Over three-quarters of IT teams don’t understand the buzzwords that marketers use, causing concerns over how firms handle their Digital Experience (DX).
A new report from content management system (CMS) provider Magnolia, Straight talking content management, incorporates a survey of over 200 IT professionals and 200 marketers across both the UK and US and garners unique insights into the DX landscape and the attitudes both groups hold in relation to their peers.
It reveals that the emerging field of DX has become swamped with buzzwords and jargon, which has led to a huge disconnect between marketers and IT teams.
The research found that almost a quarter (23 percent) of IT teams believe that marketers use too many buzzwords, with 21 percent saying they don’t know what marketers mean when they ask for ‘omnichannel’ content, and 24 percent saying they don’t know what a ‘call to action’ is online.
Furthermore, with 80 percent of marketers collaborating with their IT team on a weekly basis – and 46 percent interacting on a daily basis – it’s crucial that both teams can communicate with one another effectively.
Commenting on the research, Rasmus Skjoldan, CMO at Magnolia, said: “In order for brands to create great content, both IT teams and marketers must work together to understand each other’s unique pressures and objectives. Talking in technical jargon and marketing buzzwords isn’t helping, if anything it’s just causing more frustration for both groups.
“Too many CMS brands add to this problem, expanding rather than bridging the divide. As an industry we need to focus on developing straight-talking solutions that work for everyone across the business – from marketers, to developers, to customers and IT teams.”
In the not too distant past, a few brave companies adapted their chat products for use within a sales context and produced some startling results against some marquis ecommerce KPIs.
The conversion rate of customers who engage in a chat has increased. In addition, the revenue per engaged customer has seen 5x – 10x growth. With numbers like these, it wasn’t long before many other companies were moving chat from the back office, where it was used primarily in a service context (to save money over phone calls), into the front of the store in hopes of driving sales gold.
While some have realised their chat gold rush dreams, several companies ran into a few economic stumbling blocks along the way, and have been skittish to reattempt widespread ecommerce engagement.
1. Chatting during a sale eats into precious sales margin and can erase profits for many retailers and travel companies, and increases the cost of acquiring new customers for all verticals.
Many etailers and travel companies – that compete on price and service – don’t make a lot of money per transaction as it is. Adding the cost of a chat to a transaction can negate the gains realised from the conversion and order value boost. In short, when you chat you may sell more, but you’re making less or nothing at all in profit (siting feedback from Newegg, United Airlines,Walmart.com, and Expedia). Companies that have been successful with sales chat typically are lifestyle brands – companies that hold exclusivity over their goods, and control all of the means production, distribution, and marketing – and can command higher sales margin.
2. Chatting in a sales context drives up chat volumes and the related supporting costs.
Sales chat volumes often rise to levels that rival or eclipse the amount of service chats that an organisation receives. This puts significant operational pressure on these companies to hire and train significant numbers of additional agents. Some companies are able to endure this and become successful, but may have resisted doing this because of the lack of profit realised in the exercise.
3. Reach is a challenge.
Even the companies that engage in Sales chat and realise the often incredible boosts to conversion and revenue, are only able to scale up to engage about one to two percent [1-800-flowers engages 0.81 percent of their sales traffic) of pre-sales visitors. Since every chat requires a live agent, the average busy retailer would need many hundreds if not thousands of agents live an available at all times to engage a more significant number of customers.
This is just not feasible for many online companies. In addition, more and more studies show that many customers – particularly those in the ever-growing mobile demographic, don’t start ecommerce journeys expecting to talk to you on the phone or on chat! They want to self-serve.
So this conundrum exists where the many customers don’t want to engage, and companies are not incented to talk to their customers. Was the whole promise of customer engagement merely fool’s gold? Or is there another way to turn digital engagement into real profits by overcoming many of the key limitations of the format?
There is another way, and the solution is Guided Digital Commerce.
Digging into the challenges a bit more, it turns out that if you can address two key realities, you can pump profit back into digital engagement, reduce costs like never before, increase customer satisfaction and retention, and reach customers that never would have engaged with you previously.
Reality 1: Repetitive Contacts are a huge problem. It turns out that as customers we’re not as unique as we’d like to think – at least in terms of our shopping and engagement patterns online. The customers who do engage companies via the phone, email, or chat tend to be asking about the same four or five things relative to where they are in the customer journey.
Go ask a contact centre agent. They know the top five reasons why someone gets in contact with them like the back of their hand. And these repetitive topics can sometimes make up the overwhelming majority of the total contacts. In financial services, password lock out issues alone can make up 70 percent of total contacts.
In retail, “Where is my order” (known by it’s nickname, WISMO) can make up more than half of all contacts. However, our phone, chat, and email solutions do absolutely nothing to deflect contacts on these topics. Not only do these contacts drive up costs, but they increase the wait time for everyone, and lower customer satisfaction.
Reality 2: Just because large segments of customers don’t want to talk to you during a sales or service journey, that doesn’t mean that they don’t need help. It just means that customers want to self-serve.
They want to find the answers to their questions on their own, but often the answers to the most common questions are tucked away on some FAQ page, or are hidden away under some tab – in short, the keys to overcoming the most common struggles and hesitations are not easily available to the customer where and when they need them.
Guided Digital Commerce takes the answers to the most common questions and puts them in front of the customers when and where they need these questions most. This is achieved by understanding where the customer is in the journey and offering a timely contextual and proactive solution to what they are struggling over. As in: “I see you’re struggling with that expired coupon code, here is one that works.”
This also means giving the customers who do like to or feel the need to live engage, an opportunity to find the answer to their question faster than they could with a live engagement. This can mean intercepting chat requests with common solutions first, as in: “Checking on your order? Give us your order number and we’ll give you the latest information.”
The key to Guided Digital Commerce is proactive automation for the majority of contacts and preserving your live channels for your more unique and complex inquires. If you can give the customer the right answer to their concern the overwhelming majority of time, you can deploy a profitable engagement solution that can reach all of your customers instead of just a few.
This doesn’t mean that chat and email completely fall by the wayside, but it means that while automation is handling the majority of contacts, your chat and email practice can focus on the more unique customer use cases, escalating profit, reducing costs, increasing satisfaction and reaching more customer than ever before.
From their headquarters in Bedford, Receptional is at the forefront of search marketing, and its exceptional work with two UK firms earned two Gold awards at the fifth annual UKDXA finals last month in London, hosted by Awards International.
The first gong was in the Best Digital Marketing Campaign/Project category for their work with UK holiday park operator Away Resorts.
Their UK’s Most Instagrammable Forest campaign was brought to life by Receptional’s talented team, and inspired many to get back to nature and experience the delights of the country’s precious woodlands.
Meanwhile, Receptional’s second gold award was for Best SEO Strategy in partnership with mobile app development agency Tappable, which guided a successful rebrand and site development.
