Merkle’s latest edition of its Imperatives series sheds light on the top priorities for customer-centric brands in 2021.
A recent study by Merkle identifies key imperatives for CMOs in 2021. Key trends like the rise of D2C businesses, data privacy concerns, and the emergence of cloud platforms like Google, Amazon Web Services (AWS), and other, are causing a shift in the way marketers approach customer-centricity.
The study recommends that organizations maximize their first-party data assets through more productive interactions with their customers and prospects and leverage strategic partnerships to deliver second-party data. This will require a design for data maximization, including new customer experiences, incentives, and a robust infrastructure founded on an enterprise-level identity management capability.
Transforming Customer Experience in 2021
As they build strategies for re-emergence from the COVID-driven recession, the most significant opportunity for brands today is customer experience transformation. It is transforming a company into a market leader through the implementation of a customer-centered strategy and infrastructure. Merkle suggests that the equation for success is data transformation + digital transformation = customer experience transformation, where:
- Data transformation is the privacy-safe acquisition, management, analysis, and activation of valuable data that informs customer experiences in real-time. Companies are working with increasing amounts of first-party data about their customers, and these companies need platforms that enable the organization to work efficiently, effectively, and unbounded.
- Digital transformation is the design and delivery of customer experiences that are contextually relevant and personally informed. At the center of the ability to manage the experience with a customer is a core set of technology assets that enable greater understanding at the point of interaction with the customer, provide insight on why the customer is engaging, and provide answers to how the company can best serve the relationship at a specific point in time. Improved customer experiences require a customer-first mentality across planning, messaging, and execution.
- The resulting customer experience transformation refers to the innovation of the total customer experience, which drives competitive differentiation and measurable business results. It requires disparate functions within a business to harmonize through a true customer lens, balancing multiple strategies simultaneously and adapting to pursue common goals toward its north star. Changing how people work, producing outputs that matter, quickly and collaboratively, requires enterprise agility.
It is interesting to note that there is an underpinning of organizational adaptiveness that enables it across this formula. Here, all the functions needed to deliver the desired customer experiences are functioning as a connected ecosystem, and the business is aligned to deliver this.
Brands often struggle with too many silos and product-based or channel-based metrics that compete with one another. They must focus on designing the entire organization to be customer-centric to capitalize on the opportunity of a customer experience transformation.
Merkle found silos in media and channels through which brands were interacting, such as search, display, site, social, traditional media, etc. However, today, silos across the organization across functions like marketing, sales, commerce, and service are no longer working separately but rather working in unison to deliver a total customer experience.
How can brands get this right? To meet increasingly demanding customer experience needs and expectations, brands face key challenges around connecting data, automation, and internal processes. Merkel suggests that addressing these challenges requires enterprise-wide buy-in. The customer experience does not start and stop with marketing; customer experience transformation needs leadership across the C-suite and a modern set of skills that transcend marketing and span the entire organization.
3 Digital Imperatives for Brands in 2021
Delivering total customer experience is about delivering hyper-personalized moments, using data, technology, and analytics to inform each interaction at every touchpoint. To accomplish this, brands must have a blueprint for how they will develop, manage, and deliver on a customer-centric approach.
Here are the three imperatives put forth by Merkle in its annual Imperatives Series for 2021:
- Data Transformation: At the heart of the customer experience transformation lies data transformation: mastering rapidly-changing approaches to the acquisition, management, and mining of valuable data that informs customer experiences – in real-time and a privacy-safe manner.
- Digital Transformation: It is critical to understand the ways organizations must think, plan, and deliver unique personal conversations. Success is found through the design and implementation of customer-centric digital marketing, commerce, and service experiences that are contextually relevant and personally informed.
- The Adaptive Organization: A truly transformed customer-centric organization wins by delivering on the total customer experience. It is about marketing, sales, commerce, and service no longer working separately but in unison to foster a culture of innovation, agility, and shared goals.
Making the transformation to a business strategy devoted to the total customer experience involves more than just changing the approach. It means altering how brands think about their relationships with their customers and understanding their needs in a more meaningful way. True customer experience transformation requires not just data but deeper insights and new techniques for building strong bonds over time.
Driving value for customers and the business takes a team that is driven to know customers better, customers who will help meet the goals of the business, and new ways of thinking and operating across all aspects of the customer experience. This is a journey, so brands must think for both the short- and long-term while building an agile organization that can adapt as they learn about their customers and grow in their sophistication.