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The retail industry has been forever changed by major technology giants, such as Amazon, Apple, and Google, who have transformed the way consumers engage with brands across all facets of the marketplace. Consumer expectations for personalized experiences, smooth interfaces (be it one-click mobile buying or cashierless checkout), and quick, easy interactions have never been higher.
On the flip side is privacy. Last year marked the introduction of the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The regulation comes at a time when consumers are still reeling from a series of data breaches that swept across several highly-sensitive industries, including finance and healthcare. As such, it’s hardly surprising that individuals are wary to divulge their personal information.
These converging factors are the epitome of a rock and a hard place…and marketers are smack in the middle. So how are marketers faring in this new landscape and what does it mean for the future of customer experience (CX)?
About this Customer Experience Trends Survey
To answer these questions, we commissioned a survey that collected the views of more than 5,000 consumers and 500 marketers across the globe.
The survey spanned the United States, Australia, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. We posed questions about brand loyalty, marketing technology trends and data privacy with an eye toward where marketers and consumers align — and where they don’t.
The findings shed light on the disconnect between marketers and consumers and questions whether today’s approach to marketing can stand the test of time or if marketers should be considering a new way forward.
Consumers and marketers agree on one thing: CX isn’t meeting expectations
More than half of consumers polled agreed that brands are behind the times with how they interact with customers, both online and offline.
Furthermore, nearly half (49 percent) of consumers said brands they engage with don’t meet their expectations for a good experience – with even fewer being able to recall the last time a brand exceeded expectations. This trend holds true across the globe, with the majority of consumer respondents across every country struggling to recall the last time a brand truly impressed them.
Troubling as this data may be, the findings show that this disconnect isn’t due to a lack of awareness on the part of marketers. In fact, we found that marketers are even more dissatisfied with current CX than consumers!
When asked if online experiences need to be made easier, 44 percent of marketers strongly agreed whereas only 18 percent of consumers strongly agreed. Similarly, more than half of marketers strongly agreed that engagements with brands should be convenient compared to only 33 percent of consumers who felt the same.
This leaves us to wonder if marketers are even more frustrated than consumers with current CX practices, why haven’t they improved? And, what can we do to put ourselves on the right path?
86% of marketers worldwide intend to invest in more martech in 2019
Today, it’s a common reaction to think technology will make our lives easier; it often does. However, this may not always be the case for marketers, according to our report, which found that nearly three-fourths (74 percent) of marketers globally feel like technology has made it harder, not easier, to offer customers personalized experiences.
Despite this sentiment, a stunning 86 percent of marketers worldwide confirmed that they intend to invest in more martech as part of their 2019 strategy, with 28 percent of respondents claiming they will spend as much as 25 percent more on martech in the next 12 months. Additional findings indicate that 22 percent of marketers already rely on as many as six different vendors for their platforms – with 10 percent saying their organizations rely on as many as 20 different vendors.
When we look at the industry from this perspective, it comes as no surprise that 65 percent of marketers we polled agreed that much of the technology they deal with is too complex to create a good CX. Today, many marketers are feeling inundated and overwhelmed, operating complex martech stacks that are too bulky and sluggish to inform the agile and intuitive responses today’s consumer expectations require.
Perhaps the answer isn’t necessarily more martech, but a better strategy for it.
83% of marketers reported data silos
One of the biggest challenges associated with our growing martech landscape is ensuring connectivity. While 86 percent of marketers say that their organization has a way to capture customer data in real time, 83 percent say this data is captured across multiple systems and lives in silos.
Without a way to centrally store or access this data, marketers may be missing valuable information about their customer that could inform personalized marketing initiatives. Silos can also lead to data discrepancies across departments, potentially leading to disconnects with customers and slower response times to customer requests or complaints. What’s more, the risk has heightened as a result of GDPR and the fines associated with storing or using data against a customer’s wishes.
As a result, unifying marketing platforms — and thus customer data — to operate cohesively and seamlessly is vital. Without this level of transparency and visibility into customer data, marketers simply don’t have the information they need to provide customers with the right information at the right time on the right platform. When marketers are walking the razor’s edge of personalization and privacy as they are today, they need a full 360-degree view to keep them balanced.
At one time, a big proprietary enterprise-scale vendor could accomplish this, providing marketers will every tool they would need to understand their customers in a single cohesive platform. However, the marketing landscape has grown increasingly more nuanced and complex, making it difficult for one single company to provide the best solution for every need.
The reality is that a single vendor is unlikely to provide the best product for every situation and if you’re relying on one company to do the job you may be significantly limiting your marketing capabilities.
Only 37% of consumers feel confident that brands have their best interest in mind for their data
Fortunately, a growing number of open source and headless solutions are coming to market that are enabling marketers to bridge their disparate market and, as a result, create more agile and adaptable experiences for customers.
Through API-first models, marketers can seek out the best-of-breed for all of their martech needs without concern for integration challenges. This allows marketers to more easily access and capitalize on the full customer data they have stored throughout their organization, bringing this data together to create a complete, holistic view of the customer.
What’s more, when a challenge is encountered, marketers can rest assured that they have a community behind them to work through the problem (or, perhaps, someone has already done so). By harnessing this open and passionate community, marketers can more easily stay ahead of the curve, anticipating and responding to consumer needs before they surface or finding new, innovative and easier ways to execute on traditional strategies.
This level of insight and adaptability is imperative for combating the challenges of data privacy. Our survey found that only 37 percent of consumers feel confident that brands have their best interest in mind when they use, share or store personal data. This is likely because marketers are not doing so effectively. On top of this, only half of consumers are comfortable giving brands their personal information, even if it is in exchange for an improved experience, such as free products or personalized offers.
This demonstrates that marketers have their work cut out of them when it comes regaining consumer trust and building loyalty.
You may be wondering if it’s too late to implement an open source approach. Are you already too deeply rooted in a vendor’s suite of services to break away now? Never! Our full Customer Experience Trends Report explores how you can begin to make the transition to open source.
The flexibility of API-based solutions makes is easy to start to make a change and the time has never been more ideal. Companies are embracing new technologies such as IoT and voice assistants, which is upending the way we market to and engage with customers.
However, while there are many exciting new avenues to explore and a strengthening economy to tap into, the landscape is poised to become even more complex. Without a strong, cohesive martech arsenal at your disposal, you may find yourself falling further behind on your CX objectives.
While the year is still young, take the time to question current systems. Take a hard look and what’s working, what isn’t and if there’s another way…. you may be surprised what you find.
Lynne Capozzi is Chief Marketing Officer of Acquia.