In this post, I talked about where customer experience thinking came from. This one is about where I think we are headed.
1. It's all about the customer. Still
Yes, that seems obvious. But it needs constant repetition. Control is not going to go back into the hands of the marketer. The diversity around us in styles and choices is just mind boggling. Customers are driving that, with the aid of new technology.
Personalization, check. Customization, check. Co-creation, check. None of it is going away.
2. Brands are powerful
Consumers are overwhelmed by choice and information. A brand can help you narrow things down. A brand can help you, as a person, tell your story. Only if the brand HAS a story, of course. See #8 for more on that.
3. Touchpoints will continue to expand
The number of mediums in use just keeps growing. The old stuff is still with us (newspapers, for example), and new channels pop up every day (like apps). As a marketer, you need to try to pull this herd of cats into something that looks like a coherent brand message, customized to deliver what your customer is looking for, and responsive to what they are telling you. Sound difficult? Absolutely.
4. If anything is going to replace consumption of goods as the thing that defines our culture, it will be consumption of experiences
There is evidence all around us that we value experiences as much as, perhaps more than, stuff. Which could be good for the planet. Stuff is not going away, but it might be dropping in importance. What is social media, after all, but an experience? Sponsorship marketing delivers experiences. Digital media delivers experiences. Great packaging even delivers an experience. If you aren't delivering an experience, you are going to have problems competing. [Yes, I feel your pain, wondering how the heck to do that as a consultant.]
5. The service + experience economy is going to produce a lot of tension. Show a little respect
The person serving you your coffee today is getting served by you on an airplane tomorrow, going in to your bank branch during the extended hours, and calling your support centre tonight after dinner. And vice-versa. Despite growing income inequality, the tolerance for being treated like a nobody -- even when you are buffing a toenail -- is low, and I think, decreasing. The 1% didn't get the memo on this. There's a lot of people out there feeling disrespected.
When you design a service experience, don't assume you will be able to find staff who can be trained to be obsequious. They're not growing those folks any more. [Except in those odd environments where people are highly paid to be obsequious.Your barista is not highly paid, regardless of what you think.]
6. We're going to expect better experiences in places that have never had to bother before
The last bastion of the bad experience will be anything that looks like government. Are petty bureaucrats still wielding power over people -- of course they are. We hate it, but we haven't figured out how to change it yet. We're all working on health care first. But when all of the commercial/consumer world is oriented towards creating a better experience, everything that doesn't try too hard is going to really stick out, and not in a good way.
7. The drive to improve experiences is going to improve efficiency
Oddly, most people think better efficiency and greater productivity comes from taking things away from customers. Not necessarily true. You can take away stuff that no one wants anyway, like delays in service, out of stock inventory, difficult check-out procedures.
It's not all about high-touch -- sometimes it's about just letting me get on with it. Consider self-serve gas. For most of us, doing it yourself is just a lot easier and faster, and therefore a better experience. Cheaper is a bonus. The same thing has largely proved to be true in transactional banking. [Now if we can just bring that to public transit!]
8. Faking authenticity is going to get harder.
There's no place to hide. Even for Apple. Instead, why not go for genuine authenticity? It's cheaper and more fun.
9. The perfect targeting solution won't help you if you don't have a story and an experience to offer
Will big data solve your problems? Maybe somewhat. But more likely it will be to the 2010s what CRM was to the 90s and 00s -- a lot of money spent for a lot of disappointment. Your perfect algorithm will only help you if you have a story to tell and an experience to back it up. [Surely that's a relief, isn't it? Just hollering "buy, buy, buy" won't work better because of big data.]
10. No one will be paying attention
You think it's hard getting attention today? I think it's going to get harder. All that stuff about localization services that will drive traffic into your store. It will just feel like more spam for most. All those apps? Well, how many apps can you really use? Three? Five? Ten? Certainly not 30 or 40, not 100 or 1,000.
The only solution is to insist on relevance. Relevance might not mean utility in the conventional sense, it might mean amusement or charm [just look at Pinterest].
The bright spot here is that local businesses with some savvy will have an easier time of it, I think. People will be walking by your store anyway, right?
This is what I see, at least today. What do you see?