CEOs are focusing on innovation and growth – and also on the customer in a major way, according to Jenny Burns, CEO at design and innovation company Magnetic.
“Business leaders have got to get on with growing their businesses; you can’t cost cut your way to growth,” the agency leader said, highlighting how great experiences drive loyalty.
Burns was speaking on Econsultancy’s recent 2024 trends webinar (watch it on demand here, or read the accompanying article), hosted by Econsultancy Commercial Director Damian McAlonan. Fellow panellists included Simon Swan, Digital Marketing & Media Director at Karo Healthcare, which owns brands such as E45, and Andrew Hood, CEO at independent analytics firm Lynchpin and Econsultancy trainer.
They discussed customer focus, the dissolution of ‘digital’ as its own business silo, and the role of data in loyalty and stand-out experiences.
The customer experience is “changing on a day-to-day basis”
Magnetic’s Burns said she is observing “a massive shift towards focusing much more on the customer,” and noted that “a lot of people, for a long time, have been talking the talk but perhaps not walking the walk.”
Now, she added, this customer-centricity is happening in “a real way”.
“The world, as we know, is changing so quickly – so when you talk about customer experience as a priority, it’s literally changing on a day-to-day basis,” she said. “Customer expectations are heightened, their needs are changing – and of course technology is rapidly developing also.”
Magnetic has worked with clients such as Mars Inc. on developing user-centricity teams and skills such as design thinking, saying that brands, post-pandemic, are realising the need to “build even closer relationships with their own customers”.
“They recognise that increasing the brand connection enables them to continue to innovate – to develop new products,” Burns explained when emphasising the importance of customer insight.
Focus on first-party data a cause for optimism
It’s difficult to talk about the customer without mentioning data: in a trends presentation preceding the panel discussion, Econsultancy Senior Analyst Lynette Saunders observed that data and insight capability topped the list of budget priorities for respondents to Econsultancy’s 2023 Future of Marketing survey.
Lynchpin’s Andrew Hood said that a renewed focus on first-party data from businesses has made him “optimistic for much better – and much more valued – relationships between brands and consumers.”
Burns also spoke to the role of loyalty programmes in customer acquisition and retention, and predicted that, “The difference in 2024 will be … data and how we can use data and AI to interpret customer patterns in a more sophisticated way.”
Furthermore, she foresees experiences and experience design taking a front seat as a driver of customer loyalty in 2024. “Those lasting moments that say, ‘Hey – I’m going to go back to this brand; I’m going to be a repeat purchaser’. That’s going to come from experience design as much as it is from products and services.
“And I think to design those experiences, you need the data of those key moments that are going to ‘wow’ the customer even more in an incredibly crowded market.”
Digital takes “more of a precedence” in brand building
Karo Healthcare’s Simon Swan commented on the further erosion of the idea of digital as a separate specialism or a set of tactics.
“When it comes to the C-suite, the role of digital is taking more of a precedence – in particular for brand-building,” he reflected. “It’s not necessarily seen as a silo – as it could have been a few years ago.”
Swan also highlighted the fact that discussions of digital are moving away from purely focusing on performance to become more business-oriented. “What I’m really positive about this year… is how we talk about digital and ecommerce more in business language – and not necessarily wrapped up in [the language of] metrics, as it might have historically been”.