Six steps towards optimising your brand for the experience economy


Six steps towards optimising your brand for the experience economy

Building and maintaining compelling experiences throughout the varied stages of  brand relationships with customers has never been crucial. That's because these customers tend to know exactly what they want from their products and services, have a keen sense of where to buy them, and how long this process should take.

As a result, brand leaders must meet these expectations or lose out to their competitors. In this demanding context, Merkle's latest report - 2024 CX Imperatives: From Customer Engagement to Customer Empowerment - makes a compelling case for brand actions that more clearly meet consumer need.

Based on consumer research, it brings to life the practical steps that brands and marketers can take to elevate their CX performance by harnessing customer experience management, media, and creative strategies to truly improve people's daily lives as they engage with brands.

The big six imperatives

Full of actionable insights, the study reveals the six key imperatives derived from consumer feedback about their experiences with brands. The first of these actions is that it's vital to understand CX fundamentals from the customer's point of view. Then, when it comes to data, this must always be used for the benefit of customers in order to offer a fair exchange.

The emergence of Artificial Intelligence forms the basis for the third imperative - the importance of using AI ethically to create convenience and build trust with customers.

It's not just about technology, however. The next imperative involves meeting continued customer demand for real live human interaction, while the fifth identifies an urgent need for brands to focus on the post-purchase experience.

Finally, when brands are considering the latest tech, businesses must take a considered approach - assessing emerging opportunities on the basis of how they can empower customers in new ways.

CXM across the organisation

There's good news for customer experience management (CXM) professionals because the report shows clearly that consumers are mostly comfortable with brands handling their personal data. The vast majority (76%) of consumers either trust or have a neutral view of how companies collect and use this information. Meanwhile, just 24% are sceptical of brands in this area.

But the key point emerges that consumers share their data with the expectation of fair value in return: brands must provide cost-effectiveness, convenience, and consistency in exchange. And it’s noteworthy that, despite their overall sense of trust, consumers are less confident that brands are actually using this data to improve the customer experience.

This insight demonstrates the importance for CXM experts within organisations to organise customer data in a way that allows them to recognise unique customers, seamlessly connect experiences, and measure customer lifetime value.

Media and the post-purchase experience

Among the lessons for brands focusing their media strategy on achieving better customer experiences is the need to include the period of post-purchase. Upper-funnel tactics clearly have their place in attracting and converting new customers, but it's also essential to recognise that the bulk of the experience, and often the most meaningful part, happens after the product is bought.

This is relevant because consumers have all had experiences with brands that degrade over time. The demise of a relationship can even occur due to small infractions on the side of the brand. For instance, spamming relentlessly and retargeting with ads for a product that they've already purchased.

Placing the emphasis on experience, it's worth reflecting that the number one area for improvement across the customer journey is identified by consumers as the post-purchase stage. This holds true across categories as diverse as tech and telecoms, media and entertainment, automotive and manufacturing, financial services and insurance, and healthcare.

Brands should consider looking beyond tactical media targeting, towards creating and capturing value above and beyond the moment of purchase. Marketers could also look at measuring the success of their CX programmes through customer lifetime value and not just by short-term metrics like clicks or conversions.

Creative with personality

The report contains some significant insights for marketers in terms of their creative approach and brand messaging. For example, a significant minority (27%) of consumers are looking for brands to inject more fun and enjoyment into the experiences and communications that they create. And 31% crave experiences that are more personal or human in nature.

It's also apparent that a younger audience (18-34s) has a higher demand for experiences that better match or support their personal values and beliefs (31% against 22% overall).

For marketers, this means recognising that there's room for creative approaches that embrace fun, humanity and purpose as part of delivering a better experience.

Human interaction in B2B

One of the most powerful findings in the report - the high level of consumer preference for human interaction above digital at key stages of the journey - also holds for B2B marketing too.

Despite the ubiquity and rapid evolution of digital technologies, there is still a strong need – and desire – for human interaction, especially when it comes to the type of complex purchase processes and high levels of service associated with many B2B purchases.

Accordingly, digital technology and human representatives should work in harmony to deliver experiences that make the customer feel recognised and valued. When this connection is lost, personalised experiences unravel, becoming awkward and repetitive at best, disjointed and frustrating at worst.

Cost effectiveness is the most important experience factor for brands

Summing up, the report highlights that consumers identify cost effectiveness as the most important "experience factor" for brands, followed closely by convenience and consistency. These make up the “3 Cs” of customer experience – the bare minimum that brands must deliver for their customers. There are some nuances across categories, of course, but generally, these are the most prominent qualities.

Cost effectiveness means delivering value. Consumers want a good deal – they don’t want to pay more than they have to, especially at times when inflation is high. But “value” doesn’t necessarily mean “cheap.”

Convenience covers the consumer's ability to gather information, purchase in their preferred manner, or use and maintain a product or service with minimal effort. Here. it’s about brands removing friction and frustration from the customer’s daily life.

Consistency is based on delivering a clear promise to consumers. This doesn’t necessarily mean an experience that’s unchanging, but the common denominator is that consumers receive what they’ve come to expect.

The "three Cs" and the six imperatives identified in the report showcase that, in the age of customer empowerment, a brand’s ability to anticipate shifting needs and behaviours may be the ultimate competitive advantage.

A confident, cost-conscious, digitally connected customer has no time (or money) to waste on brand experiences that do not materially improve their life experience. Brands in the experience economy must understand that it's not all about the product or service but the sum total of all touchpoints and interactions working together to deepen relationships and build trust.

To download the full report, click here.