Customer Experience Optimization: Technology + Metrics + Culture

delightful_resultsWhile the Industrial Revolution ushered in the era of the celebration of product, the Digital Revolution now celebrates the consumer.

Because today’s consumers initiate and control the conversation, the sooner marketers shift from a product to a customer experience focus, the sooner they will reap the benefits of adapting properly to the changing marketplace.

More than ever, today’s marketers are increasingly interested in building optimal customer experiences that drive long-term profitable relationships than they are in driving revenue from widget sales. As they should be. In the age of the empowered consumer, marketing optimization is quickly becoming a function of managing the customer experience.

Shifting from product to customer experience marketing indeed seems a daunting task for enterprises with multiple lines of business operating across multiple channels. Exactly how is it done? Where do we begin?

Optimization is an ongoing, iterative discipline that is part technology and part process. It’s important to consider investments in each when making the move to customer experience optimization. Although technologies for optimization are easy to spot, processes are less so. The difference between formalized business processes that remain focused on product marketing and those trained on optimizing the customer experience is evident in two key areas: metrics and culture.

So where should you begin? By making investments in all three—technology, metrics and culture—in order to make the switch from product-centric marketing to customer experience optimization.

There are many forms of marketing optimization technology, including those that focus on multivariate testing, or controlled experimental design and rules management. The term “optimization software”, however, spans a number of applications from web analytics to behavioral targeting to paid search bidding tools.

The market for marketing optimization technology is emerging, fraught with change, overlap, widely differing approaches and sometimes contradiction. Keeping your eye on the fundamental objective of optimization—to ‘make as effective, perfect, or useful as possible’—is a good way to ensure that your optimization technology investments are sound.

Just keep in mind that s focus on controlled testing should provide the backbone for any marketing optimization approach no matter what the technology investments—or constraints.

What you choose to measure is as important as measurement itself. Marketers often take great pains to vet investments in measurement technologies and processes, scrutinizing features and methodologies to ensure that their new metrics capability is top notch. Often, however, the plan for exactly what they will measure is less thoroughly drawn.

How well your business generates and maintains long-term profitable customer relationships depends both on how well you manage each customer interaction as well as the entire experience across media and channels. Both the granular detail and the bird’s eye view matter. Your recent ad campaign might have generated huge lift in site traffic and conversion, but upon further inspection seems to have delivered rather undesirable customers. Order values are down and a high return rate has put a strain on customer service. Your successful ad campaign has in fact reduced profitability, but if you only measure ad clicks, you don’t even see it.

Customer experience optimization means implementing a metrics framework that measures your campaigns and programs by their ability to drive broader business outcomes than just clicks. It requires cooperation from many different functional groups, like IT, operations, and marketing and should include a plan for building communication and understanding between these groups. Because they typically start out with different needs and goals, disparate measurement priorities and data requirements, varying measurement infrastructure and methodologies, a proactive, considered plan for how to consolidate your metrics framework so that it still delivers value to each key stakeholder is critical.

“Optimization is part process, part technology.” “Customer-centricity is a journey not a destination.” “There is no optimization silver bullet.” Common—and quite true—refrains in the marketing optimization marketplace. Each of these statements infers that there is something else going on in the practice of optimization that can’t be addressed with black box solutions.

One of the biggest obstacles marketers face as they endeavor to optimize the full customer experience is organizational culture. Although marketers talk an awful lot about delivering great customer experiences, 75% report they have no single person named responsible for the entire customer experience from end-to-end. Silos exist.

Especially now that customer experiences are woven across multiple media and channels, multiple functional teams are usually involved in making them happen. Without a strong conductor on the bandstand, these teams don’t necessarily operate in concert. The ability shift from a product to a customer focus in your marketing efforts can be much more of a management problem than a technology problem.

Remember that you don’t use paid search advertising to sell widgets, you use it to attract the right types of customers who happen to be online at the moment. Shifting your focus away from the product and even away from the channel itself are key first steps in championing the move toward customer experience optimization in your organization.

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