What are customer experience principles

Develop holistic customer experiences with omnichannel branding

Omnichannel branding

Digital networking is advancing rapidly. People naturally use physical and digital channels in parallel and even at the same time, and shopping in stores and e-commerce have long gone hand in hand. A holistic and coordinated customer experience is therefore more important than ever today. When, where and how it suits customers.

Customers are using the growing digital possibilities: According to mycustomer.com, 67% of customers start their shopping on one device and complete the purchase on another. 80% of all smartphone shoppers use their mobile phones as an aid when shopping in stores. 15-30% more sales are achieved with omnichannel customers compared to single-channel customers. What does this mean for brand management? More than ever, the focus is on the brand experience as a whole.

The relevance of holistic customer experiences
Precisely because nowadays customers no longer move linearly along a purchase process, a holistic customer experience is becoming more and more important. In the past, customers considered a certain selection of brands at the beginning of the purchase funnel in order to successively downsize them based on the exclusion principle and finally decide to buy a brand. Today, when customers regularly find information on comparison platforms and are constantly drawn to new brands, the range of brands in the evaluation process is even increasing. The orchestration and coordination of the individual “experience points” is therefore becoming more and more important if brands are shortlisted and want to stay there with an increasingly well-informed, agile and networked generation of customers. A cross-industry study by the Harvard Business Review (2013) shows that the customer experience as a whole correlates much more strongly with the overall company result than the performance of individual contact points: In terms of customer satisfaction, it is 30-40% more, for parameters such as sales, repeat purchases and Recommendation rate 20-30% more.
In what context is the relevance of holistic customer experiences? What other developments can be observed?

Developments in the context of customer experiences
The following five developments show change dynamics that strengthen the relevance of holistic customer experiences.

1. Increase in contact points and moments of experience
Technological developments and innovations are the central drivers for increasing contact points with brands in the customer experience. Customers have more and more communication and sales channels available through which they can obtain information, exchange information or use them as a point of sale - digital and physical.

2. From the staging of individual contact points to a holistic world of experience
Pure marketing communication and advertising shape parts of the brand experience, but by far cannot penetrate all dimensions. Topics such as services, interactions, technologies, architecture and environments, employee behavior also have a major influence on the customer experience.

3. From addressing customers to customer involvement
The one-way communication between the brand and the customer (e.g. via classic “push advertising”) is increasingly becoming a dialogue between the brand and the customer. Customers proactively search for information or actively pass information on to friends and relatives via appropriate community platforms and social media.

4. From brand focus toCustomer focus
The digital natives among companies such as Amazon or Zalando are known for anticipating customer wishes and adapting the customer experience so that customers with new contact points are offered more options and more convenience. For example, the Amazon Dash Buttons make it easy to reorder consumables at the push of a button.

5. From sales promotion to loyalty building
Even if individual contact points increase short-term sales: Holistic experiences have a long-term effect and promote value-driving parameters such as trust, purchase probability, customer satisfaction, loyalty and willingness to recommend. True to the motto: "A brand is what consumers tell you it is."

The consequence for brand management: omnichannel
In order to develop a holistic customer experience, a holistic and interdisciplinary approach to brand management is recommended. Issues such as employee behavior, technologies, product innovation or sales organizations have a major impact on the customer experience and must therefore be included in brand management.

But the reality is often different. Because many companies still reduce brand management to its communicative function with a focus on the management of individual channels. What are the differences to the understanding of omnichannel?

Multi vs. omni

- Focus on individual channels (e.g. digital) including management of individual channels
- Based on a company-focused perspective
- Focuses on needs
- Promotes transactions across multiple channels
- Refers to CRM data, that is, collected customer information related to products and services

- Focus on a holistic experience (both physical and digital) as a central management task
- Based on a customer-focused perspective
- Focuses on the wishes, preferences and behavior of customers
- Encourages interactions across different devices and channels
- Refers to Big Data and takes into account the lifestyles and spaces it contains

The four success factors in dealing with changed customer behavior
Based on a study by Accenture (The New Omnichannel Approach to Serving Customers, 2015), four non-conclusive success factors can be summarized in the omnichannel context.

1. Know the individual customer
The experience: «I expect to be recognized as a customer based on my preferences, my inquiries, my orders. I expect tailor-made interactions that refer to previous activities, regardless of when and where they took place. "

The requirement: It is important to create data-supported, personalized experiences so that customers feel recognized and understood. The online men's outfitter Outfittery gets to know its customers through targeted queries and puts together outfits based on collected profile data. At Zalando, customers are experimenting with the aim of basing product recommendations on customers with similar shopping behavior.

