Why Brands Should Treat Experiences Like Products, and Align Data Strategies Accordingly

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In the past products typically dictated the direction that brands would take in many aspects of their business – including their data strategies. Everything was aligned on selling products and in turn, increase revenue. However, in 2022, brands are now operating in what many describe as the expectation economy.

The extraordinary and unpredictable events of the last two years, matched with micro-changes such as choice, speed of information, and frictionless service have changed how people now perceive brands. Customer expectations have soared to new heights, and the CX transformation required to meet them is in full swing.

Everything starts with personalised moments that, when taken together, comprise meaningful experiences across the spectrum of customer engagement. Done right, these moments and experiences ultimately build up to lasting relationships, substantial lifetime value, and create a sustainable competitive advantage.

At its very core, data underpins the way brands connect with their customers. It’s no longer just about identity, but how data informs the insights that help marketers build and respond to customer interactions in ways that are appropriate for the time, the place, and the individual.

As part of our recent 2022 Customer Experience Imperatives, we explored data’s role in this new paradigm and how brands must constantly innovate to meet customers wherever, and however, they choose to engage.

Making experiences more valuable and relevant

Increasingly savvy consumers expect more from brands’ communications than ever before and marketers are no longer in control of the engagements they have with their brand’s customers – it’s now in the buyer’s hands. This shift has permanently blurred the lines between brand and demand, and awareness and direct response.

While the purchase funnel is still there, brands must understand that experiences are cross-channel, self-servicing, and heavily skewed towards mobile and social environments – we now see funnel fluidity. The goal for brands is to now find, know, engage, and provide value to customers through new funnel logic.

A feedback loop is also essential for a healthy brand-consumer relationship. Media communications should not be viewed as a tool to purely increase sales. It should be regarded as a storytelling device to carefully guide a customer through a journey and acquaint them with a community of common interest.

Turning engagement into value

What value means to a business can sometimes mean something completely different to a customer. And, among customers, value can often be tied to their motivations and goals. When a brand’s focus is on sales, it fails to consider the moment-to-moment objectives of the customer.

However, when you value engagement, you begin to pay closer attention to what your customers actually want – whether it’s information about the product, an offer, or a way to communicate with a brand directly. Incentivising customer feedback and insight is as valuable as incentivising a purchase, for it makes your customer experiences better and more valuable to both you and your audience.

Design your organisation accordingly

Brands should also look to organise their teams to address what happens before a sale. This allows teams to think like your customers and can, in turn, determine the best way to address their needs. This may not be how your team’s success is measured, but it will be how you succeed in the future.

Another way to think about organising your teams around customers’ values is to think of your brand’s experiences as products. For example, a brand that has a great product demonstration on its site that drives a potential customer to ask a question. In exchange, a brand will get data from this customer; an email address, reason to buy, the time of day and location, and a propensity to purchase. In this example, the product alone didn’t drive value – the experience did.

By building your teams to support these experiences, you will achieve the dialogue needed between you and your customers to derive value from every customer touchpoint.

The changing role of data

The role of data continues to evolve as we continue to explore new avenues to engage with consumers. However, as data volumes grow, sensitivities surrounding data collection is rapidly increasing.

With likely more stringent restrictions to emerge in the wake of legislation like the EU’s GDPR and the US’s CCPA, a persistent watch on privacy laws and monitoring your activities’ compliance to these laws is imperative.

Consumers are also increasingly focused on data privacy and wish to engage with brands that they feel they can trust with their personal information. Yet, at the same time, they expect brands to engage with them on a personalised, one-to-one level. Therefore, understanding how data’s role has changed while staying ahead of the curve should remain a top priority.

Making experiences more valuable and relevant means thinking beyond the screen and focusing on what types of relationships you want to drive, the context, and the human side of that relationship. Data has undeniably changed the dynamic of the relationship between businesses and consumers, and we can – and should – put ourselves in the customer’s shoes. After all, we are all customers who want to engage in specific ways with brands that are valuable and/or meaningful to us.

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