There are many arguments made that digital technology has tainted the customer experience. This is an easy argument to make, because naysaying and fear (especially of new technology) is a simple point to exploit.
But why don’t we hear more often about the ways the customer experience has been revolutionized and improved through digital technology? Because it has. Customer experience is an untapped reservoir of marketing opportunity.
According to Jagdish Sheth, Professor of Marketing at the Goizueta Business School of Emory University, “customer experience is totally replacing buying behavior…” and Sheth points out that it will be critical to “focus on the experience and the user, not the buyer.”
“customer experience is totally replacing buying behavior…”Jagdish Sheth, Professor of Marketing at the Goizueta Business School of Emory University
Sheth describes this new era in buying and selling as “very exciting.”
What is customer experience?
The customer experience is the totality of the path a consumer takes while seeking, purchasing, and using a product or service. It’s every step and every touchpoint in the journey from interest to acquisition.
According to Forbes, customer experience is the “cumulative impact of multiple touchpoints.”
The 5 stages of customer experience
Professor Sheth identifies five stages of the customer experience:
- Customer search for information
Consumers are seeking information about products and services. Even for those products they may already buy instinctively based on habit, consumers are in need of reinforcement that they are making the right decision.
It’s never been easier to shop: online, mobile, social media, even on interactive television. The pandemic has illustrated that shopping is capable of handling large amounts of transactions. The design of online and mobile shopping is also increasingly making shopping an entertainment more than a task. To many, the digital world is more exciting than the real world.
- Payment system
In many real-world environments, payment presents many obstacles. But online, payment systems are evolving that make payment effortless. Procurement is only one-click away in many cases.
The increase in interactive experiences, artificial intelligence, and robotics are making the consumption or use of products and services smart and more enjoyable. Critically, it also makes the experience more personal. When a consumer has a personal experience while using your products, an emotional connection is forged between your brand and them.
Where do your products go after the consumer acquires them, and how are they dispersed? Is their disposal natural or artificial? How does a consumer interact with that process? For example, if you are selling an automobile, what happens when the consumer has reached the end of their relationship with that product? How about a software program or an electronic device? These concerns are crucial as we determine where to reboot the customer experience.
Future innovations in customer experience
In the future, customer interaction will require a more positive, inclusive experience. Millennials and Generation Z are trending toward less ownership and more toward renting or sharing items. Note the growth in car-sharing apps like Uber and retail shops like Plato’s Closet, that specialize in offering used and lightly worn garments.
Also, consumers demand smarter products that will augment their daily schedules and enhance their lives. Autonomous vehicles, smart TVs and set-top boxes, and artificial intelligence-enabled products will serve this desire.
These innovations in AI technology may happen in the automobile and in handheld devices than in the home for now, but it’s a burgeoning area of opportunity for marketers.
What makes innovations in customer experience exciting? It’s the opportunity presented.
Because of the reliance on real-time data, and appeals to individual shoppers based on their personal preferences, payment platforms, and consumption habits, ultimately, innovation in customer shopping experience is more democratic, and does not prejudice based on gender, race, or age.