“The customer is always right” has been a well trodden phrase for many decades. Whether it’s an experience in a department store, within a restaurant, on board a flight or during a visit to the bank, consumers have always expected the service, product or experience they are purchasing to be of a high quality and, above all, leave a positive impression of the brand in their mind. What’s always been crucial for brands to recognise is that they are a owned by, and only really exists in the mind of the audience – therefore to survive long-term, brands must be continually focused on providing experiences that deliver a positive impact in the mind of that customer. This is the core driver behind encouraging repeat purchase.

Fast forward to the present day and the explosion of customer channels and touchpoints; this phrase remains as vital as ever. The technological evolution has, amongst other things, heightened the need for brands to deliver a first-class customer experience more than ever before. In creating a great user experience, which feeds into the overall brand experience, organisations are more likely to gain a better understanding and insight, helping them earn greater loyalty as a result. Nowadays, it’s not only a question of the customer always being right, but more importantly, it’s the need for brands to recognise and demonstrate that customer preferences have to be put first when developing the journey. Drawing on customer intelligence to create an irresistible user experience is now the most powerful sales techniques a brand can have in their armour; it is through these positive experiences, that a brand will continue to exist in the mind of the consumer and it will earn a deeper level of loyalty as a result.

Customer expectations have increased, whilst attention span and patience is significantly lower. Brands don’t have long to make a lasting impression, making it paramount that they get the engagement approach right first time. Organisations should be continually looking for ways to create and ensure the customer feels valued and part of something unique to them from the outset. It’s this emphasis on the user experience that will enable brands to form long lasting relationships that keeps them ahead of competitors. In an overcrowded marketplace, in which customers are interacting across multiple channels, how should brands be approaching the customer-first strategy across the entire journey?

Brands that are still under the belief that they can maintain a successful long-term customer relationship without the correct technology in place to collect and interpret data insights are mistaken. Certainly, in the days where brand interaction, transaction and loyalty were earned merely through face-to-face contact in store, technological investment wasn’t such a necessity. This is no longer enough however, and brands must ensure they are putting technology and skilled experts in place from the start. Without this, there is little hope that they’ll be successful in delivering the overall positive brand experience that is crucial to maintaining existence.

Data collection is only step one of the journey though. It’s how brands make use of these insights that really sets them apart from one another. Illustrating true understanding behind a customer’s decision making process, and using these insights to enhance subsequent experiences will lead to reward. The customers hold the position of authority – they are the ultimate decision makers behind whether a purchase is made or not. Recognising individual shopper behaviour through personalised targeting and reflecting this across all touchpoints will create a bond with the customer. Being able to adapt and react to the choices customers are making indicates that the brand values the relationship and is willing to nurture the long term partnership.

Whilst channels were once viewed in silos, the growth in devices has heightened the need to restructure approaches to customer journeys. Customers could be switching between six or seven separate channels in their purchase journey, therefore keeping the experience consistent and seamless is vital. Making this simple and efficient is likely to see a far higher purchase rate, than simple brand promotion. Recalling previous brand searches online, having a mobile optimised website, providing alternative, but relevant brand suggestions if a particular product isn’t available or delivering a helpful face to face customer experience in store all contribute to the overall brand experience for a client, which will encourage them to make a purchase.

Extrapolating all of the opportunities available to brands to deepen their understanding of a customer must not be dismissed. Websites now act as the front door for many customers beginning their brand journey, and yet many brands are failing to make the most of this key engagement junction because they are not thinking about the brand in the context of the customer. With technological advances moving as quickly as they are, many customers now expect basic website function to be seamless; if this isn’t, action should be taken quickly to rectify this, but brands must be looking at ways to deliver beyond this. Ultimately, if done properly, brands should view their website as a highly valuable marketing tool to take the customer successfully on to the next stage in the purchase journey.

For example, customers accessing the mobile website of a train station will be looking for particular information. Brands must identify what this is, the most efficient way to display or provide the information and how to enhance the customer experience further, to prolong engagement and ultimately secure a sale. Whether this is suggestions of additional services at the station, ticket offers via email, or mobile voucher codes to be redeemed at the station, brands should be drawing on all channels and touchpoints that will offer something extra and create another opportunity for interaction. Using tools such as Google Analytics to understand who, why and when people are engaging with the website will provide these vital data insights, and enable the brands to deliver a tailored experience that meets customer expectations.

As customer channels continue to grow, brands will be under greater pressure to meet their ever increasing needs, but this is no excuse to let engagement standards slip. Failure to create new content or experiences that leave a positive impression on the mind of their target consumer will see brands falter rapidly. Remembering that it’s the consumer who owns of the brand and recognising this relationship throughout all activity is crucial to a brand’s existence.

The next 12 months will really show those that are investing in the correct areas to draw on data across all touchpoints and reinvest these to deliver the tailored customer experience. The tools are out there, it’s merely a matter of separating those that take action and those that sit back. The multi device world of today has created short attention spans; only the brands that continue to meet the expectations of the customer will see the true results.

Rob ManningRob Manning

Managing Director at direct and digital agency Jacob Bailey, has 15 years experience in getting customers to engage with brands in new and innovative ways. He has a is keen analytical mind and user focused approach ensures that Jacob Bailey remains at the cutting edge of the industry. As a fellow and lecturer for the Institute of Direct Marketing, Rob is responsible for turning the reams of data and information into insight and compelling propositions for the business. Jacob Bailey delivers direct and digital marketing solutions to clients including MasterCard, BT, E.ON and RBS.

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