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    Life-saving CX: 4 ways to revive and thrive with a playbook for digital engagement

    Bad customer experience (CX) is a killer, but doing it well can be an incredible (and not necessarily expensive) unlock. Appnovation’s Richard Palmer tells us how brands can make sure they’re on the right side of that divide.

    CX is the nexus of digital identity. In a cutthroat age where 86% of consumers are willing to quit even a trusted brand on the back of two poor interactions, basic mistakes that frustrate customers are a gift to rivals. With a potential cost to brands of around 6.5% of revenue, there’s a staggering price for unforced errors.

    Like any tool in a company’s repertoire, CX requires a thorough understanding of audience needs, and consistency in meeting them. That doesn’t need to be rocket science. Any business with a decent story to tell has the grounding for deep-seated resonance and the type of digital brand loyalty that comes through individuals feeling valued and understood.

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    Here’s how to get started.

    1. Design for empathy

    Most brands overestimate how well they understand their customers. It’s important to know exactly how and why consumers interact at every step of the digital journey.

    In certain circumstances, it’s an issue of safety. Domestic abuse charity Refuge shows a deep understanding that visitors to its website, predominantly women experiencing domestic abuse, fear reprisals if caught asking for help. The website is clearly designed with empathy for these users: the ‘quick exit’ button, accessible from any page, encourages women to take action while minimizing the risk of violent consequences. One simple click and a user is redirected from the website to a Google search page without the option to click back. Here’s the clever bit: Refuge is pushed down the list on users’ browsing history, making it hard to find.

    To manifest similar levels of empathy, brands must start by holding ongoing, detailed, intuitive conversations with their customers. As well as ironing out unseen tech hiccups, put a finger on the pulse of users’ changing attitudes for a watertight understanding of the issues that matter to them most.

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    2. Prioritize values

    More than ever, brands need to understand the motivations, attitudes and values that drive consumer decision-making. Lean research, with qualitative insights to back up quantitative data, is an obvious route into this tenor of meaningful connection.

    A workaholic might never get to the gym, just as someone who’s downright lazy won’t. But their reasons for avoidance are wildly different and require distinct responses: a subtlety that only more nuanced research can pick up on.

    At Appnovation, we use a tool called the Value Index to interpret consumer motivation from aesthetic, functional, emotional and transcendent standpoints. By drilling down into hard-to-quantify feelings such as nostalgia or anxiety, brands can get a handle on the inner life of their customers and respond accordingly.

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    3. Personalize by numbers

    Brands regularly mess up personalization, losing swathes of customers en route. The culprit is nearly always data management. The first step into personalization is a data maturity assessment, enabling a culture for its effective structure and use.

    Brands that get their houses in order on data have a clear advantage. Research shows that consumers are increasingly willing to share data in exchange for a clear benefit. Brands that take this route, however, still need to think outside the box. Take online retailer Very, which pioneered weather data as a personalization tool. The clothing brand draws on local weather patterns to recommend clothing and content tailored to what’s happening weather-wise in a user’s local area.

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    4. Focus on satisfaction

    Most brands recognize that while they may sell products, customers buy something far less transactional. They buy satisfaction: the emotional benefit those products afford. Building loyalty requires that customers conclude transactions with a deeper sense of fulfillment that reaches beyond the product purchase alone. Recognizing this simple truth will quickly shift thinking away from best practice and frictionless checkouts to thumb-stopping experiences that align to a brand’s ownable advantage.

    Social listening can help drive this broader sense of holistic satisfaction too, by gauging what consumers are saying about a brand and pre-empting glitch points or potential negatives.

    Brand communities can also harness satisfaction, though customers must be match-made around similar levels of interest, lifestyle and ambition, rather than products alone. Nike Run Club and The Harley Davidson Owners Club are no-brainers in this respect – but something incidental such as a person’s choice of household tech or shampoo can also speak volumes about their social status. GoPro, Lego and Sephora all embrace the power of holistic belonging with thriving brand communities.

    When consumer trust is hard-won and even more easily lost, the above four pillars create a foundation for robust CX. Combine them, and brands can slowly but surely shape their way to customers who feel understood and valued. This is a cornerstone for the kind of high-caliber digital engagement that will endure even the stormiest of seas ahead.

    Richard Palmer is head of strategy EMEA at digital consultancy Appnovation.

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