In today’s digital ‘Age of the Customer’ it is becoming increasingly challenging for companies to connect with consumers and cultivate loyalty. This has largely been due to the accessibility of immediate information across online, mobile, app and social channels which tend to drive purchase decisions faster and more efficiently than ever before. From pricing tools and product recommendations to social networks and shopping engines, instant access to product information has revolutionized the shopping process and often shortened sales cycles while making it more challenging for brands to effectively engage and motivate purchases in real-time.

Now that businesses are operating in the ‘Era of COVID’ the complexity of consumer behavior and interactions has dramatically increased, while their attitudes and preferences continue to evolve. Guidelines, mandates and even isolation itself are modifying consumer shopping behaviors on a regular basis, which poses a challenge for brands to deliver effective engagements that motivate customers and ultimately drive loyalty and evangelism.

Beyond this, consumers are well aware that they provide invaluable data, detailing their interactions and attitudes via the digital footprints they leave across the brand’s channels and content they provide with engagements. According to Bond, 87 percent of American consumers are willing to allow interactive data to be captured and tracked by brands regularly in exchange for the brand to deliver more personalized experiences that align with their preferences.

This data-driven customer insight on both a qualitative and quantitative level is aiding smart brands to identify, understand and motivate savvy customers like never before. However, in order to achieve this, brands must discover the ‘Five Ws’ of their customers in order to deliver effective engagements that motivate shopping behaviors, build loyalty and cultivate evangelism.

Here is a look at how customer experience intelligence technology is delivering the ‘Five Ws’ to brands to help them understand the various dimensions of their customers and find sustainable success in the ‘Age of the Customer.’

Who to Target: Determining the ideal customer segment to target is the lifeblood of a brand. Developing the profile in terms of purchasing behavior, brand interaction and engagement frequency is critical in driving affinity, fostering loyalty and cultivating evangelism. Beyond this, synthesizing the customer experience data across your business to develop a holistic view of most valuable customers helps to determine their corresponding value to the brand across dimensions like purchases, recommendations and referrals. 

Where to Find Them: There are myriad data sources to determine the customer journey and consumer path to purchase. From web logs, app interactions and account usage to social engagements, product reviews and even customer support platforms, there is a spectrum of insightful data that delivers intelligence to identify where, how and when to engage customers. The key is to inventory and integrate these data sources for a complete, evolving view of the customer. There is little doubt that in the Era of COVID, many consumers have migrated their engagement behaviors online via websites, social media and apps, so it's imperative to understand these shifts and align your engagement strategy accordingly.

Why They Buy: This is generally the destination of the customer journey; understanding the effective engagement stages that move the customer along the path to purchase and reveals points of motivation that get them to become a customer. The foundational data for these points are often qualitative in nature in the form of reviews, rankings and social posts. Tapping into the customer sentiments and attitudes provides a deeper understanding of the customer’s frame of mind and preferences to align innovation and investment.

When to Engage: There are an array of dimensions in organization-wide data to understand the purchasing tendencies of individual customers. These can include time of day, seasonality or specific points of an individual journey. Understanding these behaviors are foundational to effective customer experience. However, the ‘when’ of engagement needs to be at the appropriate time when the consumer is interacting on their preferred channels. Mirroring engagements to the customer’s preferred method goes a long way to enhancing their experience.

What to Deliver: Understanding both the selling points and disadvantages of your offerings in the market is valuable for driving enhancements and product innovation. This innovation is not only important in the products and solutions a brand offers but also in the channels and engagements, including messaging and offers.

If you don’t understand the detailed intricacies of your customers, you can’t engage them effectively with the right messaging, timing or channel. And if you can’t effectively engage them you cannot motivate their behaviors and interactions. This makes it nearly impossible to influence their preferences and attitudes to build loyalty.

Too many businesses view loyalty as a transaction-based relationship conducted over coupons and discounts. Genuine loyalty is data-driven where the brand understands the customer to the level that they can design an experience that provides engagements that align and mirror the preferences of the individual. Achieving this level of engagement creates affinity towards the brand. Once this affinity becomes consistent and predictable it evolves into loyalty or preferred commitment to the brand. However, this requires a foundation of data-driven understanding through customer experience intelligence technology.

Beyond simple loyalty, smart brands are able to deliver beyond consistency and ‘surprise and delight’ customers with experiences that go above and beyond their expectations. At this point the stage of evangelism can be reached, where the customer provides word-of-mouth recommendations and may even rave about the brand to their friends. Achieving any of these stages requires a customer-centric focus on data-driven understanding and the shifts, trends and evolution in both the digital ‘Age of the Customer’ and today’s ‘Era of COVID.’