Speaking of Receptional’s success, Managing Director Justin Deaville said: “This is a recognition of the dedication and innovation we’ve demonstrated over the past year, and a chance to celebrate the teamwork that made it possible.”
In a further death-knell for traditional print media, British firms are focussing their ad spend away from newspapers and magazines more so than ever before, new research has revealed.
A survey of 1,325 UK marketing professionals carried out by digital marketing agency, Marketingsignals.com, revealed that 56 percent of UK based businesses have turned their main focus away from spending on print advertising during the past 12 months.
The top reason given for this shift was the increased control companies have over their ad spend, with results being much more measurable as they are fully trackable and attributable.
In fact, 64 percent of those surveyed said that this transparency over ROI was their main reason for moving the majority of their ad spend over to digital.
In addition to being able to accurately measure ROI, almost the same number of respondents (62 percent) said that the increase in conversions – compared to traditional advertising methods – was a major reason why they shifted their budgets.
For more than half of the companies surveyed (55 percent), the ability to reach a more targeted audience (with an investment level that’s much lower compared to other traditional advertising methods) was cited as their primary reason for preferring digital advertising.
Thirty-seven percent of those surveyed said they were actively using social media advertising as a tool to acquire new customers. A strategic social media campaign can ensure that businesses are speaking to the most relevant potential customers for their products or services by building out tailored personas based on location, gender, interests and income level (amongst many others).
Completing the top five reasons why UK businesses are focussing their advertising spend on digital, was flexibility, with one-in-four (24 percent) of those surveyed saying that having the agility to change tact and strategy mid-campaign was a key reason for their increased focus on digital.
Gareth Hoyle, Managing Director at Marketingsignals.com, said: “It’s fantastic to see that in 2019, more companies than ever have become fully on board with the digital age.
“Pretty much every company has some form of online presence, as it’s almost a necessity to survive in this day and age, though it’s really interesting to see some of the reasons behind the upscaled shift in budgets being researched and published.
“In short, British businesses are fast seeing the benefits to their bottom line when their marketing departments focus their advertising spend on digital.”
Technology is constantly delivering new methods of communication to the workplace in abundance.
There are so many different communication channels available, we often question which one is best to use and what for.Sometimes, issues occur when we don’t question, and then use the inappropriate tools to communicate something. This can lead to misinterpretation, people may get offended or misconstrue what’s been said, or left feeling they haven’t received sufficient information.
We can all feel like we are drowning in digital communications and are consumed by the 24/7 digital noise. The norm is to respond to everything the instant we receive it and to check all social media updates and sink with FOMO if we weren’t invited to a party or even a meeting!
The objective of technology is make us more effective and productive and not hinder us. It is time to stop manic multi-tasking and thinking that everything has to be now and instant – take a step back, breath, focus, and learn to how to manage your digital communications so you become empowered by technology and not enslaved by it.
Phone: the Power of Voice
By speaking on the phone we can develop a personal connection with a person, understand their tone of voice, and talk in more depth therefore strengthening the connection. There is less margin for error or misinterpretation, and of course the advantage is also there are more opportunities for conversations on a personal level and for humour. Another benefit is trust and authenticity can be built more quickly in comparison to an email or text.
When to use it:
To resolve something urgently that is complex. It is often easier to get results face to over the phone as you can talk around the issues
When you are chasing someone – if a client or employee has been ignoring your emails and messages then pick up the phone and talk to them about it. It will be much quicker
There are times when you must deliver bad news or discuss something personal and empathy is required. This can only be achieved in a face to face meeting or on a phone call
A catch up – you have a business issue to chat through and also it’s been a while since you spoke to the person so you want to catch up with them
Email or ‘snail mail’
Email is still very much the most used communications tool in business. The issue is that you end up with a full inbox and people still copy you in on irrelevant emails. We send roughly 281.1 billion emails a day, a figure that is estimated to increase to 333.2 billion by 2022, according to Statista.
Therefore, we would expect that emails often get ignored, deleted, or end up in the junk box. Emails are not the most effective way to communicate and it is much easier to use other tools such as picking up the phone.
When to use it:
Sitting at your desk or on move from smartphones or tablets
To document conversations and activities
To send files
Video and audio conference calls
These tools are great when you want to speak with a group of people in another location without having to travel. With video you can read people’s body language and easily gage reactions to what you are saying.
When to use it:
For a team meeting to discuss a project or proposal
If there is an issue you can have a collective discussion
To screen share a document and go through it together
Conferencing and collaboration solutions contain instant messaging tools and you can see your colleagues’ presence, when they are available and when they aren’t. However, people expect an instant response and tend to ignore the ‘busy’ and ‘do not disturb’ signs.
When to use it:
When you need an instant answer to a question
You may need to talk to someone and ask them to call you when you are free. Instant messages are more intrusive than emails and are harder to ignore
Companies may use Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter etc to communicate to customers or other stakeholders.
When to use it:
To share photos or information
To ask questions and generate a multitude of answers
To answer customer complaints
For customer reviews
Bringing it All Together
The key is to know how and when to use the different communication tools available. Therefore using them at different times and when appropriate to improve efficiencies and productivity.
Knowing when to switch off is vital, so if you need to focus on a piece of work or need some downtime, and don’t want to be disturbed then you could set your ‘Do Not Disturb’ or turn it all off.
Be guided by the experts
A Solutions Provider in communication solutions will advise and guide you on what communications technology you need for your business and its objectives. They will assist you with setting guidelines on how and when to use the tools, setting ‘etiquette’ rules and ‘duty of care’ policies on how to minimise interruptions utilising them to their potential.
Empower and set yourself free
Set yourself free from drowning in digital noise and instant gratification, and manage your portfolio of communication tools to empower you and not enslave you.
A growing number of UK customers are choosing to purchase from brands using smart speakers such as Amazon Echo and Google Home, with the devices predicted to drive the next wave of ecommerce.
In a study of 2,000 adults carried out by data agency Artefact UK, six out of 10 smart speaker owners say they have used them to make a purchase in the past year, with almost a quarter (22 percent) saying they have done so within the past week of being asked.
Sarah De Martin, Managing Director at Artefact UK, says: “Voice offers a simple and spontaneous path to purchase that reflects how people behave naturally. Forty percent of our sample already owns one or more of these devices so the channel is nearing critical mass. Both Google and Amazon are offering aggressive discounts on their smart speakers and ownership grew by 79 percent last year alone.
“As an e-commerce business, it’s clear why Amazon wants to get Alexa into as many homes as possible. During its recent Prime Day event it even experimented by allowing Prime subscribers to access to some of its best offers through Alexa.”
Businesses in the UK today are very focused on bringing digital tools and tech into the heart of their processes.
You are a brave Marketing or Operations Director if you say that digital transformation is not at the heart of your 12, 24, or 36 month plan.
