Overall, you want to put your best foot forward when it comes to this aspect of the digital ecosystem, so you would think companies look to customer experience best practices as a top priority for their digital strategy. Unfortunately, we’ve found that this is not always the case.
Using Centric Digital’s digital classification system* — a system that defines the six layers of digital as Experience, Channels, Product, Platforms, Processes, People — we assessed 204 enterprises and brands across industries and found that companies have left nearly 30% of potential experience-based best practices on the table, the practices most likely to define a consumer’s expectations when thinking of a brand.
In Centric Digital’s digital classification system, key experience categories include capabilities around an “omnichannel” experience — seamless communication or interaction across channels — or mobile experiences that drive further engagement with a singular brand or product. And the Experience layer itself is descriptive of our outermost layer of digital, the place where the connection to customers is strongest and where the company or brand theoretically has the most autonomy over the customer experience. Interactions facilitated through the company’s own initiatives or products dictate the way consumers view an “experience,” whether in-store or online. This is where the rubber meets the road for dictating a true digital strategy based in customer expectations and overall engagement.
For instance, Target recently combined their Cartwheel couponing and offer app into their full-service central Target mobile application, in the process sending the message that while the mobile experience is a unique one, it doesn’t need to be segmented beyond recognition for the average consumer. By combining the powerful nature of the two successful apps under one umbrella, features that drove one app were now available to both experiences. Apple Watch integration, visually appealing and user-friendly interfaces and a pure shopping experience was achieved by collecting adequate information from the two different app experiences before combining into one major app.
Experience, however, is a difficult thing to define. Where does the line between what a company can and cannot do get drawn when thinking about a B2C relationship?
If experience is comprised of all the possible interactions that a consumer could have with a company on any digital channel, then that set of interactions and feelings needs to be defined.
Not surprisingly, among the most important features of customer experience is the ability of any company to personalize the experience (our Personalization category) or the ability to interact with the consumer on their preferred channel of choice (our Omnichannel category).
But again, in those areas, companies are also struggling to keep pace. Our Personalization category, which covers everything from a company’s use of data and analysis to how a company personalizes and segments content, showed that more than half (56%) of the best practices recommended for enterprises were being ignored or not met across industries. This impacts a company’s ability to deliver a meaningful experience to its target customer base.
The Sephora experience, both across its application ecosystem and its overall customer experience, cannot be overstated in its ability to leverage personalization to its advantage to improve and sustain positive customer experiences across its channels. From highly personalized and relevant email marketing techniques to beacon-related in-store alerts that show you where something you may have viewed or added to your digital shopping cart is available physically contributes to a seamlessly personalized customer journey.
If companies are going to improve the overall scope of “experience” as it relates to digital in 2018, then Personalization would be the first place to improve, and take Sephora’s example as a shining North Star. Why? Centric Digital’s classification system points to Personalization as the weightiest important aspect of Experience in the current digital ecosystem.
And yet, in 2018, we can expect that customer expectations about digital experiences will boil down to one channel only: mobile.
Though companies big and small are pouring millions into establishing mobile product resources, best practices, and guidelines for which their entire organization can leverage, there are many gaps between what consumers should expect of their digital experiences and what is actually being offered.
Centric Digital also took the time to assess 20 of the largest scale enterprise companies for their mobile customer experiences at the end of 2017, seven of which were traditional retailers — especially timely given the holiday season. We found that, even though these companies had taken the time to consider and fix any kinks in their customer experiences, the level at which the app-specific capabilities available to any mobile developer were being used at the enterprise level was surprisingly low.
By not taking advantage of some of the most cutting-edge iOS and Android features, these large scale companies are taking a somewhat “play-it-safe” approach. But when these intentionally “sticky” applications don’t include some basic integrations—like Siri, Force and 3D Touch, Apple Watch support—there’s an expectation gap between user and provider. For retailers, taking advantage of an experience feature in Instagram where images are available for “peek and pop” without having to open the full image could be an easy win.
3D touch has support across iMessage, iOS Photo applications, Instagram, Twitter, and other applications using it to preview something without committing to opening it. Specifically in retail, ecommerce customers could view more details of the product before opening the entire product page.
Only a few of the companies we assessed cleared the 50% proficiency barrier in mobile application feature best practices. However, most companies passed the 70+% threshold when measuring experience best practices.
One retailer making moves in the fully immersive app experience space is Etsy. Not surprisingly, the application supports peek-and-pop 3D touch feature functionality while also consistently delivering on the value proposition of Etsy — connecting crafters and small producers with the customers who want unique finds the most. This kind of reinforcing of experience helps Etsy remain atop many retail rankings of mobile experience strength.
Improving experience realities for enterprises, both on traditional digital channels and through mobile, will be a key focus for companies in 2018. And while Centric Digital’s survey of leading companies revealed some serious gaps in best practices, this gap can be closed with the correct tools. Specifically, for any company who wishes to improve their customer experience, put the customer at the center of everything you do and study the journey they need to take to successfully interact with your business. With just this basic shift, you should start to see improvements that could increase sales and leave your customers and prospects with a positive impression.
*Centric Digital’s classification system that makes up the six layers of digital: Experience, Channels, Product, Platforms, Processes, People. This system is assessed through the lens of a 1000-point scale layer by layer, and then ultimately on an overall basis on the same 1000-point scale. Those scores can be translated and manipulated in a variety of ways, but ultimately what it represents is the proportion of best practices that are being met (a perfect score of 1000) or not being met (a score of 0). Anywhere in between is where you’re likely to find most companies who operate in the B2B and B2C spaces, but the entire spectrum of companies often focuses on one of those layers, or even more specifically, one of the subcomponents of those layers (Centric Digital’s category and subcategory taxonomy). When it comes to experience, the pieces of the digital best practices often become more than the sum of its parts. But it’s key to understand that each of those component pieces speak to a larger question of whether or not the consumer feels accounted for.