The big issues brands must tackle to deliver seamless consumer experiences

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CAMPAIGN 360 PREVIEW: Brands today cannot afford to make mistakes with customer experience. From technology to content and beyond, Campaign looks at how brands can better understand and deliver what consumers want.

Brand leaders across Asia-Pacific are preparing to gather for Campaign360 in Singapore on May 16th and 17th to compare notes on how they offer more exceptional and seamless brand experiences. 

Ahead of the event, Campaign spoke with martech and brand experts to discover how brand leaders should approach their new roles as experience providers, factoring in decisions around economics, talent, data and more.  

Kat Warboys, the director for Asia Pacific at HubSpot, says the customer journey has become more complex and sophisticated than it was a couple of decades ago. The playing field has changed, so customers have never been in more control than they are right now.  

More importantly, as customers are craving a stronger sense of connection, it is critical that their experience with brands throughout the entire process, not just selling, is exceptional, seamless, and intuitive. 

"Buzzword or not, your customer experience (CX) sets you apart. The saying reigns true – it is not what you sell but how you sell. But, unfortunately, when considering where to start, brands often take a siloed approach to addressing friction points," Warboys tells Campaign. "The most successful recognise how critical big-picture thinking is to enhance the customer journey. They're deliberate about mapping out and deeply understanding their customers' journeys, from the first touchpoint with their brand, to repeat business." 

(Clockwise from L-R) Kat Warboys, Bharati Balakrishnan, Bruce Temkin, Charles Tidswell and Jeannette Wong

In other words, customers do not wake up and decide to buy on a whim. Instead, they go through a process to become aware of, consider, evaluate, and choose to purchase a new product or service. The hand-offs between these stages are critical to the CX.  

With a thorough analysis of customer interactions, brands can identify friction points and create a plan to resolve them, resulting in repeatable and delightful customer experiences. 

Who owns CX?

But a significant stumbling block for brands tends to be deciding who in their organisation is responsible for CX.  

For example, in a recent HubSpot and YouGov report, three-quarters of marketing leaders in Singapore claim to understand the importance of CX for business fully. However, at the same time, 40% admit that they do not have the necessary equipment to meet expectations. 

"While it is true that everybody is responsible for delivering better customer experiences, there must be someone responsible for embedding customer-centeredness within your processes. So it's a critical discussion: "Who is ultimately responsible for CX?" explains Warboys. 

"A trend we are seeing in the region is the chief customer officer (CCO) role. The CCO oversees the marketing, sales, customer success, and revenue operations teams. This way, there's a role that can genuinely align the organisation and understand the customer's challenges from every angle." 

Bharati Balakrishnan, country head and director for India and SEA at Shopify, warns brands to be ruthless about prioritising CX to succeed. Customers will walk away as there are enough choices out there. 

She opines consumer behaviour has evolved over the last few years, with increased online shopping, the rise of conscious consumerism and shifting consumer spending habits. Online shopping is more popular than ever, with over half of consumer spending being online in many APAC countries last year. 

While consumers have not stopped shopping, their spending habits have pivoted as they look to make more conscious decisions about where and when they spend their money," Balakrishnan tells Campaign.

"Considered consumers look for value and quality, conscious consumers look to lower their carbon footprint and make climate-conscious choices, and connected consumers want to build a relationship with the brands that bring them joy." 

Balakrishnan adds that shopping has evolved from transactional to experiential as consumers seek more connection and make more buying decisions than ever before.  

While many factors make up CX, three central components help form its foundations: personalised shopping experience, excellent customer service, and meeting shoppers where they are, says Balakrishnan. 

The three components are content and catalogue, pricing and promotions, and assortment and inventory, which has to flow seamlessly across channels. Ensuring these three components work together will take a cross-functional team effort, change management within online and offline organisations, and a combination of operations and flexible technology.  

"Brands should streamline the checkout process, offer diverse payment options, make it easy to contact customer support, and reduce the number of clicks or actions required to complete a task," explains Balakrishnan. 

"The goal is to make it effortless for customers to engage with the brand and complete their desired actions. Consumers want their shopping to be personal, instant, and responsive—and they want that high-value experience anywhere." 

