A superior customer experience (CX) has long been understood by ambitious marketing teams as a driver of new revenue and business growth. A 2019 Harris Poll, commissioned by Redpoint, highlighted the CX imperative: 37 percent of consumers surveyed said they will stop doing business with a company that fails to deliver a personalized customer experience. Asked what prevents them from providing such an experience, marketers cited real-time engagement (50%) and customer understanding (48%) as the top barriers.
Drastic, sudden changes to consumer behaviors in the wake of coronavirus exacerbates the personalization challenge for marketers.
Customer journeys have become more dynamic, fluid and uncertain with traditional patterns of engagement upended and consumers adopting entirely new behaviors (curbside pickup, grocery delivery, etc.).
In a recent McKinsey report on consumer sentiment during COVID-19, 75% of US survey respondents said that they have tried a new shopping behavior during the pandemic, with upward of 80% claiming that they will continue their adopted behavior beyond the current health crisis.
Furthermore, US consumers said that value, convenience and availability are now their top three priorities, ahead of price or brand loyalty.
Real-time customer engagement, always an important capability for providing a differentiated CX, is now an imperative to provide a relevant, timely and personalized engagement with every customer throughout an omnichannel customer journey.
Ultimately, real-time customer engagement that drives revenue growth as a competitive differentiator needs to include five core elements.
Overcoming the barriers to providing a personalized CX through real-time customer engagement begins with setting a strategy.
Organizations must first think about the outcomes they want to achieve; what is the type of experience they’re trying to deliver, how will it be measured, and what metrics will define success both in the short-term and long-term?
Whether the goal is to improve retention, NPS or loyalty, strengthen an emotional connection with customers, or to provide a competitive advantage, real-time customer engagement has many benefits that ultimately drive revenue growth.
Formulating an engagement strategy helps brands prioritize which capabilities – from data to automated machine learning and orchestration – will yield the optimal result for the metric the business is trying to achieve.
With a clearly defined strategy in place, organizations are positioned to map out all of the data they need access to, and in what cadence.
Real-time customer engagement requires knowing everything there is to know about that customer’s current situation – which is now subject to day-by-day and minute-by-minute change.
This detailed customer understanding requires determining all the data sources pertinent for an updated view, including behavioral, transactional and demographic data.
Customer data siloes are antithetical to the notion of a true single customer view, which requires aggregating data from every source and of every type: batch and streaming; anonymous and known, structured, semi-structured and unstructured; and first-party, second-party and third-party data.
Establishing a data-focused mindset with stringent data governance procedures is a foundational requirement for engaging with each customer seamlessly through each stage of a journey.
With a data governance approach in place that ensures data breadth, depth and quality, companies satisfy the second core component of real-time customer engagement.
A single customer view that is accessible in real time, and combines properly aggregated and managed customer data (cleansed, matched, merged) with a complete identity graph is known as a Golden Record.
This unified, real time and easily accessible profile resolves a customer’s identity across all devices, ID’s, behaviors, transactions and preferences and is the beating heart of a personalized experience as the basis for real-time decisioning.
The Golden Record sets the table for marketers, providing them with everything they need to serve the right offer at the right moment of a journey.
For it to accurately reflect a customer’s needs, wants and desires at a set moment in time, the Golden Record requires advanced identity resolution combined with zero data latency.
Real-time data collection, and real-time processing are both foundational requirements to ensure relevancy with every engagement.
If a customer abandons a shopping cart but continues to browse a web page, a brand’s ability to provide a personalized experience during that visit depends on knowing not just about the abandoned cart, but also the clicks and browsing history that led to the initial cart fulfillment – all within the same online visit.
The Golden Record infuses context into every customer interaction, the key for data-driven marketers to provide relevance in real time and to coordinate consistent messaging across the entire journey.
Embedded, behind-the-scenes automated machine learning (AML) is the next core element of real-time customer engagement. AML powers real-time decisioning at scale based on the Golden Record.
On-the-fly insights about a customer become triggers for contextually relevant communications and interactions, but this only made possible with automated machine learning models that can do this at scale for highly granular segments (up to a segment of one) throughout increasingly dynamic customer journeys.
It is now possible for marketers to manage a fleet of models that are tuned to constantly drive intelligent decisions for optimized customer engagement across channels.
Built to yield the best outcome for whatever metric a marketer is trying to optimize, these automated models drive associated revenue growth while making real-time adjustments based on the direction of a specific customer journey.
For models to truly drive breakthrough results, however, they should be developed, updated and applied in real-time and on an ongoing testing basis so marketers can best capitalize on each moment of interaction.
AML removes the latency that arises when the responsibility for these tasks is given to data scientists. Instead of waiting for models to be re-built, re-trained and refreshed, AML empowers marketers to let the self-trained models run 24/7 as the automated recommendations are aligned with the targeted results.
Intelligent orchestration completes the real-time engagement process that results in a perfectly timed, next-best action at any point throughout an omnichannel journey.
Intelligent orchestration coordinates all communications (inbound, outbound, digital or traditional) to power the real-time decisioning engine, factoring in a customer’s up-to-the-second behaviors to ensure the optimal relevancy of a next-best action.
Because every step operates in real time, marketers will always be in cadence with the customer. This is paramount, as customers view interactions with a brand as holistic experiences.
Rendering a next-best action across channels aligns with this expectation, whereas marketing to fragmented channels with siloed data creates a gap between what a customer perceives as a unified experience and what is being delivered.
Intelligent orchestration is listed here as the final step in a real-time customer engagement strategy, but real-time customer engagement is more accurately described as a closed-loop process.
A next-best action that delights a customer with relevance and personalization will likely lead to a positive result; action or inaction become real-time updates to a customer’s Golden Record, and the process continues with the self-learning models continuing to refine and optimize a next-best action for the next engagement.
With consumers having dramatically altered how they interact with businesses – and indicating little interest in reverting to traditional engagement models – it is incumbent on businesses to intermediate each interaction.
Real-time engagement provides an opportunity to deliver relevance and personalization that strengthen relationships with customers and ultimately drive business growth.
Marketing is increasingly viewed as a mission-critical organization responsible for driving new revenue, and the current situation only enhances marketing’s indispensable role for creating innovative experiences that fulfill a customer’s needs, wants and desires in real time.
Real time customer engagement is how ambitious marketers lead markets.
John Nash has spent his career helping businesses grow revenue through the application of advanced technologies, analytics, and business model innovations. As Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer at Redpoint Global, John is responsible for developing new markets, launch new solutions, building brand awareness, generating pipeline growth, and advancing thought leadership.
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