The benefits of embracing digital are observed everywhere: customers want to browse your products online, buy them online, find your store online, have their questions answered through prompt emails and chatbots, have their returns handled online, and so on.
And there’s plenty of tech vendors selling the dream – tech that enables and automates these processes – helping you to target customers with messages and offers tailored to their needs without any messy set-up requirements, easy to operate, cheaper-faster-better, and pain-free.
Sounds familiar…yet very rarely turns out like that, right? This is because you have to build your digital tech around the way your organisation works, not the other way around.
Less is more with technology, the focus is the customer journey
The reasons for disappointment in digital transformation projects are numerous, but at its core the problem tends to be the same – if you get to the stage where your people are supporting your tech instead of the other way around, you’re in trouble.
Many of our clients ask us for advice on their digital tools and data architecture and are frustrated that they have not obtained the benefits expected from their choice of Data Management Platform, or email service provider, or analytics package. Most often, the problem is not the tech, but the way that the tech has been configured (or not configured), compounded by the fact that the client has set up the tool in isolation from the other tools in their infrastructure. Buying new tools to replace and improve upon the tools’ already there is not the solution!
The solution comes from forensically focusing on identifying exactly what it is that the client needs to execute and configuring the tech for every use case. For large companies, this can require hundreds of use cases and data sets, and that can sound daunting. But that’s what’s required, for many reasons.
One specifically being it’s the law. GDPR requires all companies that hold customer data to have documented processes for the management and deployment of each customer interaction, by channel. To be compliant businesses need to painstakingly deconstruct and document the way they obtain, store, process and deploy their data in each use case anyway.
Another reason is that, whatever the martech salespeople say, the tools do not “seamlessly and automatically interface with your other tools”, or whatever other blasé statement they make to smooth the sale.
This type of mis-selling almost led to a disaster for an international client of ours embarking on a multi-million pound marketing transformation project. As we were specifying the solution, including tools and processes, our new client told us that one of the tools at the centre of their new process was being taken out of the scope, because they had been assured by the vendor that their tool would “set all the taxonomies for the data, and if anything changed, the tool would automatically ripple through all of the changes to the taxonomy…so we don’t think we need help with that”.
Fortunately, we had the experience with the tool and the communication skills to convince the client otherwise – the tool did none of those things and had no automated interface with the large number of data sources in the project. For the client, it was a near-miss; if we had accepted the claim of the vendor that the data would be set up and reconfigured automatically, the project would have been yet another digital white elephant, with everyone scratching their heads, asking what had gone wrong.
Businesses must re-think coordination and collaboration
The final ‘problem’ causing implementations to not go as planned is people. I like to say that any transformation project involves 30 percent of the work getting the tech set up right, and 70 percent “getting people to do things differently”. I’m not advocating that people’s processes and ways of working need to be radically reconfigured.The tools we use for digital marketing are not hard to use, and correctly configured, they should require little reskilling.
The core change that businesses need to make is around coordination: which means, getting people within and across teams to collaborate better, so that the business has a coordinated response to each customer interaction, rather than each team operating in its silo, sending emails, banners or coupons to solve each customer problem in isolation, because it is the only tool they have been given.
The key to success in deploying tools is for the business to be clear on the role for that tool and have a clear plan for how the data used by it will flow to and from other tools in the stack. You can be sure that you will be using different tools in a year’s time, so the instinct to make a decision that you can lock in for years to come is misguided.
You need a set of tools that remains flexible and focused on the tasks required, or you’ll soon find your infrastructure is out of date and not able to give your people the best available capabilities for serving customers. Tools should be just that – tools to do a job.
One of the most inspiring winners at the 2019 UK Digital Experience Awards is planning a return to next year’s event as they continue to provide businesses with innovative digital engines for customers to use.
Multinational firm Torry Harris Integration Solutions (THIS) – headquartered in New Jersey USA and with a UK base in Bristol – won Gold in the Not for Profit & Charity (Including Public Services) category.
The team also secured Silver for Best Digital Change & Transformationin partnership with energy provider Pure Planet. The ceremony, hosted by Awards International, took place in London’s Park Plaza Riverbank earlier this month.
The Gold award was presented for digital platform initiative HomeJini, which is powered by Torry Harris’ digital marketplace solution DigitMarket. It democratises digital by harnessing the power of the platform economy to connect the semi-skilled labour pool in India to employment opportunities.
Meanwhile, the Silver gong was awarded for THIS’ partnership with Pure Planet, which saw the tech firm build a digital ecosystem through implementing and supporting a comprehensive API portfolio. The app for Pure Planet – the UK’s first app-based energy supplier that supplies 100 percent renewable electricity, and 100 percent carbon offset gas – allows customers to track their energy use and receive bills on their smartphone.
Following the firm’s double win, THIS Vice President – Strategic Initiatives, Shuba Sridhar, said: “We are thrilled that our digital marketplace product DigitMarket™ received the recognition it deserves. We are looking to come back next year with a more innovative and impactful story of a Torry Harris-powered digital engine making a massive difference to the customer’s business. Thank you Awards International for organising such a fair and transparent scoring process and a top panel of independent judges.”
Analysts predict that spending on Artificial Intelligence in the retail sector will reach $7.3 billion by 2022, a majority of which will be poured into customer-facing conversational AI solutions like voice assistants and chatbots.
That’s not surprising, given how the power of conversation is poised to fundamentally transform Customer Experience across industries.
The use of consumer-grade digital assistants has exploded in recent years. Consumers have quickly moved beyond ‘talking’ to digital systems for basic information (weather, traffic, trivia, etc.) and now use them to engage in commerce and other activities. For example, half of respondents to a PWC survey last year said that they had made a purchase via a voice assistant, with an additional 25 percent saying they would consider doing so in the future.
While the thought of increased sales through conversational AI is sure to bring a smile to any business decision maker, one shouldn’t lose sight of this technology’s other benefits – particularly its potential to optimise all points of the customer journey.
The new journey
When it comes to locating information about a product or service, consumers are becoming more interested in simply asking for it, rather than typing or tapping to search for it. Conversational UIs offer many advantages over other digital interfaces, in that they help users to find information quickly, allow them keep their hands free for other activities, and perhaps most importantly, play on the human brain’s natural inclinations for conversation and engagement.
A recent survey found that consumers preferred chatbots over apps when it came to receiving quick answers to both simple and complex questions. The bar for human-like conversational experiences is being raised constantly through platforms like IPsoft’s Amelia, which are helping tilt consumer behaviours even further toward these types of interactions. As this trend takes hold, it would be in a retailer’s best interest to automate and optimise these engagements through conversation – not just to provide the best consumer experience, but to gain substantial competitive advantage.
