More value for money. More personalized service. More support long after a purchase is made. To some extent, the word “more” sum ups a lot about the way customer expectations have evolved. Marketers that want to respond should start by pairing it with the word “innovation.”
The most successful brands have always tried to be innovative, of course. This is best reflected in the ads and other content they create as part of their marketing campaigns. Storytelling is an area rife with innovation because you can focus on a new idea, a fresh angle on an old idea, or a compelling narrative.
The changes in customer expectations following the impacts of the pandemic and recent economic pressures like high inflation call for a different kind of innovation, however.
Brands should be harnessing their creativity not only in the campaigns they develop but the way they engage with customers across every touchpoint, and in how they run their marketing operation for maximum productivity and efficiency.
If there were one slogan all marketers should memorize this year, it’s this one: automation is the way to meet or exceed expectations.
By using data more strategically and deploying digital technologies to streamline their workflows, brands won’t only prove they’re worth customers’ attention. They’ll won’t only prove their products and services are worth purchasing. They’ll prove it’s worth it for customers to invest in a relationship with them – because the brand is ready to listen, respond quickly to their needs–and even anticipate them.
The latest edition of Salesforce’s State of The Connected Customer Report shows how this translates into trust. More than three quarters of business buyers said they trust most companies to meet or exceed their expectations. Nearly as many consumers (64%) said the same thing.
The stats were highly similar when businesses and consumers were asked if companies have the intent to meet expectations, and the capabilities to do so. Connected customers are savvy enough to know that the technology and tools are widely available for brands to work in ways that earn their trust. Marketers simply have to follow through and deliver on what the majority of them believe.
In practice, this means taking advantage of marketing innovations such as:
1. First party data collection and management platforms
If you’re sick of having to click a box consenting to the collection of third-party cookies on nearly every web site you visit, you’re not alone. Those notices were put in place because regulators need to ensure those browsing online are aware of how their personal information might be used for retargeting purposes.
Rather than rely on third-party data, brands should look at how they can fine-tune their marketing strategy to encourage customers to provide their first-party data. This could include responses to a survey, subscriptions to their email newsletter, conversations they have with customers on social media, or data from their CRM.
Next, brands should leverage their first-party data to provide more contextually-aware marketing campaigns using a customer data platform (CDP), which will integrate the data and make it actionable.
2. Collaboration tools that unify teams and provide consistent experiences
Hybrid work may be the norm in many brands for the foreseeable future. They can complement the flexibility those models provide by equipping their employees with applications that let them work as cohesively as though everyone was in the same boardroom.
There are already countless marketing teams that stay in constant contact through dedicated Slack channels, for instance. Others are adding video conferencing tools and virtual whiteboards to make conversations even more dynamic. These tools not only provide a better employee experience, but can help trigger discussions that lead to the most innovative marketing strategies.
Customers may not realize these tools are being used, but they appreciate the results, such as marketing messages that are consistent, accurate, and up-to-date.
3. Artificial Intelligence (AI) that adds critical details to the customer journey map
Plenty of brands have conducted some form of journey-mapping exercise, whether it’s their current state, future state, a “day in the life,” or a service blueprint. A journey map becomes a true foundation for innovation, however, when brands add artificial intelligence (AI) to bring all the relevant customer data together.
Instead of isolated customer journey maps, marketing automation powered by AI helps you understand your past results and predicting how customers may respond going forward. Think of it as a guide that helps you follow your customer journey map and lead them where they truly want to go.
4. Digital experiences that offer new frontiers in customer experience
If you’ve ever used Instragram or Snapchat, you’ve probably seen how easy (and fun) it is to use a filter to change how you look, or how your environment looks. That’s a basic form of augmented reality (AR), and brands can use it in a variety of useful ways.
Think of how AR could let you empower customers to see how products will look inside their home, for example, or how it could animate an otherwise static retail store display. The same is true of virtual reality (VR), which brands can use to set up “shop” in the metaverse. These are channels where customers with an innovative mindset are on the lookout for like-minded brands.
5. 360-degree customer views that reimagine the possibilities of personalization
Treating customers as individuals is easy when you’re a small mom-and-pop shop that only serves a handful of local neighbours. How do you replicate that at scale, when your customers could span continents and time zones?
Centralizing data into a platform like Customer 360 provides a single view of your buyers, bringing automation to the art of customer relationship management. For instance, it can analyze data and trigger a prompt for you to reach out proactively when new products arrive that align with a customer’s known interests based on their purchase history. It can even foster a more emotional connection between a brand and its customers, because you can also personalize how you provide service and support. This might include something like handling returns, or providing experiences that help the customer feel like your brand genuinely knows and cares about their wants and needs.
While you may have been hearing about the concept of personalization for a while, it’s more critical than you might think. The State of the Connected Customer Report found that 56% of customers say they feel companies treat them like a number, and 71% of consumers switched brands at least once in the past year. As consumers spend more time online, a world of choice opens up, freeing them from restrictions of past habit and allowing them to explore new options that might better align with their current priorities, preferences, and lifestyle changes.
More automation fuels more innovation – and that means more customer expectations that brands can exceed in 2023. Get even more insights and ideas by downloading the eighth annual Salesforce State of Marketing Report.