1customeradWord has spread that in the increasingly digital world the importance of customers continues to grow explosively and there is general agreement on the importance of customer relations for the creation of value for a company’s success.

But why do customers then feel so little about all this and still not have the status they deserve?

The answer is simple: all these companies are still product-oriented and not, as they want to believe, customer-oriented. They are generally so busy with their monthly and quarterly targets or the development of new products and their planned quantities, that they lose sight of their customers.

Some companies are so busy with themselves and their processes that they even find the customer a troublemaker.

Only when there is a poor order situation, when the self-imposed monthly target is in danger or when a new product is ready, they expect a wave of excitement from the customers, which of course is illusional However, this form of customer orientation is working ever worse.

In the following we summarize the priorities you should keep an eye on to optimally exploit the opportunities offered by digitization for our customer relationships:

1. Personalization

Personalization is at the heart of every positive customer experience. Customer data management becomes more transparent and customers expect their personal information to be used to create personalized communications with the brand. Otherwise, they would hardly agree to their storage and use. The more it is surprising that according to reports more than 50% of marketers still use only a minimal form of personalization (e.g. salutation and name) or even rigid standard templates for the email contact with their customers.

A small number of companies have been able to personalize content in templates block by block or even managed to implement a hyper-personalization, in which each individual element, for example in an email, is adapted to the respective recipient. Of course, such a type of personalization can only be achieved if a high-quality 360-degree customer view is available, that is at the same time compliant with data protection laws.

Predictive analytics is also playing an ever-increasing role in personalization, for example by using next-best-offer algorithms to guide recommendations for the next vacation destination or fashion accessory. In the meantime, even artificial intelligence is developing from a hype to a real tool by enabling for instance fully automatic A/B tests based on champion/challenger principles, which are predicted on statistically sound rules.

2. Customer Journey

It has long been known to marketers that the old AIDA principle is no longer contemporary, or rather that the communication process does not end with "action". On the contrary, "action" is the beginning of a new process, namely the building of long-term brand loyalty, ideally even of brand ambassadors. And this is exactly where the customer journey plays a central role.

There are two aspects of the customer journey that require special attention on the part of the marketers: On the one hand, to understand customer interactions across multiple touchpoints and channels, such as for instance the numerous visits to the website, before finally a test drive is agreed. On the other hand, to understand how customers go through the various marketing segments over time, e.g. from a prospect to a first-time buyer, and then on to a regular customer and ultimately a VIP customer.

Both require structured customer data that is made available for analysis purposes in an efficient and privacy-compliant manner. Only through successful customer journey management will there be progress towards a complete understanding of complex channel attribution models and a holistic view of customer lifecycle marketing be given.

3. Automation

If Marketing Automation used to be a nice tool in the past, it has become a must-have for every successful brand by today. The times when campaigns could be planned six months in advance are for sure over. Today, customer journeys are driven by events, with mostly a combination of push and pull channels in play. Time-based internal or external triggers can provoke a campaign at any time, with communication increasingly taking place in real-time.

For example, a shopping cart abandonment on the website could trigger a multi-level campaign that reminds customers to complete their purchases. The complexity the event-based and cross-channel customer interaction management brings along can only be overcome with the help of analysis and automation tools. One of the many benefits of this is that the marketer does not have to spend time maneuvering on non-integrated marketing processes, focusing entirely on marketing optimization.

The fact is that an excellent product alone is no longer enough today. Against the background of progressive digitization, companies are facing ever new challenges in shaping their customer relationships: business is made between people - even in the digital age. But digitization is changing everything. As a result, everything that drives companies away from their customers today, anything that slows them down, catapults them out of the market, and that faster than you can imagine.

Relevant for a customer’s decision are criteria such as e.g. 'simple, transparent or accessible', which they apply not only to the selection of the product but also to the entire dialogue with the company (on- and offline processes). Hence, customer focus and centricity mean thinking, guiding and implementing the customer.

By Daniela La Marca