In the run up to the new year, marketing departments everywhere were reflecting on the decade that was ending, thinking about all the changes that had occurred in the marketplace and eagerly creating plans for 2020 and beyond. That’s why our marketing team, in late 2019, decided to kick off the new decade with a webinar discussing customer experience optimization that could help enterprise marketers strategically focus their efforts.
Evolv brings a unique and valuable perspective on CX optimization because we’re fortunate to have Michael Scharff, a seasoned retail industry veteran, as our CEO. Michael spent his entire career before Evolv leading ecommerce teams at leading brands like Best Buy, Staples, and Sears Canada, and we were able to tap into his expertise to really learn what customers care about and which tools and tactics enterprises need to use to shape the customer experience.
Without any further ado, here are our key takeaways from the webinar:
1. Delivering a great customer experience today requires a new mindset
The idea of driving value through a great customer experience isn’t anything new — companies started making this part of their core strategy way back in the 1960s. But even as everything has gone digital over the last couple of decades, most companies haven’t evolved their thinking about what’s required to deliver relevant and impactful experiences.
Teams need to start collaborating more when it comes to customer data. Too often, different departments hoard the data they have on customers for their own selfish reasons (e.g., hitting department-specific metrics), refusing to share it with other departments even when doing so would help create a better experience. For instance, if a credit card company’s customer service team shared with the company’s marketing team a recent rise in inquiries about mobile payments, that may encourage the marketing team to create ads promoting how easy it is to add one of their credit cards to a mobile wallet.
Companies also need to start considering how customers view their brands and think more holistically. You might think about your business in terms of disparate channels — online, brick-and-mortar, resellers, etc. — but customers sure don’t: if I buy an iPhone from Apple’s online store, I better be able to return that phone to my nearest Apple retail store. It’s shocking how many legacy retailers get this wrong and won’t, for example, honor a discount displayed on their website when a customer shops in the store.
Finally, enterprises should put less of an emphasis on “personalization” and focus on delivering relevance. Not only is personalization extremely difficult — for instance, no ecommerce site knows who I’m shopping for or what my budget looks like — but customers really just want companies to provide experiences shaped by consumers’ behaviors and trends. We think microsegmentation, or segmenting customers into small cohorts and further customizing experiences based on demographic data, weather data, etc., is the best way for companies to respond with agility to market demands.
2. Delivering a great customer experience today requires a new set of tools
If the ten-year period between 1995 and 2005 could be termed the “rise of the Internet,” the last decade could be termed “the rise of mobile devices.” Or “the rise of AI.” Or “the rise of personalized marketing.” The point is, a lot of technological change took place over the last ten years, and companies need to adapt if they want to continue to be relevant in customers’ eyes.
First and foremost is the need to deliver an exceptional mobile experience. Walmart and The Home Depot, for example, recognize that nearly every shopper uses their smartphone while shopping in-store. They’ve created fantastic apps that guide customers to the right aisle according to what’s on their shopping list and make checkout a nearly seamless process.
Even in countries (like the US) where people don’t frequently install new apps, companies can differentiate themselves by creating great new experiences for customers, leveraging the fact that we all carry Internet-connected computers in our pockets. Target, for instance, has seen enormous growth in curbside delivery and order pickup over the last year, initiatives that weren’t really possible before the rise of mobile.
Enterprises also need to figure out how to leverage the vast amounts of customer data they hold. Earlier we mentioned the importance of eliminating data silos. To make this data unification happen, companies should make new investments in their martech toolkits. We’ve seen companies achieve success by using tools like Persado, Coveo, and Tealium. These solutions help enterprises take different sources of customer data and combine them, tailor customer experiences by using AI to stitch together content and data, and use AI to present customers with the best-performing content.
3. Delivering a great customer experience today requires changing the way you test
Towards the end of the webinar, we asked our audience to rank their satisfaction with the speed and agility of A/B testing. By and large, people voted for “very dissatisfied,” “dissatisfied,” or “neutral,” and not a single person voted for “very satisfied.”
Over the last decade, A/B and multivariate rose in popularity to become the standard-bearers when it comes to testing. But in 2020 and beyond, these techniques are no longer enough for companies looking to deliver optimized customer experiences that delight, convert, and contribute to the bottom line.
Why? Because traditional testing tools have too many flaws.
Seven out of eight A/B tests fail due to statistical insignificance, which means testing teams waste a lot of time designing and running tests that may never prove useful. Worse, A/B or even multivariate tests simply can’t keep up with the velocity with which teams need to consistently revamp their experiences if they want to compete with digital leaders — companies like Amazon, Netflix, and Walmart.
As consumer expectations get higher and higher every year, companies need to rethink how they experiment their way to new experiences on the web and in mobile apps. “Losing to win” is no longer a promising strategy. Instead, enterprises should adopt AI-based experimentation and optimization solutions that focus on continuous, rather than incremental, optimization.
Yet it’s important that companies don’t let new technology distract them. While artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) currently dominate much of the conversation, humans still have a critical role to play when it comes to experience optimization. Only the people within your company — in numerous departments, within and beyond the experimentation team — can come up with creative ideas and derive conclusions from experiments in terms of what’s working and what’s not.
4. Delivering a great customer experience today requires elevating your experimentation and optimization game
Tools are great, but they’re fairly useless without a sound strategy for how you’ll actually use them. In 2020, enterprises truly focused on improving the customer experience through experimentation and optimization should put together a plan of action. Here are the three steps we recommend companies take today:
1. Put together an experimentation roadmap for 2020 that details:
- The lowest-hanging fruit when it comes to experimentation (what to test first). Work internally with your teams to figure out where the biggest customer and company pain points are, and prioritize your experiments accordingly.
- The number of experiments you plan to run this year (size & volume).
- The data sources you’re going to use to inform those experiments, and how you’ll derive and interpret results.
- The percentage of revenue gains for fiscal year 2020 that will come from your experimentation and optimization practice, so you know what kinds of numbers to aim for in terms of conversion goals.
2. Explore the right tools and technologies that will get you to the revenue gains you seek. What martech investments do you need to make?
3. Assess the capabilities of your team. Build, or at least start building, the right team/structure around experimentation.
This is not a process that you’ll finish in a few hours or even in a few days. Much like the continuous optimization model leading companies use when improving the customer experience, you’ll learn by doing, and you’ll likely make mistakes along the way. That’s OK — what’s most important is that you begin with the end in mind (thanks Stephen Covey) and build your way toward a better future.
To start off our webinar, we discussed a recent finding from Gartner that 81% of marketers claim they compete primarily on the basis of customer experience. Frankly, we think there’s still a long way to go for that to be true.
While most marketers have the right instincts, companies today need to become more collaborative, think more holistically about the customer journey, focus on relevance, better leverage the data they have at their disposal, and adopt the right tools and technologies to truly optimize the customer experience.