Brands are challenged with regard to how they understand and manage dramatic shifts in customer behaviors, how to differentiate themselves in increasingly overcrowded marketplaces, as well as how to adequately collect and leverage the data-driven insights necessary to create personalized and meaningful experiences that lead to long-term customer loyalty.
Technology is often held aloft as a near-magical solution to these problems. However, many brands are finding themselves immersed in a tide of new marketing technologies that seems to rise without end. In just the last year and a half, we have seen an explosion in the proliferation of new platforms and systems, with many claiming to offer industry disrupting capabilities.
So, now, not only are brands faced with rapidly evolving shifts in consumer behaviors, they must also navigate a nearly endless array of marketing technologies that all add even more voices to the growing cacophony that is engulfing the landscape.
Clearly, brands should invest in marketing technology platforms. Through targeted segmentation, personalized engagement, one-to-one marketing and more, innovations across this landscape are finally allowing brands to connect with customers in highly relevant and meaningful ways. But while such technology is the key to many new opportunities, it is also bringing with it a high degree of complexity and confusion.
Alongside the successful integration and operation of any marketing technology platform, there are many additional factors at play. This includes finding qualified people to administer these platforms, defining clear KPIs and allocating sufficient resources to support such initiatives, as well as acquiring the senior-level commitment needed to develop strategic and organization-wide customer experience (CX) initiatives.
With so many considerations, it is understandable that we see so many brands that are feeling a great degree of uncertainty.
The exponential rise in marketing technology is making it a challenge for brands to integrate the right platform that best supports and enhances their customer engagement and loyalty efforts. Furthermore, not every brand exists at the same level of CX or loyalty sophistication. Some brands are ready to integrate the advanced-data analytics and top-tier CX tools to drive seamless, personalized and omnichannel engagement across all touch points, but many are not.
Even though this may be the ideal endgame for brands seeking to optimize CX and customer loyalty, most are still managing fragmented data systems, unconnected and siloed organizational structures and a host of embedded cultural ideologies and processes more befitting of a bygone age of marketing.
To reduce anxiety and apprehension in such a complex and uncertain marketing environment, brands should first focus on creating an internal alignment. We define internal alignment as understanding how objectives, processes and programs can inform a customer experience that matches current customer expectations and without necessitating a fundamental shift in the core of a brand’s identity. In this way, the brand identity and brand promise should be organically connected to marketing efforts that further a culture of customer centricity.
Simply put, brands should strive to be true to themselves and true to their customers. Here, authenticity is also crucial, and it should inform an approach to customer engagement and customer loyalty by reinforcing the reasons a customer chooses or prefers a certain brand in the first place.
Creating internal alignment also means understanding how the brand promise can, and should, strengthen the relationship between the brand and its customers. That will also require a high level of leadership that truly values the customer experience in a holistic way.
This alignment must be in place, valued and understood across the entire organizational structure before any new integration occurs. Because these new marketing technology platforms are not magic wands, even the most advanced CX systems will not help a brand make progress if there is a disconnect between espoused philosophies and their practical applications.
Today, many brands are being convinced that they need to transform their entire processes and identities to conform to those disruptors who continually make industry headlines. They are encouraged (some almost feel forced) to be more like Apple, Amazon or Uber, for example. But when considering the sophistication level of those marketers — many just now beginning their journey toward customer experience and customer loyalty — such a drastic transformation is simply not practical, or even realistic, for many brands. At least not yet.
But for those that stay on the path toward customer centricity, more sophisticated CX efforts will be gradually more feasible and appropriate as the journey continues.
Once brands first decide upon a clear identity that stands as a strong point of competitive differentiation, they can then look more closely at how their business model and core capabilities can begin integrating only the right kinds of technology that best help to build customer relationships.
Marketing technology platforms alone are not the answer. Such technology is only a piece of the larger puzzle, and these platforms must be considered within the context of a larger brand commitment toward customer engagement.
Ultimately, it is important to remember that, while trying to win loyalty, the brand promise and CX strategy should always align to inform the use of technology, not the other way around.