Customer experience (CX) was gaining importance as a competitive differentiator well before the pandemic. Now, after a year of retailers and brands pivoting to vie for consumers’ attention and dollars online, there's a new definition of great customer experience — one forged by 2020’s drastic shifts in the way we buy and sell.
One result of those changes: So many of our interactions with brands and businesses happen online now that simply having digital channels and experiences isn’t enough to stand out. Real-time, multimedia and cross-channel personalized experiences that meet customer needs in useful and emotionally satisfying ways — i.e., immersive experiences — are the new top performers in the competitive differentiation race.
That need to deliver experiences that meet consumers’ new expectations is part of the reason Forrester predicts that a quarter of all brands are projected to make “statistically significant” CX quality improvements in 2021.
What Does an Immersive Customer Experience Look Like?
In-store shoppers at a popular supermarket chain can use its augmented reality-driven app to learn the nutrition information of the items they’re browsing, get product recommendations based on their personal preferences, and alert them to product promotions.
The app invites customers to opt in and share their data for a better digital experience. Then, by using data from customers’ past purchases and in-store browsing habits, the app creates an emotional connection with the shopper by knowing the customer well enough to offer them a uniquely personalized shopping experience. That's the kind of experience that can save customers time, make their buying decisions easier, and create positive feelings and loyalty toward a brand.
Creating immersive experiences that strengthen the emotional connection between brand and customer requires immediate access to expertise or information about the customer. To deliver that access and personalized understanding, CX-focused brands are now combining emerging technologies in augmented reality (AR), virtual reality and mixed reality with proven interactive tech like conversational commerce, social commerce and AR-guided self-service.
It’s Time to Re-Map Your Customer Journey
Before investing in new technologies to create immersive experiences, businesses need to look closely at how their customers’ behaviors and preferences have changed over the past year. For many consumers, in-store browsing and chatting with staffers gave way to online searching and ordering for curbside pickup or contactless delivery. That shift means that many of the touchpoints that used to define their shopping experience are different now, and many brands are struggling to adapt their touchpoints for optimal CX.
The key is to map what your customers need and want now, at each stage of their journey. Take a new look at each persona, their problem, and the context of their problem, using site data and voice-of-the-customer information. Once you have a clear picture of how your customers behave now and what their new touchpoints are, you’ll know where and how to deploy your new technology.
Map Your CX Improvements
Based on your re-mapping, the next step is to plan and implement a user experience that addresses the customer’s needs and concerns. The goal is to do this as quickly and efficiently as possible. Speed is important, as customers are 2.4 times more likely to stay with companies that solve their problems quickly, according to Forrester Research’s report, The ROI of CX Transformation.
Consider shoppers using a grocer's app. They’re likely busy, picking up items for dinner on the way home from work. They want to find favorite items quickly, check the nutrition content to make sure they’re making healthy choices, and maybe avoid ingredients that their children don’t like — and they want to do all of this quickly, while getting the best deals. The immersive app meets all of those needs, so they can buy the right items fast and head home.
As you focus on speed and the right immersive technology or combination of technologies for each touchpoint, remember that the quality of customer-employee interactions can enhance or undermine the CX you want to provide. For example, even the coolest, most immersive customer experience can be nullified by a long hold time with customer service or an unhelpful answer to a question. Giving your employees the resources they need to do their jobs well is another key to great CX.
Keep Evolving Your CX
Delivering great CX is a process, not a singular event. As long as people, technology and current events keep changing, your CX will need to adapt and evolve, too. When you implement CX improvements, monitor and test the changes. Look at user data as well as customer and employee feedback to identify what works and what needs to be better. Experiment at each key touchpoint to improve the customer experience and implement upgrades quickly so you don’t lose customers to subpar interactions.
By committing to understanding your customers’ current journey and using immersive technology to meet their needs in a fast, personalized and emotionally satisfying way, you can maintain their loyalty, keep improving their experience, and stand apart from the competition.
Charlton Monsanto is executive vice president, digital customer experience at Capgemini in North America, a global leader in consulting, technology services and digital transformation.
Charlton Monsanto is Executive Vice President, Digital Customer Experience at Capgemini in North America. He held multiple leadership roles at LiquidHub prior to its acquisition by Capgemini in 2018, where he was responsible for developing and implementing the firm’s technology strategy and operations. Charlton applies his experience in technology management consulting, IT functional leadership, marketing, and strategy formulation to develop and manage strategic client and partner relationships. He is based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.