The Complete Guide to Building a Customer Experience Strategy

When brands first started engaging with customers online, very few considered the overall customer experience. Today, delivering an exceptional customer experience is a must-have to stay competitive. According to Gartner, 81% of companies expect to compete primarily on customer experience alone. To help you create a customer experience strategy that acquires, converts, and retains customers, we created a guide for every step of the process.

What is a customer experience strategy?

The ideal customer experience strategy will account for your company’s short- and long-term future and serves as a roadmap with a clear timeline, action items, and accountability. No two customer experiences are the same, so it’s essential to align your customer experience strategy with business objectives—it’ll be worth it in the long run. According to Forrester, customer experience leaders outperform customer experience laggards on stock price growth and total returns.

As you outline your customer experience strategy, it helps to define what customer experience means for your company. For example, will the goal of your customer experience strategy be to expand revenue with your existing customers? Launch a direct-to-consumer channel? Or tap into new markets? Your customer experience strategy goal will provide a clear vision for your roadmap.

Who needs to be involved in creating a customer experience strategy?

By speaking with leaders from each business function, you can identify commonalities and differences to inform the overall customer experience strategy. Take time to understand and document each function’s KPIs, barriers to conversion, content strategy, digital touchpoints, and how they support customers. This allows you to foster a customer-centric organization and create a strategy that empowers employees to deliver exceptional digital interactions.

Fundamentals of Building an Actionable Customer Experience Strategy

While each company has its unique definition of customer experience, we’ve outlined the fundamentals of building an actionable customer experience to help you achieve your vision.

Digital Transformation

Digital transformation is the process of integrating digital solutions to streamline operations and improve the customer experience. It typically transcends across an entire organization, affecting technology, people, and processes.

If you’d like to master digital transformation with a strategic plan, download our Digital Transformation Workbook and interactive worksheet.

Technology Stack Upgrade

Understanding the organization’s technology stack and processes will help identify what tools a business needs to deliver modern customer experiences. Customer experience management platforms enable companies to deliver personalized experiences at scale. However, many other technologies facilitate holistic experiences, including customer data platforms (CDPs), customer relationship management (CRM), and marketing automation tools.

According to Infosys, cloud will play a vital role in helping organizations facilitate interactions between companies and their customers. Investing in cloud technology goes beyond the system as it requires a unique skill set to implement, maintain, and secure systems.

Organizational Change

Long-term digital transformation success relies on breaking down silos to foster innovation, adaptability, and collaboration. By reorienting teams based on a channel-agnostic strategy, brands can improve processes, implement automated workflows, and capture the effects of omnichannel experiences.

Modernization of Talent

It’s typical to see legacy companies with large amounts of technical debt that need to be addressed by a modern talent pool, such as developers, data scientists, and digital customer experience strategists. As an increasing number of companies invest in digital solutions, talent that can adapt to modern technologies will be in high demand. Staff augmentation is ideal for companies that want to quickly resolve the technical debt and scale their IT team to meet customer needs.

Capabilities Gap Analysis

Conducting a gap analysis of your company’s capabilities will help you create a roadmap to adapt, develop, or contract new capabilities and determine how they will affect the organization across people, processes, and technologies.

Consumer Segment Analysis

By analyzing your consumer segments and buyer personas, you’ll better understand their goals, priorities, and obstacles and how all functions collectively contribute to each segment. This provides a holistic internal alignment, improves overall customer engagement success, and mitigates risk.

Customer Journey Mapping

Customer journey mapping allows you to create a story of customer interactions with your brand. By documenting behaviors across the entire customer experience, you’ll be able to identify opportunities to:

Competitive and Digital Industry Analysis

We recommend analyzing the customer experiences of digital leaders—both direct competitors and leaders in other industries. Competitive analysis provides a baseline of general customer expectations as well as insights that can be emulated based on your company’s goals, such as improving customer satisfaction, delivering an omnichannel customer experience, or increasing customer retention.

Developing a Data-First Customer Experience Foundation

As Google phases out cookies and brands face new data restrictions from Facebook and Apple, first-party data will be the new competitive advantage. Building a strong analytics foundation facilitates trust in data, supports analytical inferences, and positively influences the outcome.

Data Technology Enablement

When implementing analytics, data management, and optimization tools, it’s critical to understand how these tools will interact within your technology stack. By auditing your data and identifying key KPIs you want to track, you’ll be able to create an analytics architecture that supports business goals. Keep in mind that strategic implementation and enablement are vital to seeing a return on investment in your analytics and data solutions.

Modern Data Science Techniques

Modern data science techniques allow you to inform the digital experience and produce measurable results across the customer journey. All data models need to be vetted from statistical and business perspectives to ensure actionable results and reliable recommendations.

Advanced Analytics

With advanced analytics tools, you can collect data from multiple sources to discover the “why” behind customer behaviors. These insights allow marketers to deliver personalized, relevant campaigns without relying on third-party data. Once a customer converts from an unauthenticated user to a known individual, you can continue to build on their profile for more relevant messaging and offers that translate into long-term customer relationships.

Experience Optimization

Optimization efforts ensure that the customer experience is informed by data rather than opinion. Testing, personalization, and email campaigns guide user interface features and content as well as improve customer acquisition, engagement, and retention. Experimental design principles and advanced statistical techniques guide properly controlled A/B experiments and algorithmically-driven personalization campaigns.