Digital telco CirclesLife recently launched its new loyalty programme, Circle of Joy, which aims to address pain points that customers experience with traditional telco loyalty programmes. The brand claims unlike its run-of-the-mill counterparts, the reward-based programme does not place importance on factors such as monthly spending, add-ons or bundles. 

CirclesLife subscribers can redeem more perks and rewards as they grow with the telco. 

Jeanette Wong, CirclesLife's head of marketing, tells Campaign delivering a seamless and effortless experience is a cross-functional undertaking from the design, development and delivery of a product to the content and marketing effort that goes around it. It takes intentional and consistent effort. 

"Make listening to customers a priority: Brands must demonstrate empathy and understanding towards their customers. It starts simply from listening, observing consumers' needs, and involving them in conversations," explains Wong. 

"During the pilot phase of Circle of Joy, we brought users in to hear from their experiences directly. We saw an opportunity to do right by our customers, which landed us on creating the simplest loyalty program that earns users points they can redeem for rewards, just by staying rather than transacting more." 

Optimising the martech stack

Consolidating their tech stack would be one of the things brands should look into. By regularly auditing their martech stack, businesses can identify redundant or underperforming tools, eliminate efficiencies and optimise their marketing operations.  

Charles Tidswell, sales director APAC at Pattern, says that by harnessing AI and analytics, brands can get a peek into valuable insights such as customer behaviour, preferences and needs. As a result, harnessing AI and analytics will help brands create more targeted, personalised campaigns across channels that resonate with their audiences. 

Getting insights into customer behaviour will ultimately drive overall brand engagement and conversions.  

"Consistency across your omnichannel approach should also be a focal point for businesses, Tidswell tells Campaign.

"By leveraging a range of touchpoints and platforms to engage with your customers and delivering consistent personal messaging, businesses can build brand loyalty and ensure they operate optimally." 

As commerce has changed significantly over recent years, omnichannel strategies have played an essential role in this paradigm. Brands are allowing consumers to shop anywhere to enable a more sustainable future for their commercial engagement; by empowering customers through choice.  

Balakrishnan suggests we can expect to see even more of this, with social media platforms like TikTok set to play a more significant role in how brands appeal to consumers.  

"These multi-channel strategies should not be chance encounters but a deliberate multifaceted approach to engaging with one's customers. When brands meet their customers where they are, customers can connect with the brand at its multiple touchpoints—wherever they are," Balakrishnan explains. 

"Brands also need to leverage technology to create a seamless customer experience. This can include integrating different systems and platforms to ensure data consistency and continuity and investing in user-friendly interfaces and intuitive design." 

Balakrishnan points out Immersive experiences can also benefit brands, especially retailers, as they create memorable customer experiences. In addition, automation, chatbots and AI can help marketers optimise their omnichannel efforts by automating repetitive tasks, improving targeting and personalisation, and customer service. 

"A straightforward thing often forgotten is how much of your marketing budget is going towards retention vs acquisition. Powerful tools in the marketing stack allow brands today to delight, engage and build loyal customers. And iterating on the most effective ways is critical," says Balakrishnan. 

CX in an uncertain economic climate

When economic challenges cause volatility, customers will be more discerning about what, how, and who they spend their money with.  

They become more price sensitive and more conscious of the values they attach to their purchases, often forcing them to shift brands or service providers to suit their needs and budget. But here is the thing, customers don't just buy brands or products - they buy experiences.  

With how easy it is for customer loyalty to shift, brands cannot afford to neglect their investment in providing exceptional CX. In addition, the increased cost of advertising and acquisition further presents an opportunity for brands to ensure they are investing in customer retention and loyalty strategies. 

"During uncertain times, it can be as simple as checking in with your customers to understand how the current environment impacts them," explains Warboys. 

"How have their pain points and motivations changed? And then design initiatives to support your customers accordingly. In the long run, companies can increase customer long-term value, recurring revenue, and referrals by exceeding customer expectations." 

To exceed customer expectations, brands must create unforgettable CX by optimising customer onboarding, delighting customers, listening to feedback, and improving customer service. 

