The Customer is King: How to Design a Consumer-Centric Experience in a Multi-Channel World

The most important lesson from the digital transformation of markets in recent years is that power has shifted to the consumer. Indeed in its analysis of the benefits of digital, management consulting company McKinsey and Company suggests that as much as 90 per cent of the benefit of digital actually accrues to the consumer.

And those consumers are more demanding than ever. As many companies are now learning, customers take their best digital experience in any situation and apply it to every situation. From a digital experience perspective you are no longer being tested against your traditional competitors, but also against all of the digital touch points with which your customer engages.

That’s why McKinsey and others are so insistent that company executives need to start thinking of design not as niche capability locked away in a corner of the business, but as a core competency of the leadership team.

This was a theme touched upon recently by Vodafone’s group head of digital, Adam Stewart, when he spoke at a Digital Alchemy sponsored event, ADMA’s Festival of Marketing, Media, Analytics and Advertising. He told attendees that “The experience is marketing. So if we’re not offering a great experience, we’re not marketing our business well.”

According to Stewart “A lot of apps tend to do servicing and then they’ll try cross-selling and up selling. You see a design where they flow a banner over the bottom but no one looks at it. And I think this is where the design guys are really coming to the forefront.”

The ability to allow customers to engage with you through social channels is also important, and adds another layer of complexity, he suggested.

The goal he says is to deliver a centralised app experience designed around service but done in such a way that the transition to cross sell and up sell is seamless and intuitive.

Says Regan Yan, Digital Alchemy MD “the most effective cross-sell programs we see in our business, are those that inject insights at an individual level into the digital experience. It doesn’t matter if its in-app, website or social – it’s about taking real time insights, windows of sales opportunity and seamlessly working it into the digital experience. If we know someone had just broken their mobile cap for the third month running, we’re immediately injecting appropriate up-sell messaging into digital places, just waiting for the customer to arrive”.

Not surprisingly, given the nature of Vodafone’s business Stewart sees the app as a core element of the immediate strategy. But importantly he also sees it as central to an overall omnichannel experience, rather than merely as a driver of online sales.

ADMA CEO Jodie Sangster says the issue is important to the marketers her organisation works with.

According to Sangster, “Any marketer worth their salt knows that they have to think and act in terms of omnichannel. You’d be hard pressed to find a brand today that treats their online and offline channels separately. What we do see though is that some brands are struggling internally to work across all channels in a joined up holistic manner.”

A critical element of this is how marketers manage the proliferation of consumer data that they collect across their company and how they then go on to create real and actionable insights to drive marketing campaigns, she says

“Data is often fragmented and siloed which makes insights – let along acquiring a single customer view – tricky. Unsurprisingly, the most successful omnichannel marketing we see comes from those companies which have a robust and whole of business data management strategy in place; something that has to be driven by the C-Suite. ”

Underlying all of this are the expectations consumers have of a seamless shopping and service experience across all channels.

“Omni-channel sales conversations are critical” says Regan Yan, “but sometimes the smart thing is also knowing when to stop selling. We find that if a customer calls the contact centre to complain, and we replace sales messages with brand value messaging across digital channels in the days following, we get a better NPS score from these customers. It’s about being appropriate – not just right”.

Vodafone in the Czech Republic for instance has implemented a click-and-collect programme that shows a live stock check down to store level says Stewart. While online may only generate less than 10 per cent of Vodafone’s sales, Steward says 42 per cent of those sales are picked up in-store within a three-hour period.

“Digital is the number one influencer of any acquisition across any channel. And we’ve proven that with data. We’ve actually gone out there and done qualitative and quantitative research.”

And the results are clear, he says. “If they don’t get past the experience that they want within the Digital channels they won’t even walk into your stores and give you a chance to convert them. So whether consumers are using digital for comparisons or, just discovery or browse, you need to be able to give that experience upfront, he says.

According to Sangster, “Already things like click and collect, buy online and return in-store and same and next day delivery are becoming the norm. The introduction of Internet of Things (IoT) enabled technology has tremendous potential to offer consumers in-store personalised shopping experiences and many brands are already experimenting with discounts, promotions and POS loyalty programmes tied to online behaviour.

With consumers looking for convenience, discounts, and personalised service marketers require a single real time view of their customers across all touch points. This will become more and more important if they are going to be able to provide value add marketing services at the right time, via the right channel and in the appropriate context.

Both Stewart and Sangster are raising the kinds of issues Digital Alchemy’s customers are grappling with constantly. These include;

  • Linking executive remuneration to Customer Experience successes:Working with clients often involves improving the customer experience by reducing irrelevant communications, delivering more targeted offers, and presenting more helpful content at the point in the buying journey when it is most appropriate. All of these improvements tie into the customer experience, the various ways its benchmarked like NPS, and ultimately, into the profitability of the business.
  • Omni-channel synergies: Technology platforms monitor all interactions across all channels (online, in-store, call centre, social, etc.) to understand what certain customers like to do online, and what they prefer to do in other channels (for example in store) – this intelligence is used to market to customers taking advantage of their preferences.
  • Dominant role of digital in the pre-purchase journey: The ability to collect, tag and categorise user generated content and then match this content to online visits by the visitors profile (driven by both offline, e.g. the transactional data we hold on them, and online data) means clients inject the most relevant content into the digital journey to optimise satisfaction by proving the most relevant information and to increase the chance of sales success.
  • Role of social: Recognise social interactions and respond appropriately. For instance if a customer is offered a solution and indicates they haven’t been helped, trigger an eDM or outbound call to follow up. It’s about using social to initiate a conversation and then ensuring that the business responds with all its other assets to resolve and issues.

All businesses need to be mindful of the centrality of the customer experience. That means delivering seamless and intuitive services to customers that are integrated on and offline and which take account of the idea that by using social channels, those interactions run both ways.


Produced in partnership with Association for Data-driven Marketing & Advertising (ADMA).

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