by Nick Fitzsimmons // December 5, 2018 // Blog

The strength of a brand’s relationship with a consumer has never been more important than in today’s customer experience economy. Successful brands have realized that they’re really in the user experience business, with every interaction an opportunity to grow their relationships. This is a principle that all brands need to live by in 2019. Why? Because it’s at the core of what consumers want.  At Celtra, we believe that in 2019, there will be 3 main expectations consumers have of every brand they engage with:

Expectation #1: This is a relationship, not a transaction.

Today’s consumers more and more want brands to build a personal and contextual relationship with them as an individual. They expect that you’ll leverage situational, behavioral, and historical customer data as the foundation of this 1:1 relationship, in an effort to drive them toward their best next action (BNA) across their customer journey.  More than the sum of their transactions, these relationships help consumers navigate through the growth and advocacy stages of the customer lifecycle, guiding them toward the fastest path to realizing additional value. As a brand, the level of effort to build these kinds of relationships comes down to the quality of your data — can it support this kind of relationship with consumers? Do you know where your customers are across their journeys and what their BNA may be at each step?

Let’s take a quick look at how a fictitious supplement company, BrandX, could leverage its relationship with their consumer, Kathy, to encourage growth and advocacy:  

BrandX produces organically sourced vitamins and supplements for men and women that follow major milestones in their lives (ex: teens, active, prenatal, senior). Kathy leads an active lifestyle, is health conscious, and earlier this year embarked on a new chapter in her life, motherhood. Newly pregnant, she turned to BrandX for their natural prenatal vitamins and purchased a 6-month supply.  

Fast forward to today, the 2018 holiday season, where BrandX is getting ready to launch their seasonal and Q1 2019 campaigns, and Kathy is 4 months into her 6-month supply. Instead of targeting Kathy with a mass-audience campaign promoting their latest product line, BrandX could leverage their relationship with Kathy to contextualize all channels with more relevant offers — like the remaining 3-month supply of prenatal vitamins, or a related cross-sell like prenatal DHA supplements.   

Expectation #2: Experiences will be seamless across channels, platforms, and devices.

As marketers, we understand that today’s customer journey can span a variety of experiences and that what may be the preferred channel or device for one customer, may not be for another.  The 2019 consumer expects that all of the ways in which you engage them will be seamlessly integrated and contextually relevant of their relationship. To compel action, it needs to feel simple and easy regardless of channel, device, or where they are on their customer journey.

Brands that neglect this expectation risk leaving the consumer with the impression that the brand is outdated, may not be able to deliver and doesn’t understand who they are or what’s important to them. Why would a consumer stay loyal to a brand that shows no interest in developing intelligent experiences and building long-term meaningful relationships?

Picking up where we left off, let’s examine how BrandX’s seamless experiences will impact Kathy as she continues on her journey:

Kathy, like many moms today, is active across social media and engaged in several groups where she reads about the latest parenting trends and can ask for advice. While browsing Facebook on her phone during a lunch break, she comes across an article talking about the pros and cons of multivitamins for toddlers. Like most consumers, Kathy expects to be able to engage with a brand on the channel and device she’s already on. Recalling her past positive experiences with BrandX, she heads to their Facebook page and sends a message to continue the conversation. There she learns all about BrandX’s multivitamins for toddlers and is sent an article from BrandX ’s website that talks about the benefits of multivitamins for kids. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have time to buy as her lunch break just ended.

After work, Kathy visits BrandX’s website on her laptop at home where she was able to pick up where she left off. Upon recognizing her as the same person who was viewing multivitamins for toddlers, BrandX’s website was personalized with call-to-actions (CTAs) driving her to learn more about multivitamins for toddlers and ultimately, purchase them with one click. By integrating Kathy’s experiences across mobile and desktop, BrandX was able to leverage its relationship with her to personalize her next visit and drive her toward her BNA.  

Expectation #3: Your brand’s customer service will exceed expectations.

With every integration point comes a new potential point of failure. That’s inevitable. If we assume consumers will have some kind of friction with your brand at some point — you’re not always going to get the data or experience right — your saving grace (or the breaking point) will be your team on the front lines ready to support. When seamlessly integrated, customer service simply becomes another experience that can take advantage of the consumer’s relationship to provide value. Leveraging the relationship helps turn what could have been a negative brand experience into a positive one, often exceeding the consumer’s expectations and strengthening the overall relationship. The quality of customer service is more important than ever to the 2019 consumer who can choose to take their business elsewhere at any time.

Continuing our example, let’s see how BrandX is able to turn what could have been a rough patch in its relationship with Kathy, into a positive brand experience:

After finishing reading some additional information about BrandX’s multivitamins for toddlers, Kathy completes her purchase online. Minutes later she receives an email acknowledging the order and setting the expectation that she’ll be notified shortly when her order has shipped. After a full week goes by without receiving another notification, Kathy becomes concerned and decides to call BrandX to find out what’s wrong.

Prepared for the standard hurdles of engaging with a call center, Kathy expects that she’ll be prompted to self-identify to an automated message, then again to a human, before finally explaining what her issue is.  By integrating all of their experiences including the call center, BrandX was able to remove friction by matching the number she called from with her account, speeding up the process and making her feel known and valued. By ensuring that call center employees have access to her relationship with BrandX, they were able to exceed Kathy’s expectations by knowing her reason for calling, empowering them to provide a faster solution.

2019 consumers are expecting brands to build contextual relationships with them as they engage with you seamlessly across integrated experiences. All backed by excellent customer service.  Is your brand ready for 2019?

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