How to Improve the Customer Experience in 2023
Although consumer confidence has been trending upward this year, spending has slid, reports McKinsey. Reversing that decline involves improving the customer experience (CX), a topic we covered with experts from consultancy Capgemini, B2B digital agency Elevated Third, and commercial real estate information clearinghouse CoStar. Findings from the 2022 Acquia Customer Experience Trends report informed the discussion, offering data-backed insights.
The figures cited point to three important trends retailers, marketers, and business leaders should keep in mind as they work to enhance the CX for existing and prospective customers alike:
- Organizations are increasingly prioritizing first-party data in their marketing strategies.
- Content production needs continue to rise, underscoring the support that content teams require more than ever.
- CX improvements demand technology that keeps pace with modern businesses.
Let’s review each trend and heed the thoughtful observations that panelists contributed.
Building better, more relevant customer journeys through first-party data
A cookieless future and the death of cookies — these dystopian alarm bells have been ringing for some time, with organizations often thinking they apply to all cookies, said Tom Phethean, Digital CX CTO for Capgemini.
Organizations should take comfort, though, because the changes that browsers like Chrome and Safari are planning to implement (or have already) only pertain to third-party cookies. Companies will continue to have access to first-party data from their own properties, such as websites, mobile apps, and sign-in kiosks at events.
Still, organizations labor “to really leverage that data for anything beyond BI and operational reporting to turn it into genuine, actionable customer insight,” Phethean said.
He recommends technologies like customer data platforms (CDPs) that can best optimize such data. They offer information about what audiences are doing across online and offline properties, allowing organizations to “target people effectively in a way that’s not overbearing, spammy, creepy, or anything like that. That’s really, really important,” he said.
Paul Stadnyk, Senior Creative Director at CoStar, also sang the praises of CDPs. “The digital landscape is fragmented and only getting more so,” he said. “Unifying touchpoints through identity resolution is essential to fostering the best experience for consumers, which ties back to brand loyalty. That’s the feedback loop you want to achieve.”
How marketing teams can survive the content tsunami
CDPs give multiple teams across any organization insights, but marketing and content teams need additional tools. According to the 2022 Acquia CX Trends report, 74% of marketers struggle to create content that can be rapidly deployed across all their digital platforms.
To help them out, Phethean suggests considering editorial teams and their equivalent as personas that business leaders have to design for as much as they would for external customers. Ask what needs to be in place to make content creators’ job as easy as possible, he said.
Some organizations are exploring artificial intelligence (AI) to that end, but Judd Mercer, VP of Creative Strategy at Elevated Third, thinks that AI-generated images will be like stock art of the early 2000s: ubiquitous. That will eventually desensitize audiences to the AI fad so that they crave authentic images again, he said.
On the ChatGPT side, however, Mercer imagined that AI could be used to scrape sites to deliver the answers or content directly to the end user, who may cease to care about standard digital elements like navigation menus. Organizations may instead have to focus on metadata and schema that’s as neutral as possible to adapt to whatever the AI tech demands.
But those are emerging technologies. What can provide immediate support to teams today are low- and no-code tools that allow anyone on marketing teams to self-serve content when it’s ready — a game-changer, said Stadnyk.
“Time to market is so important,” added Tom Bianchi, VP of Growth Marketing Programs at Acquia. “If you had to rely on a developer for every stage just to publish content, that’s a massive bottleneck.”
Hybrid and headless CMSs: The technologies of today
Other approaches that have seen increased adoption in recent years are hybrid and headless architectures for content management systems (CMSs). When used with analyses of intent-based signals, both architectures promote meaningful connections between organizations and their audiences because they facilitate content delivery through multiple pathways, helping companies meet their omnichannel goals. For instance, if a brand notes that prospects engage with them most on social media, the brand could use that knowledge to deliver content specific to that segment when intent-based signals indicate readiness to buy. Hybrid and headless technologies ease that process because they allow marketers and developers alike to serve that content at the right time via the right channel. Reaching out before prospects and customers are ready to be approached and through a channel they’re less comfortable with can backfire horribly.
“It’s a tricky game of knowing the right timing and having something worth saying when you say it,” Mercer continued.
A headless CMS can be especially beneficial at the enterprise level, where organizations may have a large volume of sites and channels that mean the same content has to be conveyed in different ways for different brands in different markets but with a common core. It gives brands freedom while assuring that their subbrands remain on message and on theme, said Phethean.
“If you’re not publishing on six channels simultaneously, it might not be the way to go,” said Mercer. Headless CMSs are “very fields-based so that it can support omnichannel, but you lose that presentation layer. It’s a trade off. You lose a lot of the nice-to-haves, like theme layers, if you go totally headless. You have to rebuild a lot of the routing, menus, and all that stuff.”
It’s why he and Phethean have seen organizations choose hybrid architectures, though what’s right for any organization depends on their use cases.
Gain more CX insights
The observations above are just a snapshot of the big picture viewpoints shared by panelists. For a closer look at the lessons shared, check out the recording of the well-attended webinar.