1st August 2017
Digital and mobile technology, combined with ubiquitous access to the internet, has changed the way consumers behave. These technological trends have also changed consumer's expectations of the companies they deal with on a day to day basis too.
As a result, there are now six dominant customer behaviours that are shaping digital CX strategies; these are:
1. ‘Right here, right now’
Consumers want information right here, right now, and if they are communicating with you on social, they want a response almost instantly. This behaviour stems from users of the original Blackberry, the first mobile device where people could get messages on the go, wherever they were.
More recently services like Uber, which at the touch of a phone can show customers where their cab is instantly, are driving the increase in on-demand business models.
Retail banking is one sector that has embraced this trend. It wasn’t that long ago that high street banks were competing on how many branches they had, or how their branches weren’t being turned into fancy wine bars.
Now, their messages have switched, they are talking about availability, and promoting all the things customers can do in their apps: from how they can make a transfer, pay a bill, check their up-to-the-minute balance, or even scan a paper cheque, upload it and deposit it right from their phone.
Top tip: Customers expect to interact with all aspects of their relationship with a business online; they want a full self-service and expect ‘everything, all the time’. Whichever industry you are in, your CX strategy must incorporate how you can be faster, be everywhere and always on for your customers – because that’s what they are looking for, and that is what will differentiate you from your competitors.
The world of content has really changed dramatically for customers. Their attention is now split by so many different channels, each providing their own stream of content, it's now harder to reach and engage with them than ever before.
In the past, you could simply buy an ad and put a message in front of an audience, at a set time. Now with on-demand, play-back and even ad-free channels like Netflix, this isn’t so easy to do.
Instead many businesses are starting to think like a media company. They have begun creating content that their customers and potential customers will choose to seek out, to read, to listen, to watch, and ideally, even share with others. This is a practice called ‘content marketing’.
Many prominent organisations in the world, including P&G, Microsoft, and Cisco Systems, are using this approach to reach customers. It’s also a technique that is being developed and executed by small businesses and one-person shops around the globe too. A great example of this working in practice comes from farm machinery maker John Deere and its magazine, The Furrow.
Check out the video at the end of this article, where you can see how its magazine 'The Furrow' has been used to help create brand loyalty and trust with its core audience, global farmers.
Top tip: Content doesn't have to speak to the whole world or be something tantalizing, it has to be really relevant and answer the information on the topics that are important to your very specific audience, your customers.
3. Personal experience
Gone are the days when you could broadcast your message to a huge audience in the hope of reaching your desired customers. These days, customers are looking for experiences that are customised and personal to them.
Digitally-savvy customers have come to expect and seek out experiences that allow them to choose and pick what is more relevant, what is more particular to them as individuals.
An interesting example of this is Columbia Sportswear Company, a US brand that makes apparel, backpacks and sporting equipment. It has built several apps over the last few years to assist its customers seeking out a more outdoorsy lifestyle.
One fun app has tools that teach customers how to tie different kinds of knots. Another, more advanced (but free) app, called GPS Pal, does something more complex. It has been designed to log a person’s activity in the great outdoors. Users on a hike can take notes, keep a journal, enter photos, as well as track their movement and progress on a map. The app creates a portrait of that particular route, which users can store and refer back to, or share with their family and friends.
Top tip: Columbia Sportswear Company used an ‘experience’ to differentiate its brand from its competitors. It demonstrated that it understood its customers by providing them with a tool that was deeply rooted in utility. It helped to create a stronger bond between the customer and the Columbia Sportswear brand.
4. Customisable products & services
Similar to the last point, consumers no longer want a one-size-fits-all approach to shopping. They want to be recognised as unique and want products and services on offer to reflect that.
The luxury beauty brand Lancôme, realised this early on and created an application where its customers can take a selfie/upload a photo of themselves and try out different make-up products. They are able to play around with a palette of different colours and styles, so they can see what the products look like on their face before deciding to make a purchase.
In an entirely different way, and in an attempt to attract the millennial customer to its flagship product, the drinks giant Coca-Cola made bottles of Coke custom wrapped with different people’s names on them.
