As we enter into December, brand leaders should take a moment to reflect on some of the fascinating customer experience insights that emerged last month. And, with the holiday season in full swing, there's no better time to consider some of the major trends impacting consumer decisions.
Here's a glance at some of the most influential customer experience findings from the month of November, and some suggestions for how brands can make the most of the holidays.
Apps rule retail
As consumers become more comfortable researching and shopping on the go, a strong mobile application is a highly valuable asset for any retailer. In fact, apps are now an integral part of the customer experience for e-commerce competitors everywhere.
An article from eMarketer cited research from GPShopper and comScore showing that 43 percent of customers have already had their favorite retail app on their smartphone for more than a year.
Additionally, consumers said that they want applications to include loyalty club features and offers exclusive to mobile users. Perhaps most importantly, the app's user experience has to be comparable to - or better than - the standard mobile site.
Marketers go mobile
While applications are key to the retail customer experience, marketers have other priorities in the mobile domain, creating campaigns that target users on smartphones and tablets. A MyCustomer blog stated that mobile strategy is now a necessary element of marketing success.
For example, analysts predicted a 45 percent increase in mobile ad spending at the beginning of 2015, and that forecast was indeed accurate. MyCustomer also stated that instant messaging is becoming a more popular marketing tool, with text being a primary form of personal communication.
Sources such as Adobe state that over 50 percent of today's consumer interactions involve mobile devices. This means that brands will need to focus on creating marketing campaigns that not only include mobile devices, but designate them as a key priority.
New rules of loyalty
For an e-commerce brand, customer loyalty is a true measurement of success. Of course, earning it is easier said than done, but an article from eConsultancy offered some much-needed guidance for developing a more loyal following.
Social media engagement topped the list, with one-third of consumers under 30 eager to find a brand that offers discounts through these channels. Retailers should also boost the transparency of their delivery statuses. Keeping customers in the loop with tracking systems is a huge plus.
Finally, geolocation is a major generator of interest in an era that places a premium on personalization. Brands can use these techniques to build customer loyalty that truly lasts.
As shoppers around the globe shift into high gear for the holidays, brands need to understand exactly what these consumers expect if they want to maximize profits. Retail Touch Points stated this month that there exists a rather large gap between customer demands and retail realities.
Research from Bronco Software and Ipsos found that while 38 percent of shoppers want free shipping on their holiday orders, only 28 percent of brands deliver at no cost. These findings carry an important lesson for brands aiming for big revenue this holiday season: Understanding the intent and expectations of shoppers is key to creating an experience that hits the mark and yields results.
Bad experience blues
Today's brands understand that a strong digital experience can grow profits and loyalty, but eMarketer made an unforgettable point as it revealed the dire consequences of a bad one.
UserReplay found that conversion rates dropped for 43 percent of brands with a suboptimal e-commerce experience, while 38 percent claimed that their reputation was damaged as a result. Ultimately, this leads to diminished revenue potential, an issue cited by 28 percent of brands.
So what's holding retailers back from delivering an optimal shopping experience? One-third of respondents said that they lacked the tools and technology required to identify the issues at hand. This proves that before a brand can master customer experience, it must pinpoint its priorities.
Marketers face enough challenges as they strategize for success in the digital world, but according to Direct Marketing News, tension in the C-suite is leading to additional internal issues. Rackspace found that marketing executives and IT leaders simply aren't on the same page in many cases.
Common disagreements include issues of speed versus quality and security, a lack of consultation across departments, and continual miscommunication. Data shows that both marketing and IT view the relationship as time consuming, misinformed and disjointed - not to mention frustrating.
Unsurprisingly, the majority of leaders on each side believe that a strong partnership is critical for success in the modern age, meaning that a new approach may be necessary. Leveraging information such as customer feedback can help point these teams in the right direction.
Infographic of the month: Personalization report card
Retailers continued to stress the importance of a personalized customer experience in every phase of the shopping life cycle. However, an infographic that appeared in Venture Beat showed that most brands are not even close to meeting the bar set by today's consumers.
The graphic graded companies on a range of personalization checkpoints, and even leading retailers are flunking when it comes to customer experience. Websites lack device-specific content, product recommendations are inaccurate and pages do not adapt to user preferences.
Venture Beat acknowledged that there is much work to be done, suggesting that brands collect as much shopper behavioral data as possible. This will set them on track to discover what customers want from personalization and offer the information necessary to deliver results.
iperceptions blog of the month: Guide to beacon technology
Of all the technologies capable of enhancing the customer experience, beacons certainly pack the most potential. Duff Anderson explored the many trends and trajectories of beacons in an iperceptions blog earlier this month, showing how valuable these small sensors are becoming.
While brands have only just begun to experiment with geo-targeting and location-based notifications, they will soon see that beacons pave the way toward a more personalized and immersive customer experience, both in-store and online.
Image: Kevin Moonesawmy