For example, when a customer is making a purchase or asking a question, modern conversational systems – integrated and automated end-to-end to back-office systems – can tap into individual purchase histories and other data sources to organically up- or cross-sell additional items (e.g. “Hello Mr. James, thank you for purchasing your new smartphone, would you also like to purchase a screen protector as you did with your previous device?”).
Similarly, more advanced systems allow brands to scale and target marketing/messaging campaigns to very specific segments within the confines of a conversation. For example, an AI system fronted by a conversational UI could alert a 25-year-old consumer who has purchased more than $200 worth of goods in the last six months (indicating she likes the retailer’s products] about an upcoming weekend sale.
As these marketing strategies can be modified instantaneously at scale through automation, companies are free to experiment and A/B test different approaches, determining the best response – such as making the same offer to “men aged 18 to 25 in London” versus “any consumers who spent more than £100 in the last year”.
Conversational AI can also be used to enhance the conventional brick-and-mortar experience, using voice-enabled kiosks or mobile apps. These channels can provide in-store customers with instant access to helpful information such as in-store locations of various items, or enhanced services such as scheduling deliveries. When implemented on site, this new functionality benefits customers through access up-to-date information and services, and it also frees employees on the floor from answering routine customer FAQs to work in other areas.
Humans are designed to experience the world through conversation. Up until recently, this inclination was somewhat incompatible with modern consumers’ expectations for 24/7 access to goods and services, given the lack of tested and effective conversational AI interfaces. However, now that AI allows companies to automate and scale conversational engagements, they can completely reinvent the customer journey to engender consumer loyalty and generate new revenue.
Today’s cloud-based contact centre solutions make it easier to deliver good customer service whatever the channel.
The real challenge is how to provide a Digital Experience that stands out from the crowd when there is so much noise and too much choice. Multi-channel or omnichannel? AI or no AI? The rapid proliferation of new technologies and buzzwords is enough to reduce even the most focused organisations to blind panic. Some rush in and digitalise simply because everyone else is doing it while others grind to a state of sluggish inertia because change is scary and ‘it’s always been done this way’ is a safer option.
How do contact centres find the happy medium? How do they build a digital CX programme that guarantees successful customer outcomes? The secret is to keep calm, stay focused and follow a few golden rules:
1. Introduce relevance into the digital equation
Don’t just introduce technology for technology’s sake. Always keep the customer at the centre of the digital design process. Think about the dialogues you have with customers, listen to your agents, become a mystery shopper and try out the contact centre to discover the channels and technology that really work. Then, back this up with the performance metrics that matter. Customers just want fast, positive results, so align KPIs accordingly. Focus on Net promoter, Customer Satisfaction (CSat) and Customer Effort scores along with customer churn and first resolution rates rather than Average Handling Times (AHTs).
2. Blend omnichannel with AI for complete customer interactions
Exploit the latest innovations in Artificial Intelligence such as virtual assistants, digital assistants, and bots. The beauty of AI is that it offers practically unlimited capabilities to allow organisations to capture customer conversations that vastly improve service levels and even anticipate customers’ needs by up/cross-selling other products based on their previous purchase or web-browsing history – a real competitive differentiator.
The human touch counts when it comes to handling complex matters and emotionally sensitive or personal issues. Blend instantaneous, multi-channel, round-the-clock digital self-sufficiency with personal service. Just be sure to make the hand-over between virtual and live agents seamless.
3. Remove on-screen clutter
A tidy desktop equals a tidy mind and ultimately a tidy profit. However, on-screen clutter such as multiple pop-ups and different applications frequently get in the way of delivering first-class CX. It’s time to take a closer look at the latest agent applications.
These are designed to remove on-screen clutter by linking to enterprise systems, selected third parties, and knowledge bases through widgets. Customisable and flexible, widgets allow every agent to be presented with the information and functionality most relevant to them in any given situation without switching screens or resorting to pop-ups. This provides a single view of customer conversations and accelerates an agent’s ability to improve CX all in one place.
4. Invest in the right people skills
There’s no point spending time and money on the perfect digital infrastructure if your human skills fail to live up to the same exacting standards. When recruiting new agents, or training long-standing experienced team members, look for candidates with high levels of emotional intelligence.
These are the ones who instinctively understand how the customer is feeling and use that information to influence a positive result even when conversations are passed to them from a digital assistant or chatbot. They grasp the importance of bridging the digital and human worlds and their holistic approach is vital to the success of a digital and connected CX strategy.
5. Choose cloud
Maximising cloud-based integration capabilities improves efficiency and builds customer loyalty as a result of fast and highly personalised interactions. A single view of customer interactions aids decision-making and allows proactive management of response times.
What’s more, when it comes to protecting sensitive customer data, the cloud comes into its own. Using a simple web browser, a single sign-on is all that is required and the ability to switch freely between applications and payment solutions to boost security levels.
Breathe deeply, stay calm, and carry on towards the perfect digital CX strategy. Focus on the digital channels that matter to your customers, experiment with the latest AI, and join the dots with agents who effortlessly link both human and digital worlds. You’ll stand out from the crowd for all the right reasons.
The scalability of online shopping is any retailer’s dream.
Any marketer will tell you that a happy and satisfied customer is your best weapon when it comes to success, but the waters are muddy in the online world and the downsides are even more slippery.
When somebody buys from your online store they get an instant dopamine hit with even more coming as the anticipation builds over the following hours or days until delivery. Every brick and mortar shopper gets the same hit initially, but by walking out with the item in hand that level of anticipation doesn’t hit in the same way. In other words, every customer that buys from your store is on a high from that moment all the way to when they are opening the package and then wearing/using the item.
This is great news for e-retailers, but the downside of this is much steeper if you get this process wrong, with customers being much more let down than by a poor in-store experience.
Positive customer experiences are an imperative for the sustained growth of a business; it builds customer brand loyalty, affinity, and encourages them to refer their friends and interact positively with your brand.
According to the American Express Customer Service Barometer, people tell an average of 15 others about a poor service experience. This means that if you’re having issues with your supply chain, deliveries, or any other part of your business you’re doing untold damage to your future sales and reputation with Forbes reporting that US companies lost $75 billion in 2018 due to poor customer service.
On the other hand, according to Zendesk, as many as 42 percent of consumers will repeat purchase following a positive online experience.
So how might your business combat this?
For online players, the key focus has to be customer-centric. Customers increasingly want next day or even same day delivery options with the ability to tailor times and locations accurately to their needs. To ensure this occurs, having integrated systems that allow you to improve all facets of the digital Customer Experience is key. These include the user interface, mobile responsiveness, and design along with clear communication methods and a way to relay real-time data across all interactions with each customer.
