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The 3 New Realities for Omnichannel Customer Experiences

Authored by ActionIQ Team

The global pandemic has catalyzed extreme change in an already dynamic environment, where omnichannel customer experiences have steadily been emerging as the linchpin of business success. For executives, this means dealing with a range of tough decisions. 

Foremost are the questions around brand priorities. Should a brand invest more – or less – in CX during a crisis? What new customer personas, journey maps and channels will emerge, and in what way will existing ones change? Which channels should you stop, start, or continue investing in?  How do you measure the business impact of your CX optimization efforts? What new metrics can help measure performance in this omnichannel world?

While there are no easy answers, the essence of these questions can be distilled down to three new realities that executives across industries are acknowledging today.

First, in the complex new world, your customer is at the center, and the brand experiences you deliver are the only way to exercise any meaningful influence over their buying decisions and preferences. To stay relevant, executives must continually redefine what ‘experience’ means to their customer’s evolving preferences.

Second,  a channel or campaign centric approach will no longer work. In the omnichannel CX era, any notion of silos between online and offline channels is non-existent – at least in the customer’s mind. Executives need to find an organization-wide approach to delivering seamless customer experiences.

 And finally, a fluid, flexible approach to deliver CX is the only way to solve for the challenges of today, but also remain responsive to whatever comes tomorrow. This calls for executives to invest in the right enabling data, tools, teams, systems, and processes that can endure and deliver in an uncertain future.

Industry Response to the CX Challenge

Industries such as retail, financial services, media, and CPG are in the frontline when it comes to drastic shifts in consumer and market dynamics, and these have struck at the very heart of long-established business models and competitive dynamics. Executives in these industries need to start questioning if their organization is truly set up to compete on customer experience, whatever that may mean now or in the future and whether they need to change the way they invest in the data, technology and teams that enable differentiated CX. In effect, the central challenge is to build an organization that can evolve with the dynamic nature of CX over the long-term. 

For consumer-facing businesses that have made substantial progress, this has meant transformative changes such as modifying business and delivery models, relooking at the offering portfolio, and organizing operations around CX rather than channels or products. They have not just redefined what CX means in their context, but have consciously built organization-wide enablers to enable it irrespective of channel, platform, or device. 

A recent analysis of major industries weathering severe disruption has helped us draw universal insights on addressing the CX challenge. For example, in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry, new business models, a holistic approach to CX, and investments in first-party data and solutions for personalized experiences are competitive differentiators. The consumer’s preference for digital has forced the biggest brands to develop a viable digital engagement strategy and direct-to-consumer (D2C) business models. For those investing in it, the new control these models enable over first-party data, has, after decades,  handed ownership of the customer relationship back to the brand

In the retail sector, perhaps hardest hit by the physical closure of stores during the pandemic,  brands that have been able to respond to new fluid omnichannel shopping behaviors have thrived. These leaders have built for CX with a holistic, organization-wide lens – be it product availability (supply chain and logistics), or ease and convenience (shopping, payment, delivery, and customer service systems). With intelligent use of first-party business and customer data, the best retailers today are moving away from transactional interactions towards engaged relationships that boost customer lifetime value. 

In finance and banking, executives are tasked with transforming into modern, customer-facing enterprises, building an optimal digital footprint, and empowering employees to execute in these new environments. The winners are competing on the agile use of data, analytics, and technology to power CX built around transparency, security, and control for customers.

For the media industry, market challenges have forced a move away from the traditional advertiser focus, to build a less vulnerable, more customer-centric model. For executives in media and publishing, ‘owning the audience relationship’ with data-powered insights is more critical than ever. Successful leaders have invested in building organizational capabilities to better understand audiences, predict interests, and drive long-term micro-targeted engagement, which ultimately creates more value for advertisers as well.

In all these industries, we see that shifts in consumer behavior are necessitating shifts in business models and organizational capabilities. The most successful brands are responding with a singular focus on differentiated CX, powered by data, technology, and people. 

Building for the Dynamic Nature of CX

The dynamic nature of CX is undoubtedly a challenge, but it is also an opportunity that is leveling the playing field and giving every brand a chance to make the right choices for the future. Shifts in consumer behavior, business models and organizational capabilities are the 3 imperative on which a framework to address the CX opportunity can be built. Unpacking and responding to these 3 imperatives with appropriate strategic choices will help business leaders design their own CX roadmap which is both future – and crisis-proof. 

Shifts in consumer behavior call for executives to build an organization that is capable of listening to and understand customer needs. Shifts in business models require an organization capable of experimenting with new revenue streams and service delivery models; and shifts in organizational capabilities demand the emergence of high-performing organizations capable of moving faster and smarter than ever before. 

A Framework for Building a CX-Ready, CX-First Organization

  • Shifts in consumer behavior: listen to and understand your customer’s needs
    • Listening to consumers
    • Delivering experience at each stage of the journey
    • Building for dynamic preferences
    • Acting on data-driven signals and behavioral triggers
  • Shifts in business models: experiment with new revenue streams and service delivery models
    • Channel-agnostic service delivery
    • Direct-to-consumer (D2C) operations
  • Shifts in organizational capabilities: build a high-performing organization that moves faster and smarter
    • Re-aligning your business to get the most from data and technology
    • Streamlining your CX stack
    • Empowering teams with processes, tools, and skills
    • Working with new customer-centric measurements and metrics

As they build for the future, business leaders across industries are challenged with finding an efficient and effective way to manage and act on the data that can power business transformation and address these shifts. Central command centers such as Customer Data Platforms (CDP), with their ability to manage, analyze and operationalize data and execute CX operations seamlessly are proving to be the hub for enterprises to do this intelligently, at scale, securely and in perpetuity.  

Learn more about how to embark on your CX transformation journey, and how a CDP can support it at each stage, with Leaning into Disruption: Executive CX Framework for 2021 and Beyond”, an exclusive whitepaper for business leaders. Based on our experiences working with leading consumer-facing brands, and conversations with several executives, the paper distills practical insights from industries that are facing disruption and turning it into opportunity.  By connecting the dots between winning customer experiences and the data, analytics, and campaigns that make them possible, we offer a framework for business leaders to approach the ideal of a CX-ready, CX-first organization designed to deliver optimal experiences in any environment.

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