The success of industry disruptors such as Airbnb, Amazon and Tesla can be attributed to many factors, but these companies all have one thing in common — a focus on creating an exceptional customer experience, rather than just selling a product.
As a result, customer expectations as a whole are evolving. Today, consumers expect Amazon-like speed and service from any business, regardless of the space you play in. They want to be able to browse and buy anywhere, anytime, and on any device. On average, today’s consumer uses almost six touch points when buying an item, with 50% regularly using more than four.
Meeting these expectations is a major challenge for enterprises. You need to be able to offer a meaningful engagement and seamless sales transaction at every touchpoint. Essentially, this means making it as simple as possible for customers to find what they need during every interaction, allowing them to purchase when and where they are ready.
Interact with customers on their terms
In this environment, having an online store is just the beginning. The growing use of conversational commerce highlights how more businesses are meeting customers inthe moment to create a better experience. For example, enterprises are increasingly relying on chatbots, AI and emerging technology to assist customer enquiriesand sales. Gartner predicts that by 2021, more than 50% of enterprises will spend more per annum on chatbot creationthan traditional mobile app development. That’s not surprising, given that 75% of online customers expect a response within five minutes.
Social media is also a growing avenue for commerce interactions. Features such as Instagram Shopping, where businesses can tag up to five products in an image to display the product cost, product description, and link to buy the product, have made it even easier for customers to purchasewhile scrolling through their feed. The recent expansion to Instagram’s Stories feature for verified accounts further indicates the growing appetite for social selling.
Then there’s the increasing development of IoT and wearables, which is helping with everything from reordering office supplies to creating cashier-less checkouts at Amazon Go stores.
Personalize the shopping experience with artificial intelligence
However, it’s not enough to offer multichannel engagement—the experiences you offer on these channels need to resonate with customers to be effective.
Personalization is an increasingly important aspect of the customer experience. Consider how a customer engages with your brand today. It’s likely that they use a laptop, smartphone, tablet, or maybe voice-assisted technology such as Google Home or Amazon Echo. It may take some time to find a specific product in your catalog, and that might involve clicking through various tabs to complete research online. The customer may be turned off if it takes too long, or if there are an overwhelming number of options.
Enterprises can speed up the buying process and make it easier to buy in the moment by creating personalized experiences. Data from customer browsing, known preferences, purchase history and other touchpoints lets you gain a complete picture of your customer. You can then use that data to personalize the content shown on your website, app, social media, chatbot, orother touchpoint to create a more relevant, curated customer experience.
Data analysis and artificial intelligence make it easier to make sense of the mountains of customer data available. As the number of touchpoints increase, AI will become even more necessary to create individually tailored customer experiences.
The use of artificial intelligence could extend to your pricing structure. For example, a dynamic pricing engine that uses machine learning algorithms could examine customer behavior, product comparisons and purchase history to offer differentiated or competitive pricing based on an individual’s behavior. This kind of personalization can have real benefits to a company’s bottom line, with Gartner predicting that by 2020, smart personalization engines used to recognize customer intent will enable digital businesses to increase their profits by up to 15%.
Take an open systems approach
It’s one thing to invest in chatbots and launch Instagram Shopping, but bringing together the back-end systems to enable a truly holistic customer experience can be more complicated. You need to combine commerce, content, data analytics and machine learning. You need to integrate your content management and commerce systems with legacy billing and fulfillment systems. You need to consider SEO, third-party data and merchandising.
Taking an open and flexible approach is essential to merge commerce into personalized, multichannel customer experiences. By embracing data analytics and machine learning, you can better make sense of customer data to offer a level of personalization that was previously impossible. Only then can you create relevant digital experiences for individuals, enabling them to purchasein real time, regardless of touchpoint.