Not only does this ensure a frictionless process for your customers, but it ensures consistency on your end and open communication lines around all aspects of each delivery to ensure proper deliveries or fix any issues in real-time. Companies in retail or in any other industry have been traditionally poor at fixing customer issues in real time and at the customer’s convenience. This comes as no surprise that even now Harvard Business Review found that 64 percent have no dedicated system in place. All companies will have customer issues and while you should always strive to minimise these instances, those who get them right are in a strong position to keep their customers satisfied and differentiate themselves all at the same time.
Winning new customers is very difficult and expensive with the Harvard Business Review finding that it is anywhere from five to 25 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to keep a current one, yet only 49 percent of consumers say that companies provide good CX.
PWC also found that customers spend up to 16 percent more with retailers who provide good CX and are also more willing to share data with these companies also. At this stage you would have hoped that online retailers would have gotten the memo about online CX, satisfaction, and relationships, but it appears for many there’s a lot of work left to do to keep their customers’ dopamine flowing.
The British love affair with bikes is receiving a boost from a growing number of eco-minded commuters keen to swap their car steering wheels for saddles, and a firm at the forefront of this pedal-powered revolution is Brompton Bicycle, famous for its iconic folding bike design.
The business builds over 45,000 bikes each year in its factory in London, 80 percent of which are exported globally. The brand is associated with its innovative product design and high-quality engineering for its iconic folding bikes.
Yet even a traditional, hands-on crafting company such as this knows the value of Digital Experience, and recently teamed up with Sitecore to offer customers a new way to interact online.
CXM spoke with Brompton’s Head of Customer Experience, Harry Mann (pictured below), to get an insight into the company’s impressive digital transformation journey…
What were the biggest challenges Brompton was facing when it came to Customer Experience?
Brompton has 14 stores across the world, but our customers predominantly make their purchase through our partner retailers. As a result, we found it difficult to gain insight into the customer journey and their individual needs because their data was fragmented. We knew that if we couldn’t use customer data to personalise experiences, we would struggle to build long-standing relationships and brand loyalty and wouldn’t be able to maximise sales opportunities.
In the past, customers could only demo and pick up their Brompton bike from a partner store, so their experience with our brand was often out of our hands. We introduced our flagship Brompton Junction stores and the purchase friction improved, but we still needed to understand the customer more clearly to be able to move them through the sales funnel towards a final purchase.
Our wide network of partners and multiple local websites also meant that customers were receiving a different brand experience depending on where they were in the world, and we lacked consistency across our platforms.
What were Brompton’s goals for personalisation and brand consistency?
As a brand that differentiates its offering through high quality products, we knew that investing in digital channels and providing personalised, multichannel experiences to our customers, regardless of where or how they purchased, was crucial. Brand consistency was also critical, so we chose the Sitecore Experience Platform – a CX management platform – to meet this objective.
The platform was chosen thanks to its ability to scale quickly across the entirety of our retail offering and to deliver personalisation at a local and individual level, factoring in where each customer is on their purchasing journey, based on their tracked profiles.
We wanted to be able to deliver a consistent global brand experience, catering to different audiences with locally translated websites, local content relevant to local trends and in-market behaviour, and the ability to suggest customisation of products.
How has Sitecore helped Brompton to develop a more personalised experience for customers?
For customers ready to build their bike online, Sitecore now allows us to present content that explains each feature, and ultimately leads the customer through the bike-building experience. Using the bike-builder tool, customers can experiment and put together a personalised bike to their exact requirements, choosing from 16 million combinations.
Additionally, Sitecore enables Brompton to make incremental improvements to the content served to customers. For example, we can identify through the online data we collect and analyse, if there are particular pages that are causing customers to leave or if content is ‘sticky’ and should be given greater prominence on the page as customers find it more informative or engaging. The platform’s tools enable Brompton to reconfigure the content and layout at the click of a button and react quickly to customer insights.
Quantitative and qualitative customer data presented clearly through the Sitecore Experience Platform has also played a key role in helping shape the brand’s offline strategy. For example, based on the insight gathered from search data on the website, we have been able to choose the best locations for our Brompton Junction stores.
Furthermore, Brompton can now segment our audience into key customer personas:
The builder: who is thinking about buying a Brompton
Brompton ‘novice’: who is just getting to grips with their new purchase
The ‘known customer’: who is using the bike to commute to work and enjoying the freedom the bike gives them
The super-fan: who wants to know about competitive Brompton cycling events
We can adapt the Customer Experience and content to suit the individual based on their segment. For example, the builder could be targeted with a calculator showing how the cost of a Brompton can be offset by not having to buy an annual gym membership or travel card.
What improvements has Brompton seen since implementing these tools?
It has enabled us to deliver a consistent and meaningful experience throughout the whole customer journey. The ability it gives us to own the relationship, even if a customer has bought a bike through a partner, is key for us. With a customer being able to get a bike serviced in addition to simply purchasing the bike, retailers are able to provide an overall ownership experience beyond the point of sale. This is especially important when retailers are struggling to get customers through the door in today’s difficult climate.
At this month’s UK Digital Experience Awards, the day’s biggest success story involved an online platform behind a swimming revolution taking place across Britain.
Swimtime is the largest independent swim school in the UK, and since its foundation in 1998 has helped thousands of young people take the plunge and learn to enjoy one of the healthiest activities around. The need for Swimtime was highlighted in a 2017 report by the Water Safety Review Group, which found that one-in-three children leave primary school unable to complete a length of a pool.
In a bid to boost the number of competent young swimmers, the Swimcloud platform was introduced by Swimtime, making it easier for customers to book and manage their lessons.
The innovative technology was the basis of the firm’s presentation at the UK Digital Experience Awards at London’s Park Plaza Riverbank, and judges awarded them the highest score in the Transport, Leisure and Tourism category.
That score also turned out to be the highest of the day, leading to Swimtime being named Overall Winner.
Theo Millward, Managing Director of Swimtime, said: “Our Swimcloud platform is truly groundbreaking, delivering a world-class Digital Experience to our customers and swimmers, helping us teach some 20,000 learners every week. We are the first in our sector to deploy such advanced technology including machine learning.
“To see the implementation and our results be recognised against such an outstanding field of major companies – many with vast budgets – was a true honour and something neither I or my team will forget in a hurry.”
He added: “When the Overall Winner of the event was announced, hearing our name read out is something we’ll never forget! It was a very special day for us, and we enjoyed celebrating our victory with a well earned gin and tonic. Thank you to hosts Awards International for organising the event, and we look forward to entering next year to defend our crown.”
UK businesses have struggled to handle an upswing in personal data access requests since General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into force, it has been revealed.
Research by business process outsourcer Parseq was conducted following the first anniversary of GDPR, and shows that two-thirds of UK businesses (63 percent) saw an increase in data access requests from customers and their own employees in the 12 months following GDPR’s introduction in May 2018.
