What is the single most exciting digital marketing opportunity in 2015?
Nope, it isn’t about generating great content. Neither is it mining mountains of big data, or optimizing social media channels.
Rather, customer experience is the holy grail for digital marketers this year. At least according to Adobe and Econsultancy’s Digital Trends 2015 report.
Covering over 6,000 marketers around the world, the survey found creating positive customer experiences is the top digital marketing priority for companies. This is especially so in Asia.
Quoting Paul Robson, President of Adobe APAC:
“Customer experience represents the entire range of interactions a customer might have with a business, covering a range of touch points from awareness and discovery, right through to purchase, use and ideally, advocacy. It’s a complex proposition for a business to serve up a consistent and excellent series of touch points across a life cycle that moves from real life to digital; from store front to website and social networks. But it’s a challenge that marketers in Asia are embracing.”
Customer Experience – The Most Exciting Opportunity
In 2014, customer experience emerged as the number one opportunity, followed by mobile and content marketing. This is seen in the figure above comparing what was predicted and what the actual experiences were (all charts courtesy of Adobe-Econsultancy).
Looking ahead for 2015 (see chart above), marketers continue to be bullish about customer experience, ranking it even more highly than in 2014. Content marketing comes in second at 15%, followed by mobile at 13%.
Interestingly, social seem to have taken a back seat. I guess social media is no longer “new media”, and is viewed more as a foundational need than a competitive advantage.
Regionally speaking (chart above), it is interesting to see how consistent marketers think across Asia, North America and Europe. As expected, mobile is huge in Asia (we’re perpetually tethered to our smartphones). What pleasantly surprises me, however, was the prominence of content marketing.
Done well, content marketing contributes to positive customer experiences. The key here is not to spam your followers or fans with ads disguised as content. Rather, provide content that genuinely helps customers to solve problems or increase customer delight in a way that is consistent to your brand.
Building Blocks of Customer Experiences
When asked to rank the building blocks of a brilliant customer experience, marketers highlighted that strategy and culture were key (see chart above). Interestingly, technology and data took a back seat.
I guess this isn’t surprising considering how Human to Human (H2H) encounters are so vital in creating memorable and delightful customer experiences.
This emphasis on the H2H experience is sealed by the results above.
Marketers view personalisation, relevance, value, and consistency as key variables driving positive customer experiences. On the flip side, efficiency indicators – reliability, speed and mobile-friendliness – seem less important.
Digital Marketing – Extent and Focus
On the impact of digital, it is encouraging to see 70% of organisations embracing digital marketing in an integrated fashion. A fifth (20%) shared that digital marketing is a separate function while 10% did not know how digital marketing is employed.
I wonder if the companies being surveyed were mostly large MNCs though. Most home-grown companies in Asia are still mostly “off-line” in their marketing, although the trend is definitely towards digital.
Encouragingly, more companies will experiment with digital this year. The percent grows from 64% in 2014 to 69% in 2015. I guess this is good news for us digital marketers. 🙂
From the tag cloud above, it is interesting to note that social, mobile, content, and personalisation are the preferred areas of experimentation.
My guess is that customer experience, although considered a high priority, isn’t what marketers would see as something nascent or “experimental”.
Digging deeper, we can see from the chart above that targeting and personalisation (30%) is the highest digital-related priority.
This is narrowly ahead of content optimisation (29%), followed by social media engagement (27%), brand building/viral marketing (24%), and multichannel campaign management (22%).
Again, the emphasis is less on automation and more on the humanisation of the customer experience.
Key Marketing Takeaways
What can we conclude from the report above? Let me offer several possibilities to start you off with:
- Personalised and targeted customer experiences needs to be baked into a company’s DNA. This requires companies to focus obsessively on their customer’s needs, wants and desires – both articulated and unarticulated. You can pick up some tips on doing so by discovering how service leaders innovate.
- Hiring, training and staff development must be geared towards providing “brilliant customer experiences“. While the right social CRM tools and technologies could help, soft factors like culture and skills take precedence. Read more on how you can own your customer experience.
- Content marketing processes and mobile friendliness (eg responsive designs) should add towards customer experiences. This requires digital marketers to think beyond lead generation and acquisition to better serving existing customers.
- Shiny bright objects like big data, marketing automation software, and mobile apps are still important. However, they play supporting roles in a marketer’s arsenal.
- More importantly, companies must begin by asking the bigger questions – customer experience, content, engagement, and personalisation – before looking at the digital marketing technologies and platforms.