engagement. Call centre executives are now routinely trained to have conversations instead of staccato, scripted and robotic replies that they used to give in the past. Voice Assistants like Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant are already preparing customers to have high expectations from brands in the immediate future.
Marketeers need to use CRM as a digital tool box for having a dialogue with the customer. All conversational efforts must embody brand values and in this context some prep from an organisational point of view will be needed. Mobile technologies like Push notifications, In-App messages, Chatbots, Messaging on third party platforms, Voice Recognition are actively being used globally.
Trend #3 – Episodic Marketing
Marketeers will need to break down their elaborate customer journeys into ‘episodes’ or ‘micro-moments’. What is the best moment to pitch a sale? Provide assistance? Product recommendations? Or just have an involved discussion with an expert? Basically, episodic or micro-moments marketing means delivering one-on-one messages with clarity, at high frequency, to multiple clusters /segments of customers. Marketeers will need to learn to leverage technologies like AI & ML to identify when and where the customer is ready to interact with the brand. In 2019, episodic marketing will drive customer acquisition and higher sales.
Trend #4 – Connected Marketing
The primary objective of marketing is to ‘connect’ the brand with the customer enabling a sale. And no, connected marketing is not just another name for omni-channel marketing. We have all heard homilies like ‘customers engage with one brand/organisation, not separate channels”. True that, but connected marketing is much more than having a seamless sales or after-sales experience. It is about being connected to the customer at his convenience, in the context in which he wants to engage, at the time and place of his choice. It is almost like ‘on demand’ marketing, if you will. Organisations and brands will need to leverage all kinds of marketing technologies, automation tools, algorithms, data & analytics to create an agile enterprise marketing solution that can deliver connected marketing to customers.
Trend #5 – Collaborative Marketing
Brand will have to collaborate with like-minded brands in different categories like never before. This will help them demonstrate to their customers that they understand them. It will not only help them lower their marketing spends but will also enhance customer experience. We do have a plethora of brands tying up for loyalty programs, but collaborative marketing will be much more than that. It will be about sharing cross product experiences, digital assets – including data (I know this sounds implausible, but we will eventually get there). Today, competitive brands like Mercedes and BMW are beginning to share key manufacturing components. Tomorrow they will collaborate in marketing to address their niche customers. The biggest difference between the brands, let me state this rather brazenly, will be the unique customer experience they will provide to their customers. It sounds audacious right now, but what the heck! We have seen now more than ever before that audacity wins!