One-in-ten (10 percent) businesses experienced an increase of more than 50 percent in the volume of requests. This rose to almost a fifth (17 percent) for businesses with a turnover of £500m or more. Almost nine-in-ten (87 percent) businesses that have seen an increase in requests reported they had found effectively responding to them challenging, citing complexity (54 percent) and cost (54 percent) as the biggest obstacles.
A third (34 percent) of businesses that had experienced an increase in data access requests cited a reliance on paper documentation as a barrier. This figure rose to 47 percent for businesses with a turnover of £500m or more, tying with a lack of time as their second most frequently flagged hurdle after cost.
Under GDPR, individuals can submit a data access request free of charge to receive a copy of personal data that organisations hold on them, along with information on factors such as why their personal data is being used. In general, GDPR requires that organisations must respond to data access requests within one month.
Craig Naylor-Smith, Managing Director at Parseq, said: “GDPR made it easier for people to access their personal data from organisations. With this power at their fingertips, we expected to see that data access requests would rise. However, the fact that so many firms have struggled to respond to the surge in requests suggests that the pressure this has put on businesses has been greater than they anticipated, or that many were simply unprepared for what GDPR would bring.
“It could also have been affected by the August 2019 deadline for consumers to claim back Payment Protection Insurance, with individuals possibly using data access requests to help them uncover information to support their claims.
“What’s particularly interesting to see is that so many businesses state a reliance on paper documentation as a barrier. The digitisation of paper documents can make personal information easier to process and manage, make data access requests easier to respond to and, ultimately, help businesses use data to deliver innovative services in an increasingly competitive, digital landscape.”
It’s important for brands to provide a great experience every time a customer wants to engage.
As the channels to engage continue to expand, brands will want to be accessible and ready to serve. Research indicates that customers who start and end service requests using digital channels have a satisfaction rate that is significantly higher than those using traditional channels. Additionally, the costs per digital customer interaction can be between five to 12 times cheaper than when they engage using the phone.
It’s clear that improving digital efficiency can be an opportunity to minimise costs for the contact centre and improve the overall experience for customers.
So, to boost digital effectiveness, here are five steps:
1. Listen to every feedback source
As the old adage goes – you can’t fix what you can’t measure. Similarly, brands can’t enhance what they don’t fully understand. When embarking on the journey to enhance digital effectiveness, understanding feedback is the only way to prioritise opportunities to improve Customer Experience.
Calls are very important, but they’re not the only way that customers are reaching out or looking for support. Emails, social media posts, review sites, surveys and chats need to be considered and these sources should be integrated with CRM data to reveal the full picture.
2. Prioritise opportunities that will have the highest impact on CX
Customer Experience tools can help brands to analyse unstructured text feedback from these channels by overlaying sentiment and effort scores to understand high friction points in the Digital Experience. They will also look for language around “suggestions” when customers are explaining what they wish could be better.
When analysing phone calls, it is typical for organisations to aggregate all mentions of failures on online channels to understand pain points. They can also analyse short duration calls that typically have a singular call driver and prioritise these for digitisation.
3. Create a priority matrix
Using the techniques above, action-oriented organisations can create a priority matrix that ranks each digital opportunity along the two dimensions of customer impact and level of effort. An opportunity that is deemed to have a high customer impact but will only require a low to medium level of effort to implement quickly jumps up the prioritisation list.
4. Understand the full customer journey
Customers want to communicate via their channel of choice, and nowadays these are digital. When they start a transaction online or via a mobile app, they want to be able to complete their transaction within that channel. This is not always possible and they are forced to make contact on the phone or via chat for further assistance. We often hear comments like “I don’t know why we get so many calls related to buying a ticket when our customers can easily do so via our mobile app or our website”.
Looking further into it, these transactions are often more complicated and multi-faceted than the simple act of purchasing a ticket. There is often another related event that complicates the transaction and causes a channel switch. It may be that the customer is trying to buy a ticket but using loyalty miles or trying to apply a discount code that is not working. Understanding the co-occurrence of such related events to the main transaction is key to designing a digital solution that meets even the more complex interactions.
5. Leverage the power of chatbots
Chatbots provide a way for customers to self-serve on known issues, or to collect important information that facilitates a seamless transition to a contact centre agent. Chatbots are increasingly popular and a 2016 report by Creative Virtual finds that introducing a virtual assistant for customer service can improve chat and phone service levels by 10-15 percent.
Brands can train chatbots to improve customer experience in a variety of ways. By understanding customer ‘intent’ during a live chat interaction or phone call, they can start identifying opportunities for chatbot automation. Organisations can also listen for the words that customers use to express frustration and high effort while accomplishing a task. By understanding these linguistic patterns, brands can train chatbots to express empathy and route a frustrated customer to an agent with a skill set that specialises in the topic that is causing frustration.
The victors of the 2019 UK Digital Experience Awards have celebrated success in London, with swimming school Swimtime making waves by being crowned as the day’s Overall Winner.
The event at London’s Park plaza Riverbank saw firms from across Britain present before an expert panel of judges, offering insight into the digital journeys customers make when connecting with their favourite brands. The very best across 23 categories were identified, with organisations competing to claim titles including Best Digital Change & Transformation, Best Digital Marketing Campaign/Project, and Best Mobile Strategy.
Swimtime, which helps over 15,000 children learn to swim at over 300 venues across the UK, made a huge splash in the Transport/Leisure/Tourism category, beating tech firm rivals Valtech and car rental brand Sixt to claim the Gold award.
Their entry focussed on the innovative SwimCloud digital platform, which manages every conceivable stage of the customer journey from booking to delivery, managing payments, lesson planning, and much more.
That category entry secured the Overall Winner title later in the day, and a spokesperson for the firm said: “Our team and franchisees across the Swimtime family are delighted that the work and investment that has gone into SwimCloud, is not only paying off internally but being recognised as revolutionary in such a competitive award.”
The day was jam-packed with other significant wins for household name brands, including HCL Technologies UK in partnership with Manchester United. Together they secured Gold in the Best Digital Change & Transformation – Project/Platform category after showing judges how they are delivering a unified fan experience, combining subsystems, fan touchpoints, and revenue streams.
Best App was won by BT for its innovative My BT app, while Sky in partnership with Journey Further won Gold for Best PPC Strategy.
CEO of UX design piuoneers Usability 24/7, Paul Blunden chaired the awards, steering the development of the event towards its most impactful year to date, and he will return in the coming years to ensure the event continues to explore and reward the very best digital experiences offered by brands.
Congratulating the day’s winners, Awards International CEO Neil Skehel said: “These awards highlight the most innovative Digital Experiences customers will come across in the UK today, and show just how vital a trusted digital journey is for today’s tech-savvy consumers.
“Well done to all who attended to present before our judges, and a special congratulations to all of the category winners, who truly deserve their success. We look forward to further exciting DX developments from our winning brands in the coming months and years, and hope to see many return to compete at next year’s UK Digital Experience Awards.”