The campaign started out in Australia, and quickly spread to Europe and the US. Coca-Cola wrapped its iconic Coke bottles with 150 of the most popular names within the millennial age bracket, for each region. In select locations, there were even special machines that could further customise cans with any name customers wanted.
This has been a huge success. Coca-Cola has reported a measurable shift in sales among this segment, after previously experiencing a steady decline. Coke said its customers were really drawn to this customised experience.
Top tip: With the rapid advancement of 3D printing or additive manufacturing, customising physical products on-demand, so that each customer can get a version or variation of a product that's particularly suited to their needs and their interests, is becoming increasingly possible.
Digital customers just love to connect with each other. Whether it’s on a running app like Strava, or a travel review site like TripAdvisor, people just want to share their thoughts and experiences with others.
This behaviour has been the driving force behind the messaging apps, and the popularity in the growing number of social media channels.
There are different approaches to using social media as a way of building a relationship with customers, the path you take will depend on your business goals. One useful way to use social is to solicit ideas from customers. Dell computers has connected with its customers in this way for many years. It has sought their input for ideas about how it can improve its business, and even asked for ways it can develop new product lines.
It uses a platform called Idea Storm, which invites customers to suggest ideas for how to improve any of its products, services, warranties, enterprise products, consumer products, and asks them what they would like to see next. Users can post an idea and can even vote for their favourite suggestion.
Dell has incorporated many of the ideas originating from customer suggestions, such as deciding to offer products for computers running on Linux software like Ubuntu. Until it saw requests on the Idea Storm platform, it didn’t realise there was enough market demand for this.
Top tip: Customer strategy must plan for connectivity. You must think about how can you become a part of your customer's digital conversations, add value and gain value from these connections that are happening.
The new customers want to collaborate with others, they want to work together towards a shared goal, project or outcome which they feel they are contributing to.
Wikipedia, the largest encyclopedia ever written, is a good example of this. It is entirely created through contributions of the users. It is open-sourced. Anyone can start an article; edit an article, become an editor; earn that place where they get to look over what other people are adding and making sure the quality is there. And over time it's really developed into an extremely valuable, incredible resource that people around the world rely on.
But there are other kinds of businesses that have applied this thinking too, a great example of which is Apple. Its iPhone success has been attributed to allowing collaboration.
Back in 2007 the very first iPhone didn't have a lot of apps on it. But during the second year, Apple released a software development kit for $99 and opened up its platform and allowed other developers to create apps. Since that moment there has been an incredible explosion of innovation, and the smartphone as we know it today was born.
Top tip: Collaboration can inspire innovation, as the Apple case study shows. You don’t have to do it on such a large scale, just think of simple ways you can tap into this behaviour and how you can invite your customers to shape your business.
The advancement of digital has shifted customer behaviour. Customers are no longer passive and user interaction with businesses now occurs in a complex, dynamic and far-reaching eco-system; the variables in the modern CX equation are as testing as anything you’ll find in the study of chaos theory.
Digital activation and convergence of online services for businesses is no longer a nice to have, it is the essential.
‘Customer Experience’ means creating your own eco-system for your customers. In the same way as chaos theory is applied to predict weather, CX is about identifying all the variables in a complex system that influence and inform your customer’s world. Some of these variables will be digital, some will be offline, some may not even exist yet.
I liken it to eating at an amazing restaurant; a restaurant (if we ignore the process before you enter) is a relatively small, closed system whose CX variables can be relatively easily mapped. You’ve got the obvious things: the food, the staff, the decor. But excellent CX is about mapping all the details, and reflecting your business and CX brand across them all; what are the waiters wearing, how are customers greeted, how do we handle payment?
For modern businesses, the variables reach a mind boggling number: what’s our tone of voice, what services do we offer customers online, how do we package our products? Our challenge as an agency is helping our clients understand the experience principles that answer these and any other fathomable question.
Great CX, like a great restaurant, is about creating for customers a world in which they want to exist. The challenge for businesses is in both understanding what that world is and what it could be, as well as how to allow customers to operate effortlessly and joyously within it.