Businesses today are directing substantial resources and management attention toward improving and optimizing the customer experience. Roughly 15 years ago, “going online” drove the first generation of digital systems that underpinned the customer experience. Those first customer-facing systems focused on making sites more efficient and attractive, as well as on generating customer data.
One limitation of those systems was that it was difficult to look beyond single events or interactions, whether those were transactions, marketing efforts, or other activity. Interactions occurred in isolation, with no coordination, which could frustrate rather than gratify customers. A customer might receive a discount coupon only after buying the very item that the coupon applied to. Another common first-generation problem was voluminous (and indiscriminate) outbound customer communication. Brands carpet-bombed customers’ browsers and inboxes with offers. Worse, those offers weren’t specific to the customer in any way.
Having learned a great deal from the successes and failures of Customer Experience 1.0, organizations are now working hard to redefine the customer experience.
“Successful businesses are now moving to a customer experience that’s highly personalized, driven by intelligent evaluation of the customer’s actions and desires, and aware of all of their interactions, regardless of channel,” says Cynthia Stoddard, CIO and SVP of Adobe. “The latest technology supports a much more personalized and specific interaction with the customer, a stark contrast to the generalized approach of the past.”
Another important change in Customer Experience 2.0 is that businesses are moving past an online-only perspective. They realize that interaction and purchases occur in many channels and that utilizing data from only one channel presents a skewed picture—and a customer experience that misses the mark.
The path to personalization
One of the most serious problems of the systems deployed to support Customer Experience 1.0 was using many different and siloed systems for each customer-facing activity, which made it impossible to understand the big picture.
As Stoddard notes, “developing a holistic data set about the customer is central to truly understanding them, and it enables the mass personalization that is at the heart of redefining the customer experience. This requires an omnichannel approach to understanding customers.”
The ability to personalize in real time using the latest technology solutions changes the game and drives the redefinition of the customer experience. Businesses can now interact with their customers and prospects in the manner most appropriate to each customer’s current stage in the buying process. Specific, personalized information can be delivered at the research stage, and inducements can follow up when the customer is about to buy. Taking this a step further, it’s now possible to build personalized “storefronts” for a single customer or group of customers.
Further, the use of AI and machine learning (ML) brings dynamism to personalization activities. The system is now constantly learning and reacting to changes in customers’ behavior, making it possible to predict where they’re going.
“Moving from a reactive to a proactive customer experience using AI and ML is a game changer,” says Stoddard.
The competitive importance of redefining the customer experience can’t be overstated. As more businesses compete based on how they treat and interact with customers, deploying technology platforms that provide the foundation for personalized, proactive engagement is a mandate.
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