Top Customer Experience Trends to Watch in 2018 Published November 30, 2017 Smart brand marketers are constantly seeking to build a more seamless customer experience. One where every brand touchpoint makes the customer’s purchase decision easier—regardless of the channel. The way marketers achieve this is ever evolving, with every marketing blog under the sun full of the latest customer experience best practice. To cut through the noise, we spoke directly to nine marketing and eCommerce experts to get their insight. In this blog post we explore our experts’ unique takes on customer experience trends in 2018, in detail. Read on for thorough insight to inform your team’s approach. Customer-centricity will need to underpin every strategy. Kath Pay CEO & founder Holistic Email Marketing @kathpay Kath Pay believes building great customer experiences in 2018 will require a new way of thinking: “Forget trying to ‘make channels work together’ or providing a ‘multi-channel experience’, and concentrate on creating a seamless, satisfying, and enjoyable customer journey—using relevant channels to deliver this. The difference being that smart marketers will focus on the customer and their journey (customer-centric approach) rather than trying to connect the channels (brand-centric approach).” While many understand that customer experience is key, actually working in ways that are conducive to creating customer-centric experiences is a different matter. Kath views the challenge of sewing customer-centricity into the fabric of strategic thinking as one of the biggest facing marketers in 2018: “We need to begin to embrace customer-centricity as being a core basis of our strategy. Being campaign-focused enables us to calculate ROI on a campaign by campaign basis—but this can lead to delivering a disconnected experience for the customer. The challenge will be to create a robust strategy that allows for both approaches to work together.” Brands that apply personalisation technology will be at an advantage. Jenna Tiffany Founder & strategy director Let’s Talk Strategy @jennatiffany Jenna Tiffany highlights the importance of personalisation: “The ability to personalise across channels and devices is what will make brands succeed online. Consumers also expect this more and more and 2018 will be a year of even more heightened expectations as more and more brands begin to master creating intelligent personalised digital experiences.” Jenna points out that many brands have the data and technology needed to create personalised experiences at their fingertips. The problem is that they may not be making the most of their ability to personalise. In 2018, brands that learn how to leverage the data and technology they have access to, will be at an advantage:“Putting data to work is a hurdle and can be the biggest barrier to creating intelligent personalised experiences. The technology to personalise the online experience for every customer exists, yet it is heavily underutilised and in some instances undervalued. “Data remains a huge challenge too, but there are alternatives, such as geo-targeting, using weather, or time of day—all potential insights into a person’s mood or behaviour pattern that are yet to be fully utilised.” Putting customer needs before marketing goals. Philip Storey CEO & founder Enchant @philipstorey Philip Storey has a vision for a more comprehensive view of the customer lifecycle, with a need for marketers to put aside their own needs to get there. He highlights that marketers struggle to keep customers engaged with content because their own goals get in the way: “Brands face a huge challenge, in keeping prospects and customers focused on the content they want people to engage with. This stems from the ongoing problem that marketers are creating for themselves, by putting their own goals, needs and targets before the needs of the customer. “In order to find success, a customer-centric approach where everyone is treated differently, is essential. The marketers that will win, are those that truly understand each individual and are brave enough to make that approach their strategy, and without compromise.” Shifting mindset from conversion to experience is key. Chloe Thomas Founder eCommerce Master Plan @chloe_ecmp Chloe Thomas believes that a shift of focus will be crucial for brands who want to create better customer experiences: “Creating engaging online experiences is something very few businesses have worked on or even paid lip-service to until now. “That means the biggest challenge is going to be shifting the team’s point of view from conversion to experience (which ultimately leads to conversion).” Maintaining consistency across every touchpoint. Lilach Bullock Consultant Lilach Bullock @lilachbullock Lilah Bullock, a lead conversion expert who runs her own consultancy, predicts that the key to customer experience success in 2018 will be consistency: “The customer experience needs to be as uniform as possible across any device, as well as any platform your customers may use to interact with you. “Whether it’s asking you a customer service question on Twitter or using your live chat window, your email, your contact form, the customer should have similar experiences every time they come in contact with your business.” Aligning experiences with how people actually shop. Becs Rivett-Kemm Email Marketing Consultant Rivett-Kemm Consulting @becskr Becs Rivett-Kemm highlights that creating a seamless experience across devices will be crucial. To do so eCommerce brands need to consider how their experience aligns with how consumers actually shop: “Being able to maintain a basket across multiple devices is quite important for me. I often add things to my basket while I’m out and about but like to check things properly when I get back home on my laptop. “Across the buying cycle we can be smarter by using segmentation more deeply, to provide a truly 1-to-1 experience for the user.” Those who get granular will get ahead. Paul Airy Email Design and Development Manager Beyond the Envelope @Paul_Airy Paul Airy, email designer & developer behind the brand Beyond the Envelope, gives a new perspective and emphasises that customer experience requires deep-diving, as well as a bird-eye view. While you do need to join up the dots to see the whole customer journey, you must also get granular to succeed. Those that get ahead in 2018, will be the marketers that take the time to painstakingly optimise every touchpoint. And that starts with optimising for every device: “Marketers need to think beyond the desktop experience when they’re signing-off an email, and review how their message is being presented across the range of relevant devices—desktop, tablet, mobile—looking specifically at the size and position of headlines, headings, images, buttons, and the length of copy.” Understanding high-intent moments will unlock success. Jordie van Rijn Founder Email Vendor Selection @jvanrijn Jordie van Rijn, founder of Email Vendor Selection and email marketing consultant at EmailMonday, explains how an understanding of customer intentions can lead to better customer experiences: “Instead of trying to squeeze email in at every twist and turn of the customer journey, we will be more effective by deepening marketing at high-intent moments.” Jordie sees chat bots, guided tours, next best action slide-ins, and clickable dialog boxes as important features onsite that will help marketers to make the most of these high-intent moments: “We will see a shift, as companies are starting to use them to guide the customer into (opt-in) and from (after click through) email and continue the flow on the site. That is a milestone for improving landing page conversions and your lead-to- deal ratio.” Attribution will be the biggest challenge in improving customer experience. Dela Quist CEO Alchemy Worx @DelaQuist Dela Quist pinpoints getting better at attribution as key in building better customer experiences. As marketers, we pour more efforts into the strategies and tactics that our reporting tells us are effective. Unless our attribution is on point, we are ill-equipped to decide which touchpoints we need to enhance. A better understanding of attribution—and the ability to join up the dots and understand the sequence of interactions that led to purchase—will enable marketers to build better experiences and get better results. So, what do we need to look to so that we can improve attribution? Dela sees email addresses as playing an important role: “The key component in attribution is the identifier and the email address provides us with that. Anyone without one is the digital equivalent of homeless. You cannot shop online, bank online or engage with social media. Furthermore, iOS and Android devices require an email address to set up. “Recent developments in AdTech only serve to reinforce this. Google’s Customer Match and Facebook’s Custom Audiences tell me the two giants of the space have accepted the email address as the standard for ensuring the right message gets to the right person at the right time.” Takeaways. Our experts have helped to shine a light on the shift in thinking that’s needed to build better customer experiences in 2018. Freeing ourselves from a brand-centric approach, so we can create ways of working that truly put the customer at the centre may be easier said than done. But the brands that can achieve this—and have the right technology in place—will be best equipped to create experiences that set them apart from the competition.