A recent CMO Club Roundtable in London brought industry thought leaders from across Europe and the US together to discuss the challenges of developing new approaches to consumer experience in an age of marketplace disruption. Luanne Calvert, SVP, Global Marketing and Communications, Virgin America, kicked off the conversation with a talk about the new, consumer-focused landscape that marketers must learn to navigate as they build a long-term strategy, sharing ideas that challenge some long-standing brand mentalities. Here are three of the highlights:
The Idea: No One Cares Who You Are
While that may initially seem harsh, the idea is to start seeing your brand like a modern consumer might. Today’s consumers care what you do, why and how you do it.
Established brands have traditionally enjoyed strong affinity from their customers, based on the quality of their goods and services, sometimes irrespective of customer experience. According to recent research (and ushered in by peer reviews on social media and accessibility of products via e-commerce), those days of riding on a legacy brand name are over. The loyalty of today’s empowered consumer is based on their assessment of the “value-for-me” when interacting with a brand. Virtually every aspect of the product or service delivery process—from online info queries to responsiveness on social media—is viewed by consumers as a “brand experience” and impacts their overall brand perception.
The Takeaway: Several CMOs agreed that “ease, quality, and consistency” were the three most important components of a customer experience that kept their audiences engaged and loyal over time. Campaigns should highlight how those elements are at the heart of your brand’s model of customer service.
The Idea: It’s Not Your Brand Anyway
According to one CMO, brand ownership is an outdated concept. Brand messaging—and the shape of your brand’s public identity—are shared by people, not just through partner advertising.
“Everyone [with a smartphone and/or access to the internet] is a marketer, and every brand is really owned by consumers now.”
That makes your ability to showcase brand stories that highlight a superior experience one of your most important marketing tactics. When consumers share news about their favorite (or least favorite) brands, their audience of friends and family tend to listen. According to a recent study by Nielsen of consumers in 60 countries, 83% of consumers viewed peer recommendations as the most reliable form of “advertising”. That “advertising” is a double-edged sword, though; Research has shown that consumers are just as likely to share a wonderful brand experience as a rant.
The Takeaway: Attendees agreed that “product and customer opinions are the new brand.” Consumers care about the value they are receiving, and how seamlessly that value is delivered, much more than the name of the brand offering it to them. That makes them potentially excellent brand ambassadors (or assassins). Harness your brand’s power to influence the online narrative about your brand by creating content which answers important questions before they’re even asked.
The Idea: Customer Experience Will Determine Your Bottom Line. Period.
You’ll notice that most of the ideas shared at the London roundtable came back to the customer experience and their voice – and that’s no accident.
To have long term success, everything a brand does – from product line iterations to social media posts – needs to come back to the customer experience. This will determine not only your bottom line now, but also the pulse of your company in the future.
Most CMOs said they know that the majority of people will pay more for a product if they believe they will have a superior customer experience. And the research agrees. According to a recent survey, by 2020 customer experience will be the key brand differentiator across every industry—seen by consumers as more important than price and even the product itself. That means CMOs will be charged with creating a strategy which not only preserves core messaging, but also presents empowered consumers with the answers that they need to engage with their brands.
CMOs, participants agreed, need to see data not just as a tool to target consumers with advertising, but to improve customer experience through service personalization. Participants mentioned several brands as examples of highly effective customer experience models, including Spotify, Booking.com, The Oberoi Hotels, Air New Zealand, and HelloFresh.