In some ways the modern brand ambassador marketer’s job has changed focus in recent years. Recently, its not so much about informing or enticing the buyer, it’s about delivering on a promise and providing an “experience” to go with the transaction. In our experience, we’ve found it difficult to create and provide an enticing customer experience if you don’t have a rock-solid grip on what the customer really wants and will respond to from your brand and your product.
This getting-to-know-you activity can take a number of forms, but the bottom line is that not only is your customer base a dynamic entity, ever changing, growing in need and sophistication, shifting in it’s preferences and requirements, but is composed of an ever-transient population, because most data, especially transactional data, is static, it’s a snapshot of the group at that particular moment. In order to avoid this, smart companies with the long-term view have devised and implemented a system for driving ongoing customer feedback, interaction and input that lets the company keep a finger on the pulse of it’s customers. Once that pulse has been taken, an environment, an experience can be crafted and replicated for each customer that resonates in a positive, energetic fashion.
In the retail world, customer experience is often focused on the physical environment – rack height, sight lines, lighting, merchandise selection and placement, shelf space allocation, aisle configuration to drive traffic down high-profit aisles, signage digital and otherwise, music, even scent, are all priority considerations. The digital realm of retailing doesn’t offer those aspects, at least not yet, but they have their own “experience” concerns. Eye-tracking, navigation and dwell-times, abandonment of the cart, payment processing glitches, as well as things like color selection, use of white space, imagery, user-interaction studies and the like take the place of lighting and shelf space concerns. But the experience in both cases goes beyond the physical environment in which the shopping occurs.
Customer experience has to do with the initial engagement (how you already feel about the company and the purchase before you even get there), to the initial contact (are you greeted sincerely at the door, are you made to feel welcome, do they even HAVE what you want), and continues to the shopping and selection phase (do they stock what you want, in your size or color, is it really the item you thought it was, and did the onsite staff assist you in making the selection or a decision between two similar items), through the payment, the upsell, and the return and aftercare phases.
If somehow all of that goes well, the experience can still be less than perfect – did you FEEL that it was a good experience, did you feel guilty for making the purchase or did you get good justification for the quality/price/value equation of the purchase, among other elements.
For marketers, especially online marketers, that means you have to have a stranglehold on what your customers value, what parts of that transactional chain they value most highly, how they prefer to be approached and what their ultimate goal is in making the purchase – a tall order for a couple of images and a screen or two of product description. But good research can answer those questions and save the day.
Know the customer, show your interest through offering an accurate engagement and a welcoming, familiar presence, and carry through on the promise, and the customer experience will be a positive one.
For more thoughts on how important research and customer engagement are to successful marketing, a FREE white paper on customer engagement is available at www.Granite-part.com just for the asking.