"Marketers are not the only piece in the puzzle. When all the teams within the organisation are aligned with prioritising CX, businesses put themselves in a much better position to ensure outstanding experiences from the first touchpoint to the last, not just to compete effectively but also to come out of a downturn stronger," says Warboys. 

Bruce Temkin, head of Qualtrics XM Institute, says brands also need to understand one's marketing campaigns' effect on brand perception, sales, and growth is vital for planning.  

Rather than making assumptions about a brand's marketing approaches and impact on business success, brands must use data-led insights to see what works and plan their following action. 

In addition, brands also need to be able to pivot quickly based on dynamic business requirements due to the current macro environment, says Temkin. 

"The critical question is, what is one trying to achieve in the current climate? Is it to continue raising brand awareness, improving customer acquisition and pipeline growth, increasing engagement with current customers, improving conversion rates, reducing cost per lead or customer churn," Temkin explains to Campaign.

"Pinpointing the end goal for one's marketing allows brands to evaluate each marketing strategy for its impact more accurately, regardless of the prevailing macroeconomic climate. " 

Maximising ROI

Advertising can be a powerful and complementary channel to a marketer's strategy. Therefore, regardless of the economic climate, brands should constantly optimise ad spending to deliver a return that is efficient and profitable for the business.  

Therefore, the usual best practices apply. No campaign will be effective without thoroughly understanding your customers, where to reach them, and how best to add value. The best signifier that tells brands when they are getting this right is the return on ad spend (ROAS). 

Brands should consider metrics such as click-through rate (CTR) and return on investment (ROI) in addition to ROAS. By measuring multiple metrics, brands can pinpoint precisely where their campaign is succeeding and where it could improve, allowing them to refine their strategies and achieve even better outcomes in the future. 

"Most importantly, tracking and presenting can help demonstrate your marketing department's impact on revenue. Using data-driven insights can help justify your investments in marketing and enable marketers to make more informed decisions about allocating their resources," explains Warboys. 

"The winning equation involves having a customer relationship management (CRM) system that tracks your customer journey, supplemented with multi-touch revenue attribution models that provide an ROI overview of which campaigns drive the highest revenue impact. 

These models should ideally be embedded into your CRM, enabling marketers to understand their bottom line, optimise specific conversion paths, and do more with less." 

Tidswell points out it all comes down to how brands leverage the right resources and maximise their performance with the ecommerce equation. For example, traffic, conversion, price and availability add up to profitability.  

He explains brands need to ensure that they are adopting strategies across the various platforms that they are on.  

"It is not a one-size-fits-all model but rather requires testing and a deep dive into what resonates with their audience on the particular channel and how they can gain as much visibility as possible - leading to greater chances of conversion," explains Tidswell. 

Impact-driven marketing

Environmental, social and governance (ESG) values are becoming increasingly important for companies to demonstrate their commitment to sustainable business.  

ESG commitments also drive consumer purchases and employee engagement, increasing value-based consumerism to align with employees' green principles. 

"Brands must understand what their employees, prospects, customers, investors and market want. These organisations need a system of action that takes them from listening to breakthrough results," says Temkin. 

Transparency is also crucial in impact-driven marketing. Brands should be open and honest about their practices, products, and impact by being transparent about sourcing materials, manufacturing processes, labour practices, and environmental impact. 

Brands should view sustainability from the entire product lifecycle, not just at specific touchpoints. Today, consumers have become more aware of product production and post-disposal processes. 

In the age of conscious consumerism, there has been a rise in sustainable products and purpose-driven purchasing.  

For example, recent research from Bain found that sustainability ranks in the top three factors influencing purchase decisions for consumers in Asia, and consumer concern about environmental, social, and corporate governance issues is on par with European and US consumers. 

"The most important thing to remember for brands is to create purpose-driven marketing campaigns that align with their values and purpose. These campaigns should be authentic, meaningful, and aligned with the brand's core values and purpose," explains Balakrishnan. 

“They should go beyond mere marketing tactics and aim to positively impact society, such as supporting social causes, advocating for environmental sustainability, or promoting social justice. While price remains a significant factor in consumer purchasing decisions, quality is also becoming a key area of competitive differentiation, moving away from the traditional race to the bottom that often accompanies sales seasons." 


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