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Why cutting your customer experience spend could sabotage your chances of a quick recovery from the COVID downturn

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Why cutting your customer experience spend could sabotage your chances of a quick recovery from the COVID downturn
Personalised customer experiences can’t be created without access to a rich well of customer data.
Photo by John Schnobrich on Unsplash

Although times are tough, companies with an eye to the future are amping up their investment in solutions that can help them create rich, personalised interactions with customers.

For thousands of Aussie businesses, and their counterparts around the world, 2020 was an extremely challenging year. The COVID crisis caused widespread disruption, with companies forced to overhaul their business models, reorganise their supply chains, embrace remote working on the fly and make the painful decision to let staff go.

But although savage cost cutting has been the order of the day in many establishments, it hasn’t occurred across the board. International research commissioned by Twilio Segment in September 2020 showed almost two-thirds of respondents still planned to invest in customer data management, analytics and audience creation solutions, recession or not.

The customer journey goes digital

They’re wise to do so. One of the many side effects of the worst global public health crisis in a century has been the effect it’s had on consumer behaviour. Online shopping, long a popular pastime with Australians, has taken off like a rocket.

According to Australia Post’s 2020 ecommerce update, more than a million new households shopped online between March and September last year. The NAB Online Retail Sales Index September 2020 told a similar story. It showed year on year growth of 62.7 per cent, powered by demand in the takeaway food, department store and small and large sales categories.  NAB estimates Australians spent $40.9 billion on online retail in the 12 months to September 2020; around 12 per cent of the total retail trade estimate.

But Australians are doing much more than merely parting with their hard earned money in cyberspace. They’re spending a much greater proportion of the customer journey online, examining their options and interacting with brands digitally, rather than fronting up to a bricks and mortar outlet, or having a sales rep call round.

Upping the bar

They’re also becoming more discerning and demanding, as Amazon and other pace setters continue to raise the bar with ever swifter and more seamless service, as per Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ famous quote: “The best customer service is if the customer doesn’t need to call you, doesn’t need to talk to you. It just works.”

Related: 2021: The year of cloud, customer experience and open source
Related: How chatbots are making us rethink customer experience in a Covid world
Related: Five trends driving customer experience maturity

Conditioned to expect polished and personalised interactions from the online behemoths, they’re fast coming to view them as the norm.

The result? Businesses which are able to deliver them consistently will be in favour. That means companies across all industries need to be visible and ready to engage at every touchpoint and stage of the customer journey – or risk losing the opportunity to win mind and market share to more digitally able competitors.

That’s a very real risk and one few enterprises should run in these straitened times.

Conversely, businesses that invest in machine learning and personalisation technologies stand to grow their revenue by as much as 30 per cent by 2024, according to Accenture.

Implementing technologies to support the CX push

Personalised customer experiences can’t be created without access to a rich well of customer data, preferably one marketing teams can access without assistance from a data analytics expert.

It’s key to the creation of the ‘unified customer view’ that allows companies to know their customers inside out.

But lack of access to the enabling technologies they need continues to hold many companies back. Around 40 per cent of Segment survey respondents stated they weren’t happy with the data management, analytics and audience creation tools at their disposal.

Many in that bracket continue to rely on custom solutions, developed at the dawn of the customer data management era. Typically, they’re not user friendly and they haven’t kept pace with the customer data explosion that wholesale digital transformation has triggered.

Today’s packaged Customer Data Platforms have. They’re designed to be simple, self-service solutions which allow businesses to collect and use data to improve their understanding of the customer journey, create personalised experiences and improve customer satisfaction.

At a time when capturing and keeping customers has never been more important, they represent an investment in the future few Australian businesses can afford not to make.

Prakash Durgani is Twilio Segment Vice President of Asia Pacific and Japan

Related: Technology trends for 2021

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