In the scramble to achieve last-minute compliance before the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) deadline last year, many companies engaged in some ‘privacy theatre’ – adopting basic consent models, and meeting the requirements just enough to comply with the new law and avoid fines.
With this kind of minimal compliance mentality, it should come as no surprise that consumers don’t feel much has changed for them when interacting with companies.
Only 31 percent of consumers think their overall experience has improved since the introduction of GDPR and 40 percent don’t feel companies take data breaches seriously, according to a recent Marketing Week study. In only aiming for the lowest GDPR bar, firms have missed the opportunity of turning consent and privacy in to a way to build relationships, earn trust and gain a competitive advantage.
To provide truly engaging digital experiences, businesses must set their sights on a higher level of customer-centric data management that goes far beyond the essentials. Indeed, the biggest mistake we’re seeing in GDPR compliance is leaving the decisions to the Legal department. Too many marketers think that it’s “someone else’s job” and just wait for the lawyers to give them consent language for yet another grey cookie banner. It is vital that marketing take a central role in turning privacy from a compliance issue to a competitive advantage of superior customer experience and loyalty.
The GDPR impasse: a matter of perception
Marketers know that content is what hooks the attention of consumers and keeps them coming back time and again. But that content needs to be tailored or personalised so we can deliver the right messages to the right audiences at the right time. Data is a critical component to creating the right segments, assigning individuals to those segments, and testing the effectiveness of our messages. For that reason, organisations must be focused on exceptional data practices that maximise consent and therefore effectiveness of the personalisation and content stack.
Personalisation can both make or break consumer trust: it can benefit them by adding relevance and value, but it may also fuel privacy issues because consumers are concerned about how their data is collected and used. Despite the appetite for meaningful, personalised content, when it comes to gaining consent businesses still encounter resistance from consumers.
But consent doesn’t have to be an obstacle for organisations or consumers. Rather than operating on a purely functional approach that gets consumers to click and continue – making the organisation legally compliant – if it is well-handled from the start of the marketing funnel, consent requests can be the launch pad for creating deeper understanding of your consumer and in turn providing them with the options they prefer when browsing.
Today, organisations face, on average, a 50 percent bounce rate and 25 percent of consumers running ad-blocking technology. These visitors are completely opting-out of your marketing technology, but are invisible to your consent statistics if you only view “yes vs no” consent resolutions. Those organisations that build earning trust and gaining consent as part of customer experience will earn a higher share of consumers in the technology system and therefore gain structural competitive advantage in the market.
Turning obligation into opportunity
The way businesses ask for consent matters. Intrusive pop-up forms and cookie walls not only interrupt activity, but also leave consumers with a sense of powerlessness; 59 percent say companies don’t allow them to browse their websites unless they share personal data. If businesses want data access, they must reduce friction, and view consent as the first touchpoint of the consumer journey – an opportunity to set new, mutually beneficial rules of engagement. In the case of cookie walls, companies are asking consumers to give access to their personal data and enable tracking before the consumer has even decided if there’s anything valuable on the site. That’s a difficult value proposition to scale.
Put simply, the consent request needs to be a positive experience. Companies need to make this initial interaction a preview of the compliant, customer-focused communications and services consumers can expect after sharing data. In practical terms, this means outlining exactly how and why data will be used, and giving consumers a choice. For example, firms might use an expandable form that restricts disruption by enabling consumers to opt in for multiple sharing purposes at once and, crucially, reject each one if they wish.
By prioritising transparency and consumer control from the offset, companies can boost the odds of gaining consent, as well as encourage individuals to continue along the funnel.
Identifying the consent line
Equally as vital as an enticing welcome is knowing where to draw the line. Given the starring role data plays in determining how online content should be tailored and delivered, it’s easy to see why marketers are especially tempted to collect as much data as possible. But from the consumer perspective, hungry data requests can feel intrusive, increasing the likelihood that they will both lose trust and refuse consent.
Before making consent appeals, businesses should carefully consider how much information they realistically need. More often than not, firms have much of the data necessary to drive impactful content, but not in a unified state. By embracing agile technology that can plug into isolated systems and blend existing pools of freely-given data, organisations may find they already hold a near-complete view of consumers. Combined with other, non-personally identifiable insight – such as recent web-browsing activity and keyword search – this data can help them achieve relevant and contextually appropriate digital marketing. And by issuing reasonable requests that have a higher chance of positive response, this data foundation can be further supplemented to offer optimally meaningful and effective content.
Organisations need to also consider asking for just the data and consent they need to improve the experience. Many sites today ask for geo-location data on first page load – a request that many consumers are likely to refuse as they don’t perceive the value to them. Waiting until a location search, and suggesting sharing geo-location data as a way to improve results – yields higher consent rates, happier consumers, and increased trust.
Forging lasting consumer bonds
Consent isn’t a one-and-done process, and neither is consumer engagement. To prove they are worthy of consent and loyalty, companies must persistently strive to provide high-quality experiences. On the marketing side, this means ensuring interactions are tailored, seamless and consistent throughout the consumer journey. Mismatched branding across mobile and desktop, broken links and low-grade content can be just as damaging to consumer trust as irrelevant ads or overly frequent emails. Businesses must focus on the finer details; sustaining revenue and credibility by maintaining genuinely valuable and accessible, cross-channel content.
Similar principles also apply to data privacy: organisations need to demonstrate a continual dedication to protecting consumers. In the short-term, companies should ensure they have a complete picture of individuals so that preferences can be accommodated no matter which screen or platform they are using. In the longer term, it is essential to allow room for change; ensuring consumers can easily access and adapt their preferences at any time.
There is a growing requirement for companies to shift their attention back towards the real driver of their success: consumers. Amid rising regulation and awareness of how businesses use personal data, consumers understand their rights and are determined to exercise them. To guarantee future prosperity, businesses must up their data and content management game: moving past the compliance minimum to implement consent processes and deliver positive digital experiences centred around the real needs of today’s privacy-conscious customers.
Organisations must treat privacy, consent and data security as customer experience issues. Those that do will get access to more customers and drive better personalisation in the years ahead.
Current digital marketing techniques are failing to win over customers, a new report warns.
Published by London-based tech firm Ogury, The Reality Report examines the attitudes of over 287,000 mobile users towards marketing and data, and suggests that current practices of digital marketing fail to provide value to users and could endanger organisations’ long-term prosperity.
Fifty-two percent of respondents agree that intrusive or irrelevant messages give them a pooropinion of the app or website that hosts these messages, while only 25 percent of UK respondents believe that targeted messages are useful.
Widermarket datasuggests that the majority of mobileads are served by Big Tech companies, otherwise known as the walled gardens. These technology behemoths have access to an incomparable mass of user data, enabling them to target userswith relevant messages.However, nine out of 10UKusers find targeted marketing messages annoying, even though 13 percent out of the88 percent find them also useful.
