In the past, businesses have focused on providing the highest quality in their products and services, making that the key to their success. However, the times have changed. In the last 5 years alone, brands have been shifting their focus towards something much more important for their business: their customers.
Year on year, the KPMG’s Customer Experience Excellence Report has registered a steady increase in customer experience, even at the beginning of lockdown when Covid-19 first hit. However, the KPMG’s study from 2021 found that customer experience has dropped for the first time since 2017 by 1%.
Now, 1% may not seem like much, but in reality, the statistics should either remain the same or improve each year. On the plus side, digital-first brands and those focusing on environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals seem to be avoiding this trend. They are doing so by adopting digital technologies and representing their brand by providing a unique and meaningful customer experience, standing out from the crowd in their niche.
A Digital-First Approach
A recent study showed that three-quarters of businesses adopted new technologies as a direct cause of the pandemic, and are keen to continue with this innovation mindset. Whilst the pandemic was unprecedented and challenging, it did offer radical insights to brands as to what keeps a business running virtually and responsively. One of which is that customer expectations have heightened, with the need for a personalised experience that encourages consumers to come back to brands time and time again.
10 brands that were listed in the top 100 companies this year for excellent customer experience, following a survey with 10,000 UK consumers, in which all promote a digital-first approach.
- Starling Bank
- Lush Cosmetics
- John Lewis
- QVC UK
- American Express
- M&S Food
- Samsung Store
All of these brands focused their customer experience through digital technologies, making their business more agile and responsive to customer needs. According to KPMG, these brands succeeded in creating digital connections that feel human and emotional, providing a faster and agile approach that is more engaging for the consumers.
Starling Bank, which has ranked number one for the second time in a row, is a prime example of a purely-digital brand that is focusing its customer experience efforts online.
“People don’t want to be spoken to like robots - they want to have open, honest conversations.”
Clipping at the heels of the number one position is Lush Cosmetics who, in 2018, adopted the use of tablet-till checkouts. Integrating this technology into their stores allowed for mobile checkout points to customers, personalised product information and allowed the staff to freely roam the store to offer assistance to customers.
“We are seeing cost savings and revenue growth, as well as customer experience improvements. And this is not over; we are laying the foundations for how retail and digital come together to provide the ultimate customer experience.”
The integration of technologies in department stores has enabled Lush employees to engage more with customers and provide personalised experiences in-store.
It is not only about providing a high-quality customer experience, but also a consistent and reliable one.
Where brands seem to struggle is with cross-device shopping through various channels. Hence why processes and technologies need to change to provide a consistent experience across all platforms.
The Rise of Conscious Consumers
In KPMG’s latest report, they found that consumers are seeking out brands that are more conscious of the environment, the impact they have in society and focused on supporting sustainable living.
“Over half of consumers (56%) say the environment and social practices of a company has an impact when choosing to buy from them”
One way in which Starling Bank has approached this is by taking responsibility as a brand to fight climate change. They recently became a founding member of TechZero, a group of tech companies committed to climate action, and featured on YouTube’s Seat at the Table documentary series which focused on climate change.
Whilst many brands like Starling Bank have been providing a digital customer experience for many years now, adopting a sustainable approach has only been implemented recently following this year’s COP26 climate change conference.
At this year's conference, it was highlighted that both brands and consumers need to be making more eco-conscious decisions to tackle various climate issues, such as greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation.
Consumers have already started to take the step in the right direction during the pandemic. A global study by Accenture found that 60% of consumers were making more environmentally friendly, sustainable or ethical purchases, with 9 out of 10 of that percentage likely to continue doing so.
The Importance of Excellent Customer Experience
The research is there to show that consumers are looking to brands that are offering more, not for the customer, but to the environment.
90% of customers are willing to pay more for ethical retailers, according to KPMG’s report.
If a business does not provide a good customer experience, customers will simply drop that brand in search of one that does. Trust in brands is now built on more ambitious environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals. Brands must use these as building blocks to developing sustainable customer relationships, dependent on trust and honesty.
The key to success is creating a customer experience that leaves a positive lasting impression for consumers. It sounds easy enough, but creating this experience for your customers requires a well-thought-out strategy.
How to Develop the Customer Experience of a Lifetime
For your customers to like you, you need to get to know them. Like any relationship, you need to invest in the long-term, understanding who they are. Once you have achieved this, you can deliver a personalised experience across your customers’ journey.
This requires a lot of research (like a lot)! One way in which Reward helps is by offering our strategic planning expertise to conscious brands, building persona profiles for their consumers and conducting discovery workshops.
The biggest takeaway from our discovery workshops is the real “why” of the brand. This helps to clarify why your brand exists and your purpose - because if we don’t know, how is your consumer supposed to?
Developing detailed personas allows for you to better understand who your target audience is and the direction of focus you need to take as a brand, otherwise you will be speaking to the masses. Through detailed research, we collect data and insights that allow us and you to better understand your brand, your audience and what they want in return for your products and services.
By having in-depth knowledge and insights, you can begin to understand the specific goals that your consumers have, what they are looking for within a brand and develop a strategy that will keep them coming back for more.
No matter what niche your brand fits into it, it has been proven time and time again that investing in your customer experience can increase retention, satisfaction and revenue. So whilst it may be a long and gruelling process, it is all worth it in the end.