Marketers have been so focused on optimising customer experience across digital channels that they have neglected the need to be equally responsive on physical touchpoints.
A survey by CMO Council revealed that 78% of marketers believed they could respond or react to consumer feedback, requests, suggestions, or complaints specific to campaigns within two weeks – with 43% saying they could do so within 24 hours, according to the research, which polled 153 marketers in the US.
However, their responsiveness dipped significantly when physical touchpoints were involved, with 77% of marketers acknowledging it would take up to 90 days to react to customer feedback.
This indicated a gap between reality and consumer expectations, which required a response time of between 24 hours and two weeks, according to CMO Council.
Senior vice president of marketing, Liz Miller, said: “The reality is that consumers make purchase decisions between digital and physical realms. So, when we talk about things like product packaging, we need to understand our data, understand the customer when they’re looking for our products, and know what’s important for them.”
This meant ensuring, for instance, that the brand’s online marketing content accurately reflected its products in the physical realm, so consumers would be able to easily locate the products on the shelves after seeing them in a digital ad.
Speaking to ExchangeWire in a phone interview, Miller said the CMO Council study revealed some level of complacency amongst marketers with regards to delivering a personalised experience in physical touchpoints. After all, she noted, the technology to help organisations streamline and accelerate processes – so they could make creative changes to product packaging – had been available for a while.
She said the marketing community had been so focused on optimising customer experience across digital touchpoints, that it lost track of the fact that consumers would not separate their experience with brands between digital and physical.
She added that consumers fully expected brands to engage at the speed of light and at a similar level of responsiveness across all experiences, regardless of whether the channel was physical or digital.
While the CMO Council survey was focused on the US market, Miller said its findings likely would be similar, or further heightened, in the Asia-Pacific region, especially in markets such as Singapore, where consumers were highly discerning. Shoppers would be more picky and have higher expectations of service delivery and responsiveness.
At the same time, marketers’ ability to make changes to physical customer touchpoints would be more limited due to tighter budgets in the region, she said, adding that there likely would be an even bigger gap between consumer expectation and marketers’ ability to deliver on these physical channels.
According to the CMO Council report, the top challenges holding back marketers from providing speedier responses were the lack of budget to push more frequent updates to physical touchpoints and not having data insights to make changes based on customer behaviours. Respondents also pointed to the lack of synergies between the organisation’s marketing and product and packaging teams, and their vendors’ inability to work quickly.
In Asia-Pacific, where mobile was more pervasive and communication channels more varied, marketers also would face challenges dealing with the complexity of omnichannel engagement, Miller said.
Asked if ad tech vendors were failing to better support marketers, she pointed to the need instead to relook at internal procurement decisions. CMOs needed to start looking at procurement as a strategic mandate, rather than simply seeking out options that offered the lowest price, but that might not be able to deliver the user experience marketers wanted, she said.
This also would require everyone in the organisation, including the CTO, CFO, and CEO, to agree on targeted customers and the user experience the brand needed to deliver, she said.
“This fundamentally goes far beyond the technology. The fact is that user experience isn’t just the realm of the marketer, but something that crosses every single function within the organisation”, Miller said.
“Every function should be adding and enriching user experience, and everyone needs to understand what their role is in this. If you’re in finance, and you don’t understand that, then there’s a problem.”
Simplify marketing value chain to provide transparency
Organisations also would need to simplify the marketing value chain to ensure transparency and enable suppliers and vendors to respond more quickly.
This was especially critical in Asia-Pacific, where brands would have to sell to different audiences across the region, Miller said, adding that each market would likely require localised marketing content.
Without a clear vantage point of how digital and physical marketing materials would need to be tailored to each market, and where the points of engagement were, brands would not be able to map out the required user experience, she said.
“There needs to be transparency”, she stressed. “I’m not creating brand and user experience in one language, but across different languages in Singapore, Korea, Japan, and Vietnam. If I don’t know what’s happening across all those properties, and not working with a vendor where I can see the changes we’re making to the creative and product messaging to make it relevant to the local consumer, then how am I operating effectively?”
Marketers would need to ensure they had the tools and platforms to unify the communication and processes, which could include both vendors as well as agencies, she said.
And with the line between online and offline realms blurring, brands would need to turn to machine learning and cognitive computing to better target and respond to consumers.
These could analyse massive amounts of data from multiple data sources, such as search behaviour, location data, and third-party data, to help marketers make better decisions in real time and across the entirety of their customer base, Miller said.
Machine learning also would enable brands to be more accurate and, hence, appear less intrusive when targeting potential customers, she added.