How brands can differentiate themselves from the competition
At a time when brands are matching each other on areas such as price, delivery, service, and even perceived quality of product; the customer experience remains the one differentiator brands can use to set themselves apart from their competitors.
It’s now easier than ever for consumers to browse, click and buy at the touch of a button. Whether it is on a desktop, tablet or smartphone, this huge rise in consumer confidence and activity has led to a severe change in the business/consumer landscape. According to Gartner, 89 percent of businesses now expect to compete mostly on the basis of customer experience, versus just 36 percent four years ago. Brands that can elevate their customer experience in this very crowded market will quickly see the benefits both internally (e.g. through reduced call centre interactions), as well as through improved customer conversion and retention metrics.
Today, marketers need to be able to know every customer as an individual, helping the drive towards delivering one-to-one experiences that feel like a bespoke one-of-a-kind offering, tailored to that particular customer’s likes, dislikes and context. However, although knowing customers is a great start, it is simply that – the start. The real aim is to not only know, but understand, the intention behind every single interaction.
Each time a customer engages with a brand they have a specific intention. Whether buying or browsing, considering the reason behind an action will not only help create a better overview of the individual, it enables brands to better serve the needs of the customer, resulting in a more profitable customer journey for both parties.
Understanding individual interactions, no matter how big or small and adjusting the experience to suit can mean the difference between a customer returning, determining the future of the brands success. Recently, Monetate found that returning shoppers spent very nearly double online (66 percent) than new visitors (34 percent) following the close of the 2015 peak trading period, giving brands a clear wake-up call to the importance of retaining customers.
It’s at this point that frequently brands think they don’t have the right data or resources to create an experience that is different from their competitors, but that’s where they are wrong. Pretty much every business has data that can be used by platforms like Monetate. And only limited human resources are required to get started – the rest will come in time.
Customer experience should encompass all consumer touchpoints from the store, to delivery and most importantly the digital touchpoints including the brand’s website. Brands should begin with what they already have – taking consumer data from the website to explore the way customers interact online. Whether it’s the type of device being used, the time of location or how they reach the site (e.g. through Google, an email campaign, social media or through a promotional offer), this can be used to personalise the customer journey.
Be clear on what a stand-out customer experience is, and what it isn’t. Just because someone is greeted with ‘Hi Sarah’ at the beginning of an email, doesn’t make them want to shop with that specific brand any more than they would if no name was included. However, send the consumer an offer on a preferred brand or timely reminder to remember to buy an item apparently forgotten in her basket and they are likely to reward you increased conversion and brand loyalty.
Instil a customer-centric business approach early and quickly reap the rewards. Establish some meaningful benchmarks – what does success look like? What is an improved customer experience, in terms of measurable metrics? It could be lower bounce rates, higher customer conversion levels, greater customer retention or increased average order .value. Once these goals are decided on, focus on tracking progress over time, creating benchmarks and revisiting them on a regular basis reduces the likelihood of going off-track.
Experience has quickly become a proof-point for businesses to differentiate themselves. Don’t move towards a personalised, customer experience and sooner or later your brand may face losing out to a competitor offering the same items, at the same price, just because they invested more time and effort in customer experience.
Mike Harris is VP EMEA at Monetate
Read the June 2016 issue of Business Review Middle East magazine
SAS: Improving the British Army’s decision making with data
SAS’ long-standing relationship with the British Army is built on mutual respect and grounded by a reciprocal understanding of each others’ capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Roderick Crawford, VP and Country GM for SAS UKI, states that the company’s thorough grasp of the defence sector makes it an ideal partner for the Army as it undergoes its own digital transformation.
“Major General Jon Cole told us that he wanted to enable better, faster decision-making in order to improve operational efficiency,” he explains. Therefore, SAS’ task was to help the British Army realise the “significant potential” of data through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to automate tasks and conduct complex analysis.
In 2020, the Army invested in the SAS ‘Viya platform’ as an overture to embarking on its new digital roadmap. The goal was to deliver a new way of working that enabled agility, flexibility, faster deployment, and reduced risk and cost: “SAS put a commercial framework in place to free the Army of limits in terms of their access to our tech capabilities.”
Doing so was important not just in terms of facilitating faster innovation but also, in Crawford’s words, to “connect the unconnected.” This means structuring data in a simultaneously secure and accessible manner for all skill levels, from analysts to data engineers and military commanders. The result is that analytics and decision-making that drives innovation and increases collaboration.
Crawford also highlights the importance of the SAS platform’s open nature, “General Cole was very clear that the Army wanted a way to work with other data and analytics tools such as Python. We allow them to do that, but with improved governance and faster delivery capabilities.”
SAS realises that collaboration is at the heart of a strong partnership and has been closely developing a long-term roadmap with the Army. “Although we're separate organisations, we come together to work effectively as one,” says Crawford. “Companies usually find it very easy to partner with SAS because we're a very open, honest, and people-based business by nature.”
With digital technology itself changing with great regularity, it’s safe to imagine that SAS’ own relationship with the Army will become even closer and more diverse. As SAS assists it in enhancing its operational readiness and providing its commanders with a secure view of key data points, Crawford is certain that the company will have a continually valuable role to play.
“As warfare moves into what we might call ‘the grey-zone’, the need to understand, decide, and act on complex information streams and diverse sources has never been more important. AI, computer vision and natural language processing are technologies that we hope to exploit over the next three to five years in conjunction with the Army.”
Fundamentally, data analytics is a tool for gaining valuable insights and expediting the delivery of outcomes. The goal of the two parties’ partnership, concludes Crawford, will be to reach the point where both access to data and decision-making can be performed qualitatively and in real-time.
“SAS is absolutely delighted to have this relationship with the British Army, and across the MOD. It’s a great privilege to be part of the armed forces covenant.”