According to Gartner, 89% of brands plan to compete on customer experience within the next year to win brand loyalists and meet customer needs to drive conversion. Despite these aspirations, only 10% of brands feel their current customer experiences are meeting these competitive demands. In many cases, the pressure rests heavily on marketing teams to transform customer experiences from expected to exceptional.
But the question is where do you start? With today’s ever-evolving, always-on, multi-channel, omnichannel, hyper-consumers, it’s challenging enough just to keep up, much less leap forward. Examples of great customer experiences that are applauded by national outlets and research firms call for a complete overhaul of existing practices that requires significant time and resources to achieve. I’m talking connected products, wearables, VR, integrations, and the list goes on.
Delivering a better customer experience shouldn’t have to be that complicated – and it isn’t. You are sitting on a wealth of information that your shoppers are readily giving you through their digital footprint that you can utilize to give customers the experiences they are asking for. Your shoppers have high expectations of their favorite brands, given the advancements in digital technology and as such, increasingly expect to be treated as individuals. That means personalized and relevant real-time interactions based on customer behavior and preference. It’s called contextual marketing.
But what is contextual marketing? It’s a concept that has been around for a number of years but has been increasing in popularity in recent months. In fact, contextual marketing is currently a hot topic with industry research analysts. Forrester sees contextual marketing as the bridge for the gap that exists between marketing and customer experience. They define it as "a brand-specific platform that exploits customer context to … guide the customer into the next best interaction." It allows brands to evolve from linear campaigns to continuous interactions with customers. Gartner sees personalization strategies and tactics ranging from slightly customized emails that include a recipient’s name to fully contextual and customized communications as key fronts in the battle for customer experience differentiation.
Let’s explore several different ways to immediately incorporate contextual marketing into your customer experience optimization strategy.
Real-time Triggered Email and Website Experiences
For shoppers, there’s nothing quite like receiving an instant acknowledgement that their favorite brand recognizes which products and categories interests them most. Real-time email triggers have been a key strategy for marketers in the last couple of years not only because they improve the customer experience, but also because they result in higher average order values and sales. Website content transformations are newer to the tech stack for marketers, but just as effective as email. As a shopper interacts with certain products and categories while on your website, the website begins to transform to showcase highly engaged products or categories to ensure a increase the likelihood of conversion before they leave the site. Pop-up modals that capture email sign-ups as vistitors exit the site are another effective way extract value from a shopper’s session even if they don’t purchase. Value City Furniture is a great example of a SmarterHQ customer who is utilizing triggered email and website experiences to drive higher conversions.
You’ve heard it before – send the right message to the right person at the right time. Sounds good, but putting it into practice can seem daunting. Many times, brands will cut corners by implementing a recommendations solution to solve for “offer optimization.” But at the end of the day, it’s truly another batch and blast strategy disguised as personalization. Instead, you must send messages that are individualized to your shoppers based on their historical and real-time interactions. Examples include sending a message to a shopper who historically has had a consistent high average order value but recently has not been engaging with your site. Eddie Bauer is a great example of a SmarterHQ customer who focuses on offer optimization for truly personalized marketing.
Digital marketing is easiest to orchestrate to shoppers based on their digital interactions, but bridging the gap between offline and online channels is an important initiative to fuel the best customer experience. Digital product promotions after a shopper purchased in store is one of the most off-putting customer experiences that occurs frequently today. SmarterHQ customers like Finish Line go a step further and even acknowledge the in-store interactions by triggering an in-store post-purchase email customized to the individual.
At SmarterHQ, we recommend planning customer experiences in stages. Don’t try to tackle everything at once or you run the risk of never getting it off the ground. Many of our clients start with real-time email triggers and website experiences to build a foundation for their customer experiences and a stream of recurring revenue. From there, our client services teams help guide and recommend new experiences to continue building on an exceptional customer experience.
Want more inspiration? Download our SmarterHQ Lookbook for more customer examples beyond the ones cited above, and to see creative examples complete with the results they’re driving.