Thomas Pasquet, Ogury’s co-founder and co-CEO, said: “If users feel any form of intrusion, they will be annoyed regardless of the relevancy of the message they receive. Therefore, brands and publishers should always offer consumers clear and fair choices: accept anonymous data to be collected to receive customised marketing; opt-out from sharing data and therefore receive irrelevant ads; or pay a fair price in exchange for a marketing free and data collection free environment.”
Pan-European data protection cannot be “taken for granted” post-Brexit it has been warned, after British Airways was hit with a fine of £183 million following a cyber attack which affected half-a-million customers.
The record fine was imposed by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), and comes in the wake of customer data – including personal and financial information – being stolen from BA in 2018.
The hack saw data lifted from the airline’s website and mobile app through the use of a fake site, and initial estimates by BA that 380,000 payment cards were affected were proved wrong as the ICO highlighted 500,000 customers were placed at risk.
The £183 million fine – around 1.5% of BA’s global turnover for the financial year ending December 31 – is the largest ever imposed by the ICO, and has been put to the airline in an official Notice of Intention.
Following the ICO ruling, BA Chairman Alex Cruz said: “British Airways responded quickly to a criminal act to steal customers’ data. We have found no evidence of fraud/fraudulent activity on accounts linked to the theft. We apologise to our customers for any inconvenience this event caused.”
Meanwhile, the ruling has implications for data protection in the UK following the country’s proposed departure from the European Union on October 31, according to an expert in litigation and employment law.
Barrister Jonathan Compton, Partner at firm DMH Stallard, said: “BA will be able to make representations to the ICO, the Notice of Intention is not a final decision. In any event, whilst BA described the Notice as ‘disappointing’, the fact remains that if you are processing peoples’ personal data including credit cards, you must have the security measures in place to avoid a hack.
“What is interesting about this investigation is the increased co-operation between European Data protection agencies. In this case, the ICO was the lead investigator for concerns raised in other EU countries. Whether this co-operation will continue post Brexit is not a matter that can be taken for granted.”
Sales from digital gift cards are projected to hit nearly $700bn in global sales by 2024 – if you’re a retailer, it’s an area you simply can’t afford to avoid or get wrong, especially since 72 percent of retailers now spend more than the value of their card.
However, while gift cards present unique opportunities, they also present some unique challenges.
The gift card space has evolved considerably due to improvements in technology: they’re used both online and offline, and it’s become easier for brands of all shapes and sizes to operate gift card programs. There’s a real need to differentiate and provide a gift card experience that’s a cut above the rest.
If you’re running a retail business, you might well be asking: how do I go about building a modern gift card program that delivers real benefits to both the brand and its customers?
Make it easy to purchase and redeem
Great Customer Experience is all about cohesion. If you experienced an issue buying something in-store and an advisor was unable to help you resolve it online, then it would present a problem, wouldn’t it? It’s the same with gift cards – they need to be easy to buy and redeem across all different online and offline channels.
When your customer buys a gift card in-store, they should be able to use it online – and when they buy it online, they should be able to use it in-store. If they can’t use it in the way they prefer, they’ll rightly wonder what the point of buying it at all is – damaging their experience and your brand reputation.
Some brands still rely exclusively on physical gift cards and don’t have any kind of digital equivalent, which can be an immediate turn-off for customers. Others run disparate online and offline gift cards that aren’t compatible with one another – a situation that’s common even for more established brands.
So, make sure your provider unites the offline and online experience. Work to migrate separate programs into one distinct program, ensure it converts all kinds of currency if you operate locations globally, and make sure gift cards are clearly available to purchase on your e-commerce platform, as well as from any resellers, such as department stores. You can even distribute them to some businesses to use as a corporate incentive.
The idea is to make your gift cards available across every possible commercial touchpoint: to create a true multichannel gift card program.
Make it global
Ever get annoyed when a much-anticipated film or TV is released in the US – and only released in the UK a week, a month, or even a year later? It’s really annoying, both because you don’t get to watch what you want to watch and because it makes you feel like there are two tiers of viewer: the one in the home market, and the one in the less-valuable foreign market.
The same thing applies to gift cards. If you’re a large international retailer, a hotelier, or a restaurant chain, you need to make sure your gift card program is scalable all over the world rather than restricted by geography. You shouldn’t ever be in a situation where you’re setting up specific programs for specific countries – the same experience, in the preferred language and the preferred currency, should be available to all.
A customer who uses your service in Boston, a customer who uses your service in Berlin, and a customer who flits between the two, should all be able to buy and use gift cards seamlessly.
Make it sustainable
Sustainability is a big draw for modern-day customers – and many gift card programs are heavily reliant on plastic.
You can make these programs more sustainable by using an eco-card, which has all the advantages of a standard plastic gift card, but is made using substantially ‘greener’ techniques. These cards can be made of recycled PVC, corn-based plastic, or paper stock, and their carriers can be made of soy-based inks or recycled materials. It’s also worth making sure you shred and recycle all deactivated cards.
Plastic waste is a significant issue in the modern world, and a more sustainable approach can not only reduce your environmental impact, but also boost your brand’s reputation.
Make it easy to integrate
Does your gift card program fit in with your electronic point-of-sale (EPOS) system and e-commerce sites, or is it tethered more loosely? The more tightly you can integrate it, the better. Gift cards should be easily compatible with in-store ordering technology to make it as easy as possible for staff and customers to process sales and redeem cards. The same goes for ecommerce sites.
More integration means a more cohesive customer experience, and it also makes it easier to collect and report data related to gift card transactions. This should help you refine your sales and marketing strategy. Integrating gift cards with EPOS systems can also decrease processing times and improve the ability to offer tailored promotions.
Make it different
Finally, think about specificity. Gift cards haven’t been around for all that long, and they weren’t always commonplace. Now they’re available everywhere, so it’s worth making sure yours stands out.
Think about creating different gift cards for different purposes. They come in many flavours: loyalty-based gift cards can be sent to particularly long-time customers to reward them for sticking with you; mystery gift cards can be sent to entice new prospects; you can send them on birthdays or weddings, or you can send them when a customer has checked into a specific location – for a hotel chain, you might want to send customers a specific resort gift card.
You can, of course, also use them to compensate customers for a negative experience. They should all be a part of the same program, but there should be a range available to suit the full range of Customer Experiences you offer. If a customer returns an item for whatever reason, you should give them the option of putting the value onto a gift card – this means the money stays with the retailer, the customer is statistically likely to spend more, and you can easily turn a negative experience into a positive one.
Gift cards, ultimately, are a show of faith in your retailer: instead of spending money on you directly, customers buy them for friends and family – trusting that something within the range of what you offer will make them happy. Repay this faith and trust by making the gift card experience as positive as possible. Customers will reward you for it.