The way we live our lives has gone completely digital, including how we shop and buy. Brands have been forced to transform into rapidly evolving data-driven businesses focused on providing superior consumer experiences to capture customers in a noisy, crowded digital landscape—and to keep those customers coming back.
Over the past decade, consumer insight has moved from an option to an essential component of the customer experience; whereas in the past, it was something that informed areas in silos such as advertising messaging and effectiveness or brand health or served as an ad hoc fuel for innovation. But the rise of the experience economy, fueled by shifts in technology and culture, has resulted in the business-critical need to understand your customer and use that data to design a real-time personal experience.
"Experience economy" is not a new concept. In a 1998 article, B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore predicted the experience economy would be the next economic revolution, following the agrarian economy, the industrial economy and the service economy. Pine and Gilmore argued that businesses must orchestrate memorable events for their customers, and that memory itself becomes the product: the "experience” that would give brands a competitive advantage by winning more customers and being able to keep them. Even 30 years ago, the experience economy was considered to be the main underpinning for customer experience management.
What wasn’t apparent when Pine and Gilmore introduced the experience economy was that the experience would mostly be driven digitally. While most of the emphasis in recent years has been on big data, what brands are discovering is that it’s not enough to gather and act on transactional data from sales and clicks but they need hear the voice of their customer, asking them questions and gathering their feedback. It isn’t enough for business to simply gain an understanding of their customers in terms of their experiences with a brand’s product and services. Brands need to understand their customer holistically—their lives, attitudes, options and values. In essence, they need to understand their customer’s truths.
It’s becoming apparent that more brands are realizing this, which is signified in SAP’s $8 billion acquisition of Qualtrics and in Gartner’s new CMO Spend Survesy for 2018-2019, which list marketing and customer analytics and experience as two of the top three considerations in which brands will be investing in the new year.
Brands are quickly realizing that to drive the most relevant customer experience, the most valuable data the brand can gather comes from the customer themselves. In fact, according to a recent study for Forrester Research, commissioned by FocusVision, consumers say that how a brand makes them feel is 1.5 times more important in their buying decision that any other factor. This is where small data needs to be considered. Small data is embodied in the insights necessary to understand what your customer thinks and feels.
To get to that understanding, brands need to build always on strategies to gather their customer truths; using surveys to capture feelings and reactions in real time; and video interviews to ask why they do what they do and focus groups continue to be a prominent methodology to move beyond the voice of the customer to understanding why they think, feel, act the way they do.
The brands that truly understands their customer’s truth will be able to connect their story with the customer’s story. Brands that don’t understand their customer’s truth will fail to become part of that story or create the right customer experience to sustain and grow their business in this new experience economy.