2. Anticipate customer needs
The experience: "I expect proactively personalized offers and product suggestions and the right information in the right place at the right time."

The requirement: experiences that anticipate individual needs. Amazon anticipates customer requirements and gives recommendations based on the profile, search queries, own clicks, recent orders, comparable profiles and wish lists. And beyond that: Amazon registered a patent for a pre-shipping system in 2014. “Anticipated Logistics” even knows what customers are buying before they have ordered. The US department store operator Macy’s has launched beacons at over 800 locations and uses the technology to track customer movements in the store and thus to individually place individual product information.

3. Simplify customers' lives
The experience: “I expect easy interactions with the brand - when, where and how it suits me. It should make my life easier. "

The requirement: Maximum flexibility in a seamless experience at all contact points. Enabling customers to use all options independently. Thanks to the PLY app, the German interior brand PLY enables showroom furniture to be displayed in your own four walls. Who hasn't been helpless before the question of whether a piece of furniture really fits into the living room?

4. Appreciate customers
The experience: "My trust and my loyalty pay off, the longer I use the brand, the more I value it."

The requirement: Let the customer take control and increase his loyalty with relevant incentives. Appreciating customers also means giving weight to their opinion. The transport service provider UBER has elevated this principle to the principle of sharing economy via sharing feedback. The first insurers are already beginning to reward customers for “exemplary” behavior and, like the Swiss insurer CSS (CSS MyStep), for example, enable premium reductions based on the number of steps taken: the credit. Or insurers reward customers for low-risk driving based on telemetry data that is automatically sent to them.

Challenges in addressing target groups in omnichannel branding
"Knowing the consumer in the omnichannel world is not equal to knowing your target group. You need to understand the individual, not the general consumer. " 
yoox-net-porter group; ynap.com

Based on these developments, what are the challenges for brand management? The central topics when addressing target groups in the omnichannel context can be grouped into the following six subject areas:

1. Online-offline networking
80% of all smartphone users use their device in the store at some point while shopping. 50% of all offline purchases are influenced by digital information. 39% of retailers post notices in stores that direct customers to digital channels. So much for the numbers (Worldplay 2015). Thinking in channels is no longer up-to-date. Target group segmentation, the identification of personas, use cases and the definition of individualized customer journeys are the basis for a networked online and offline experience.

2. Content - the right information at the right time in the right place
65% of customers are more likely to buy in-store or online when they receive relevant and personalized offers (Accenture Interactive, 2016). The rapid technological development and the associated increasing personalized offers underscore the relevance of the right messages and content. Which story creates the necessary emotionalization where, when and for whom, which goes beyond the pure functionality of technical devices?

3. Organization of omnichannel management
The networking of the channels leads to the question of the appropriate customer-oriented company organization. Integrated, cross-departmental collaboration - often still organized according to channels - is becoming essential. This affects central control units such as:

- Brand: Coordination and management of customer experience
- Customer knowledge: structuring of customer data for all departments
- Sales: coordination across channels
- Customer service: coordination of all inbound and outbound activities
- Marketing: coordination of campaigns and customer approach
- Product development / innovation: Tailoring the service & innovation design to customer needs
- HR: training and development of managers and employees

4. Employees and brand behavior
Orchestrating a holistic customer experience requires the right employees who, as brand ambassadors, shape and shape the experience. This concerns the ...

... recruitment: Addressing talents who support a customer-centered organization with the necessary skills.

... qualification: Training of employees with regard to handling processes and tools, e.g. design thinking as a method of promoting innovation

… Culture: Establishing a culture of agility, openness, cooperation and innovation for a personalized customer experience.

5. Interpretation and handling of data
The correct interpretation of collected data requires the correct observation and knowledge of customer behavior along the identified personas and customer journeys. Associated with this is the responsible handling of data - whether called big, small or smart data. Customers understand that they leave data behind, the more they expect it to be handled responsibly. Companies have to create data transparency: "The data protection of the future means that citizens can view, change and delete the data stored about them with one click." (2b AHEAD think tank, 2015).

In order to develop and manage holistic customer experiences with omnichannel branding, it is a strategic topic on the corporate management agenda. Branding affects the central control functions of a company more than ever. Only in this way can the holistic potential of the corporate brand - beyond its communicative power - be redeemed. The naming of this new discipline is secondary: perhaps brand management will in future be part of “Customer Experience Management”, a combination as “Brand & Customer Experience Management” is also conceivable. The only decisive factor is the focus on the customer. Because this decides on the success or failure of a company. That remains unchanged in the omnichannel age.

* Pascal Geissbühler is Head of Strategy and a member of the executive board, Philippe Knupp is Strategy Director at Branders, Zurich, a consultancy specializing in branding

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