If Customer Experience Is the Battlefield, Mobile Is the Weapon of Choice

Blog Post
February 08, 2017

For most of us, our smartphone is practically an extension of our body. The vast majority of brands today, however, are struggling to orchestrate outstanding intuitive mobile customer experiences.

The smartphone is truly ingrained in our daily lives. As Google notes, 87% of us always have one by our side always, and 67% of us check it within 15 minutes of waking. Among other things, this means mobile technology is the primary channel in which we interact with brands, communicate with friends and family, read the news and restock our toothpaste (love you, Amazon app.).

In order to realize mobile’s vast potential, brands must create relevant, contextual customer experiences that simplify and enhance people’s lives. That’s where one-to-one, in-the-moment marketing comes in.

I’m not talking about mere personalization, which involves leveraging in-depth “descriptive” data about a customer (e.g. your name, favorite drink, buying frequency, or if you used a coupon) to deliver individualized messages and offers.

One-to-one, in-the-moment marketing goes a step further by also factoring in predictive data such as propensity to buy, time-sensitive variables (e.g. geo-positioning) and external variables (e.g. current weather and its impact on customer buying decisions). Or, as CMO Frank Grillo explains it, “The things that are driving me to buy and the way that I behave are very much impacted by who I am at that moment.”

Mobile is that connective element (or weapon) that enables marketers to deliver in-the-moment customer experiences tailored to “who you are at that moment.”

While 71% of marketers believe mobile is core to their business, many still struggle to bring it to life. So, what is the foundation upon which these one-to-one, in-the-moment experiences are built? Let’s take a look at the big three.


1. Connected, Accessible Data

Data is rarely the problem for brands. The challenge comes with connecting the data to extract intelligence and the accessibility of that data downstream at the point of customer interaction.

We’ve all researched a product on a retailer’s website and then walked into a store only to find it out of stock. Very frustrating.

Home Depot has tackled this challenge head on. Over the past eight years, they’ve built a foundation of data connectivity around inventory management and supply chain architecture to enable a single view of inventory. With over 2,000 stores and 35,000 SKUs per store, this is no small feat. And good for them, because a seamless customer experience both in-store and online, including universal visibility into inventory by store, is what customers expect today.


2. Insights and Intelligence

Okay, your data is connected and accessible. Now, what is your strategy to deliver intuitive, tailored customer experiences? This requires a combination of human and technology intelligence. Connected data fuels data scientists to build the right descriptive and predictive data cues to power the engagement models to drive business.

At the heart of these efforts is the explosive artificial intelligence (AI) market, which IDC projects will grow from $8 billion in 2016 to $47 billion by 2020. Furthermore, Forrester predicts enterprise investments in AI will increase 300% in 2017, compared to 2016. Brands must be able to connect their breadth of data and tie it to a single customer profile so they can then extract the insights and intelligence to transform the individual customer experience.

Need your coffee fix in the morning? Dunkin’ Donuts partnered with Waze to simplify this process. By elevating your coffee preference data tied to proximity to a Dunkin’ Donuts store, they can deliver in-app offers during that morning commute to help you scratch your caffeine itch. (Don’t worry; they only elevate offers when the Waze app identifies you have stopped.)


3. Ability to Deliver the Experience to the Customer

It all comes down to this: the last mile. Can you deliver an experience as unique as your customer in that moment?

This is the area where “mobile” takes on an ambiguous definition and gives marketers heartburn. Mobile can encompass mobile-optimized web, mobile-optimized email, SMS, beacon-driven notifications, mobile apps, mobile media and mobile-enabled commerce (including mobile payments). And with 80% of social media time occurring via mobile access, we might even consider social to be synonymous with mobile.

Very simply, I view your mobile strategy as your digital strategy: While it can include any of the above tactics, it is the culmination of connected data, in-the-moment consumer intelligence and the ability to deliver a tailored experience that makes customers say, “It’s like they know me!”

Let’s look at Starbucks — their commitment to their digital strategy, focus on innovation, ability to deliver and the resulting impact on their business. They understand the use of innovation to simplify and enhance the customer experience … and it’s paying off.

After launching mobile payments in 2011, Starbucks executed over 26 million transactions in the first year. And now, more than 21% of transactions at company-owned U.S. stores are executed via their mobile app.

Starbucks is now able to layer innovations such as voice-enabled ordering upon this foundational infrastructure to further simplify the customer-ordering process. Order simplification has been so successful that Starbucks last year reported challenges in physically processing preorders within their stores—a good problem to have.

Research has shown that simplified checkout, while convenient, can shrink transaction size by minimizing those spontaneous purchases. To combat this, Starbucks has committed to their AI/recommendation algorithms to elevate recommendations into the mobile app based on descriptive and predictive cues to deliver a true one-to-one, in-the-moment experience.

By continually gathering data on mobile interactions, you can refine customer profiles/preferences and in turn sharpen your understanding of their behavior and motivations. Data fuels relevancy, relevancy drives engagement, and engagement enriches data. This symbiotic relationship enhances our ability as marketers to better understand our customers in the moment and in turn orchestrate intuitive experiences.


Where Do We Go from Here?

Mobile is the key to creating one-to-one, in-the-moment customer experiences that are essential for success in today’s marketing environment. In future posts, I’ll examine what this means for:

  • In-app innovation
  • Mobile commerce
  • Mobile media

Please stay tuned!