It’s that time of year again. Marketers are in reflective mood, looking back on the developments and trends of last year and future gazing into what’s going to be big in 2015.

I’m going to ignore the temptation to get too specific in my predictions for this year and instead focus on just one key trend that I hope to see in 2015. 

If pretty much any year from 2008 onwards was labelled ‘the year of mobile’, 2014 was very much about ‘customer experience’ with marketers at the turn of the year proclaiming it to be the most exciting opportunity (with mobile just behind incidentally).

As an aside, customer experience is nothing new, there is just far greater attention being paid to it as a discipline in its own right because in a consumer-led, multi-device world, a seamless and consistent experience is so difficult to deliver.

One thing that certainly doesn’t help is the lack of customer insight driving key decisions. I don't wish to sound like a broken record but having spoken to dozens of retailers last year, big and small, I maintain the view that very few truly understand their customers’ needs and expectations. 

To cite an example, who would have thought that Tesco, so long the darling of British retail, would fall from grace in such dramatic fashion?

Make no mistake about it. This wasn’t down to the economy, ‘tough trading conditions’ or even the rise of Lidl and Aldi, Tesco forgot about its customer and what they wanted.

The company lost touch with the customer making it all the more difficult to counter outside threats, such as Aldi. 

Avoid the same fate and put the customer first

In the coming months, retailers will once more be faced with a myriad of new tools, technologies and marketing opportunities, which is hugely exciting. But this also heaps yet more pressure on already over-worked budgets and resource. 

Clearly, there are certain customer experience initiatives that are a given such as delivery and returns (we all want stuff and we want it now!)

But at a more granular level, how much money and resource is being wasted on campaigns, promotions, tactics and marketing activities that are not truly aligned to customer expectations?

For example, if you don’t know the type of content that most appeals to your audience, how much of the content you are creating is as good as pointless? Don’t get me wrong – some of the mud will stick. But an awful lot won’t.

The ability to decide where to invest for maximum return, minimal waste and happy customers will separate the good from the great this year. This is where customer insight is key. It shouldn’t only be shaping the big decisions but the ‘smaller’ ones too. Even at the most granular of levels, every decision should begin and end with the customer. 

Everyone has a role to play

This means that everyone within the organisation, from the boardroom to the ‘shop floor’ needs to adopt a ‘customer first’ philosophy. 

Digital marketers have a particularly important role to play. Our world moves at lightning pace. There is always something shiny and new and something that looks more fun than the task at hand. We can be easily distracted.

Before you know it, money is thrown at something with little attention paid to whether it is actually relevant to the customer and their values, behaviours, needs or expectations. 

I therefore hope to see marketers take a step back and see the bigger picture in 2015. If 2014 was the year customer experience became as much a part of the vocabulary as SEO or social media, 2015 is the year when retailers need to really live and breathe it. It’s the year when every decision is made on the basis of what customers actually want rather than what the retailer thinks they want.

It’s the year when retailers stop and ask themselves, ‘will this make our customers happy?’

Next time

In my own research last year, I read an awful lot on the importance of customer experience but very little practical advice (especially for SME’s) on how to go about putting in place a customer experience strategy.

I’ll seek to address that next time. Until then, best of luck for 2015. 

Ben Potter

Published 23 January, 2015 by Ben Potter

Ben Potter is the former Commercial Director at Leapfrogg and now a new business mentor to aspiring digital agencies. You can follow him on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.

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Comments (3)

Pete Austin

Pete Austin, CINO at Fresh Relevance

Tesco's customer problems arose because supplier payments became very important to them, so they took on a lot of extra lines. This lead to confusing store layouts and wasted customer time.

For example I was recently told to buy prawns from my local Tesco: I found them in the meat section no problem, but these weren't the right prawns - those were in a little freezer at the other end of the shop, in the bakery section dammit! 20 minutes wasted searching to save £1.

The moral for online marketers is: remember the "Total Cost Of Shopping". It's not just the headline prices, it's the time you make customers waste doing routine stuff. You need in-stock products, simple navigation, search that works, and rapid payment. I sometimes see sites where checking out takes longer than shopping - you can't get away with that any more.

about 3 years ago

Ben Potter

Ben Potter, Director at Ben Potter - business development mentor

Hi Pete, thanks for the comment. Your prawn adventures sound fun!

Your example highlights how Tesco allowed commercial pressures to drive decision making rather than customer experience being the first priority. However, commercial success and customer experience go hand in hand. Get the latter right and the former will follow.

about 3 years ago

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Russell Loarridge, Managing Director Europe at Janrain

As this article points out, 2015 is set to be even more about the customer’s needs and expectations. Customers want a more relevant online experience; they want targeted, timely offers; they don’t want to register for each new site; and growing numbers actively want to share social information, especially if it will contribute to a better, easier online experience. It’s no longer acceptable to just guess what a consumer wants or send them an un-targeted email.

If brands really want to improve customer experience in 2015 they need to harness the potential of online and social based data, as well as that, which is currently often hidden in different silos throughout the organisation. Brands need to use the data from all these different channels and take the time to understand when to speak to a customer and what to say to them. Sending an un-targeted email for the sake of it won’t keep a customer; it will lose one. If you don’t have anything right to say, then don’t say anything at all.

2015 can easily be the year of the customer if brands embrace this approach and start creating experiences that suit each individual consumer.

www.janrain.com

about 3 years ago

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