Hi Craig, tell us about yourself and your background?
I’ve spent 20 years developing, architecting, implementing, selling, and managing enterprise software to deliver customer value to a full range of retailers worldwide, as well as spending several years in retail myself. I’ve dealt with product strategy, delivery, and even sales, so I think about customer experience very holistically, not just from one narrow point of view.
Customer experience strategy should inform how you approach the customer throughout the whole cycle, from ideation when a customer is first thinking about options all the way through execution when they complete the transaction – and then iterating to keep them coming back in the future.
Online commerce was booming in 2020, and so did consumer reviews. – How can brands better utilize this data to improve their customers’ experience?
Survey after survey shows that price is the single most important factor in shoppers decided where they will shop, so it’s a crucial element of customer experience. As you note, the shift to online means that many companies can now see much more in-depth shopper data. They can use their own data tools to set prices and make promotional offers that are going to resonate with specific shopper segments.
For example, a grocer could use meta-data such as product ingredients to present a health-food-oriented customer with online options for non-GMO foods or antibiotic-free meats. When customers are buying online, you don’t have the physical experience to offer, so it’s the retailer’s opportunity to make recommendations and ensure that they deliver the right prices to drive the overall market basket. Today’s price and promotion science can achieve that.
What is one element that must always be considered when working on a CXM (customer experience management) strategy?
You only get one chance to make a first impression, and it’s more important than ever. Customers shopping online are even less loyal than already fickle in-store shoppers – after all, they are being presented with competitors’ offerings right there on the same screen. You have to be sure you have insights into accurate demand signals and the science to get the price right. You should also consider meaningful total value and service, with potential elements like free shipping, expedited shipping at a discount, etc.
Do you think personalization and customer-centricity are going to become increasingly more relevant in the coming year? How so?
Again, those factors are more relevant and do-able as customers who went online are likely to stay online. As the economy recovers post-pandemic, pent-up demand will be unleashed, and the retailers who are best prepared to offer highly targeted prices and offers will win. For example, a retailer can provide promotional offers to loyalty program customers more effectively online than in other channels and take an overall approach to build a bigger basket with the right items.
What are some of the ways companies can strive to eliminate the CX Gap?
As we’ve discussed, now is the time for retailers to strategically leverage the data and get to enough granularity to define customer experience elements based on specific shopper segments. Science guides you as to what prices and offers to make based on the information you have about that shopper. I also want to remind retailers that you can’t view the online channel as a single store. You need to factor in things like a customer’s physical location since that means they likely have an interest in different brands or products than in other locations.
What’s the most insightful book you read in 2020?
I got a lot out of Inspired: How to Create Tech Products Customers Love by Marty Cagan. It’s always good to get back to the basics, the blocking, and tackling of the job. One of the key messages that continue to resonate and a great reminder is to ensure continued and consistent product innovation. It’s not just about the value capture from your existing products through small changes and optimizations but truly driving innovation to reach its full potential.
Craig’s predictions for the future of CX
What are your predictions for trends in customer experience in the coming year?
I think retailers will need to focus much more actively on their private label strategy and pricing to satisfy their customers. With customers having so much economic uncertainty and higher price sensitivity during the pandemic, plus all the supply chain disruptions, they were a lot more likely to purchase private labels than in the past. We recently did a global shopper study with Progressive Grocer that found that 80% of shoppers perceive private labels as being of equal or better quality than national brands. That’s a pretty startling reversal of historical perceptions of private label being a value play – cheaper but less high-quality than nationals.
Last but not least, what is your favorite CX metric?
My personal favorite is the Net Promoter Score. What I like is that it’s relatively simple to get at and measure, and it really represents an aggregate of how the customer feels about you based on their entire accumulated experience. But at its core, the best recommendation comes from a friend or trusted source, and the power of social media and influencers to amplify that message, good or bad, makes it even more important to nail.