After the five years I spent covering marketing technology, turning to comms tech might seem to some like going from the major leagues to Little League baseball. That’s not the case, for at least one very important reason: the rapidly growing importance of the customer experience.
Admittedly, marketing technology might look like an ocean compared to comms tech’s lake, with well over 7,000 solutions and growing and a worldwide market estimated at over $120 billion, compared to comms tech at over $4 billion. Salesforce counts its revenue in billions; Cision and Meltwater, meanwhile, in the hundreds of millions, despite the fact that Cision is by far the dominant player in the comms tech space with its market share of more than 20% exceeding Salesforce’s dominance of CRM.
Comms tech has an opportunity, nevertheless, to punch above its weight.
For at least a year now, journalists like myself have been showered with research showing that consumers in the b-to-c space are increasingly making purchases on the basis of experience rather than just product and price. Consumers will even pay a higher price if the experience is right.
The same message is hitting home in the b-to-b space. As Evan Liang, CEO of LeanData, told me last year, “Making a $100,000 software purchase should not be a worse experience than buying something for $25 on Amazon.”
It’s easy to talk about customer experience, of course, just like we learned to talk about big data and the cloud, and it’s easy to start listing brands that are known for providing a holistic experience, and not just a good product at a good price, such as Airbnb, Amazon and Apple. But what really defines the customer experience?
The research firm Forrester captured the fundamentals in its Customer Experience Index. It features two main components, experience quality and customer loyalty. A high-quality score depends on delivering value in a frictionless way, while making customers feel good about the interaction. Loyalty, as you might expect, involves retaining customers, making additional sales to them and having them advocate for the brand. A company’s performance on quality and loyalty combined generates its CX Index score.
Among the big players in the customer experience space – Salesforce, obviously, but also Adobe, Oracle and SAP – it’s firmly believed that creating excellent customer experience means dovetailing the activities of marketing, sales and service teams, so that the interactions a customer has with any aspect of the same brand are connected and consistent. It’s not a big leap to see that product and supply chain contribute to the experience, too.
What about comms? The bet I’m placing is that the role of comms in supporting the customer experience will become increasingly obvious. Brand voice and brand values are unquestionably driving revenue and loyalty among consumers worldwide, and despite what some marketers might think, marketing does not exclusively own those important elements.
As Mark Stouse of Proof Analytics explains in this week’s TechTalk, a great comms strategy doesn’t just have short-term value, such as creating awareness or dealing with a crisis. Over a longer timescale, it is key to building confidence and trust in a brand.
Look back at the CX Index. A customer who doesn’t have confidence and trust in a brand is not going to have an enjoyable experience, and may well not come back for more experiences in the future. Every bit as much as marketing, sales and service, comms is at the heart of customer experience. If that’s true, comms is going to need to advance technologically and operationally in the same way that marketing has over the past few years.
In order to manage comms at scale, and precisely measure relevant outcomes, automation and analytics will be table stakes. Does that mean a rapidly expanding number of players in the comms tech space? Does it mean giants like Adobe extending their existing offerings in a comms tech direction? Those are questions 2020 might answer.