We spend more time consuming digital media today than any other medium, and it’s never been easier. The proliferation of channels and adoption of social media as our primary source of information, amplified by the expansion of connected devices, has made it possible to remain always-on even when we’ve ‘opted-out’.
When the number of consumer touchpoints are infinite, technology and design alone can not account for disruptive growth. Considering the rise of Amazon, and other digitally-native vertical brands (DNB) that have led disruption in their industries, such as AirBnB, Uber, Glossier, Dollar Shave Club, Warby Parker, what they all have in common is not just a fanatical obsession with customer experience – but how they used technology and design to embed consumers’ circle of influence at every touchpoint. For these customer-obsessed leaders, influence is not just one customer journey touchpoint – it is the customer journey, a customer experience powered by customer influence.
As Bonobos co-founder and CEO Andy Dunn explains, “The digitally-native vertical brand is maniacally focused on the customer experience. There is no precedent for this in most categories … it is way more customer intimate than its competition. The data is better because every transaction and interaction is captured.”
And these brands have fundamentally changed how consumers shop and what consumers expect from brand experiences as a result. The new dynamics of consumer trust – and the erosion of consumer trust in institutions in particular – have not only enabled these disruptive new business models to thrive, but now mandate how brands today must navigate and evolve their Marketing & Communications strategies to survive.
“Relationship-based newcomers will disrupt product companies. Those brands that can create relationships with individuals will reap the rewards. Unilever paid $1 billion for Dollar Shave Club, not because its razors were superior but for access to its customer database.”
– Predictions 2017: The Post-Digital CMO Appears, Forrester Research, Inc., Oct. 2016.
There is more to the customer’ journey than the touchpoints that meet the eye. The same advances in technology that prompted the rise of CX design and journey mapping were also catalysts for a greater, albeit less tangible, emotional shift: the dissolution of institutional, centralized trust between corporations and consumers, and the emergence of distributed, peer-based trust among consumers:
Adding to the complexity of how consumers’ decide what to buy, is that their choices are increasingly influenced by the people they choose to connect with and interact with online. And with the Trust Gap between corporations and consumers only expanding, the opportunity remains for marketers to bridge this gap by establishing trust with consumers through the voices of customers like them and who they aspire to be, in the pivot moments when consumers seek out brand content – such as social recommendations or ratings & reviews – in order to reinforce, justify, and rationalize their purchase decisions.
We live in an influence-augmented reality.
Despite its popularity and performance, Influencer Marketing & Relations is still thought of as working with bloggers and celebrities for their reach and credibility. The evolution of Influencer Marketing & Relations from tactical solution to enterprise strategy is largely theoretical in practice, and even in its tactical execution, remains widely misused and misunderstood.
The growth of emerging channels and devices alone presents daunting challenges for marketers – let alone accounting for all the ways consumers are influenced by others. Marketers feel the pressure to produce more with less, assuming responsibility (and response-ability) for a near exponential number of touchpoints, as well as the volume of content required to deliver those experiences, to consumers with even less attention to give.
As such, customer experience (CX) and journey mapping has become the emerging process for integrated strategic planning, commanding CMOs’ prioritization, time, and investment. Accordingly, consumers are willing to pay 4.5 times more an excellent customer experience than a poor CX:
“Customers interact with a firm through many channels — multiple websites, mobile apps, IVR systems, contact centers, stores — sometimes hundreds. But customers don’t think in channels; they think about the firm they interact with as a single entity and expect those channels to feel unified.”
– How to Build the Right CX Strategy, Forrester Research, Inc., Jan. 2017