“The pandemic forced customers to interact with brands through new channels, and now they’re expecting each touchpoint to be personalized to their needs.” – Greg Boone, Co-CEO at Blue Acorn iCi

Every Touchpoint is an Opportunity to Drive Customer Loyalty and Conversions

When a current or potential customer hits a brand’s site, you only have seconds to capture their attention and entice them to continue through the journey. One key component of keeping a customer engaged is personalization. According to Blue Acorn iCi’s Consumer Preferences Survey, 48% of consumers have left a brand’s site and made a purchase from a competitor because of a poorly customized site.

The key to offering a personalized experience is through segmentation. Segmentation allows you to create distinct customer journeys and experiences based on an individual’s previous behavior. Whether the visitor is a first-time customer or a frequent visitor, you can leverage data points and learnings to create relevant buyer personas and personalize the experience.

For more insights in enhancing every step of the customer journey—from the homepage to returns—download our Complete Customer Experience Report.

Reward Customer Loyalty with Personalized Offerings and Promotions

While promotions alone are enticing, personalizing the promotion based on the customer’s behavior and brand loyalty takes it one step further. Tiered promotions allow you to offer higher-valued discounts or offerings only to the brand’s most loyal customers.

Stay Top of Mind With Content

High-quality, engaging content is one of the best ways to educate and nurture customers. Brands typically leverage two types of content: user-generated content (UGC) and branded content. UGC (think: reviews and customer photos) enables you to share genuine, authentic images and videos from customers—reinforcing the brand lifestyle. Branded content keeps the brand top-of-mind during down cycles, and it sells the lifestyle and story around the brand. An advanced content management system, such as Adobe Experience Manager, will allow you to create content and automatically repurpose it across channels without the extra time and cost of recreating every asset.

Blend Online and Offline With an Omnichannel Experience

Five years ago, omnichannel experiences were often clunky and lacked personalization across touchpoints. But as more consumers interact with brands online, their interactions with brick-and-mortar stores have shifted. According to Gartner, over half of consumers prefer in-shopping experiences for more information and discovery rather than transactional. Blending online and offline channels enables customers to interact with brands when and where they want.

“The future of omnichannel is how do you get your brand and your product on different devices and how do you think about it as much bigger than a website and retail store.” – Chris Guerra, Co-CEO at Blue Acorn iCi.

Pivot Customer Service to a Two-Way Dialogue

You can easily capture customer needs and drive positive outcomes by pivoting the customer service strategy from sales-focused to more conversational. While it’s easy for a store sales associate to welcome a customer and ask questions about what they’re looking for, it’s challenging to replicate this one-on-one experience online without access to accurate data. Unified customer profiles offer a 360-degree view of the customer no matter where they interact with the brand. Having this information easily accessible means the customer support team can initiate valuable and meaningful conversations.

Many customers still use phone and email to contact customer service, but modern consumers expect to reach the brand’s support team in their preferred channel—whether it’s social media, email, or live chat. By leveraging customer service to gather customer feedback and build rapport, you can enhance customer loyalty and ultimately drive revenue.

Quick Tips for Delivering a Better Front-End Customer Experience

As you’re building your customer experience strategy, there are ten components of the front-end journey to keep in mind. This will help you determine what integrations, functionality, and resources you need to deliver an optimal customer experience.

  1. Appealing Design: When designing your website, think about what will best represent your brand while streamlining the path to conversion.
  2. Personalized Messaging and Product or Service Recommendations: Leverage customer data to present a personalized, one-on-one experience throughout the entire customer journey. This includes calling the customer by name in emails, promoting relevant product or service recommendations, and rewarding loyal customers.
  3. Cohesive Branding Across All Channels: Your social media channels, brick-and-mortar stores, and website all need to have similar imagery, promotions, and messaging to ensure a cohesive experience from one touchpoint to the next.
  4. Superior Customer Support: Empower your customer service representatives with knowledge about the company and the customer. Extensive training will ensure customers receive responsive and helpful information whether they’re looking for a particular item or need to return an item.
  5. Transparency Throughout the Entire Customer Journey: Put the customer at ease with their online purchase by providing full transparency around return policy, delivery, and inventory. If there’s an update on their order, such as a delay, email the customer immediately.
  6. High-Quality Content: During the path to purchase, detailed images and videos aid the customer in finding a product or service that matches their specific needs. Articles and tips will enhance the customer’s experience with their product or service, thus reinforcing the customer relationship during down cycles.
  7. Convenient Functionality: From navigation and filtering to search, all functionality needs to enhance the customer experience by creating a clear path to the customer’s goal, be it a specific product or a how-to article.
  8. Branded Unboxing Experience (if selling physical products): Make every unboxing experience “Instagram worthy.” When customers see the box on their front step, they should immediately recognize the brand’s logo. As they unpack their items, include branded wrapping, a personal note, or a free sample.
  9. Easy Returns (if selling physical products): At a minimum, include return instructions in the order. Create a self-service returns workflow on your brand’s site, eliminating the need to call or chat customer service.

Brands cannot win in today’s competitive environment with a bad customer experience. By creating a customer experience strategy aligned with customer needs and business goals, you can enable long-term success. Blue Acorn iCi follows these same principles to help brands like Le Creuset, Pentair, and Weber create great customer experiences that drive revenue, build long-term customer loyalty, and achieve business goals. Contact us today to see how we can help your brand build its customer experience strategy.

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