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Research reveals how brands are rethinking customer engagement

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New research from Deloitte reveals how organisations have been reappraising their strategies, teams and technologies to deliver on the new expectations of customers.

22nd Oct 2021
Managing editor MyCustomer.com
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The last 18 months have redefined customer engagement strategies for brands and led to unprecedented challenges internally and externally for organisations as they grappled with a complex environment. So how have business leaders rethought their approach to customer engagement and experience in order to remain competitive?
 
New research from Deloitte has revealed how high-growth brands across the business landscape have responded, identifying several trends that are characterising customer engagement strategies. 
 
The Global Marketing Trends Report polled 1,099 C-suite executives from large companies located around the world, and 11,500 global consumers, as well as conducting interviews with 18 executives who either currently or previously held chief marketing, customer experience or executive officer roles. 
 
The findings indicate that businesses that are tearing up their pre-existing plans to accommodate changing customer preferences and behaviours. The research highlights, for instance, how linear customer journeys are now almost a relic of the past as consumers continuously toggle between digital and physical channels. Elsewhere, consumers have also become more guarded in how their data is captured and deployed - but still expect a personalised and tailored journey that keeps both convenience and the purpose of the brand at the forefront.
 
All of which is leading organisations to rethink their strategies, teams and technologies to deliver on the new expectations of customers. So how are organisations changing their customer engagement and experience strategies in order to remain competitive? 

Designing a human-first data experience

Consumers are increasingly wary of brands that appear to follow their every move and there is a fine line between helpfulness and intrusiveness when it comes to consumer data.
 
Deloitte's findings reveal that 68% of consumers said they found it helpful when a brand they regularly shopped with provided them alerts when items went on sale, but conversely, 53% of respondents reacted negatively when it appeared their social media feed showed them an ad because their device was listening to them.
 
The abundance of customer data available can lead to a paradox within organisations, with marketers seeking to use that data to create better customer experiences and chief information security officers (CISO) working to adhere to privacy regulations. For this reason, leading organisations are encouraging collaboration between the CMO and CISO to cultivate customer trust through better data practices, designing experiences that create value, provide transparency and empower customers to control their own data journey. 

Elevating the hybrid experience

Now that brands are more adept at digital delivery, the next challenge is providing the best integrated physical and digital, or hybrid, experiences. In fact, in Deloitte's research, 75% of global executives said they will invest more in delivering hybrid experiences over the next 12 months, with many executives looking to hybrid to increase personalisation (43%), innovation (43%), customer connection (40%) and inclusion (38%).
 
Deloitte concludes that organisations are elevating their hybrid experiences by expanding choices, integrating feedback, and investing in the technological infrastructure that can bring these design principles to life. And, importantly, brands are utilising the principles of human-centered design to make their physical and digital experiences as agile and flexible as consumers have come to expect.

Using brand purpose as a beacon for growth

Deloitte found that many businesses are redefining their value proposition and how they make an impact beyond profit through "purpose". However, getting this right and resonating with consumers who debate which brands to choose is no small task.
 
The research found that when consumers were asked why they chose to purchase from a specific brand, price and quality were individually cited as top-three purchasing criteria anywhere between 61% and 86% of the time. Because all brands need to deliver on these two dimensions, other criteria, including purpose-related factors, then become competitive differentiators.
 
Deloitte also found evidence that brands that commit to purpose are gaining a critical competitive advantage, with high-growth brands translating purpose into action in markedly different ways from their lower-growth peers by looking at purpose more holistically. For those high-growth brands, purpose not only inspires product and service delivery, but also guides employee decision-making and corporate social responsibility investment strategy.

Building an intelligent creative engine

In today's data-intensive environment, organisations are gravitating toward hiring talent with more analytical skills to complement the creative skills that the marketing department traditionally houses. When Deloitte surveyed global chief marketing officers (CMOs) in the research and asked them to identify the top skills of their highest performers, analytical expertise edged out creative skills in almost every industry, except for the consumer industry.
 
However, this isn't a one-to-one swap of creative skills for analytical and technical skills, according to the report, it's about CMOs building greater collaboration on teams, both internally and externally. This is especially important in hybrid work environments, where marketers see both opportunities and challenges in making the digital-physical construct of work successful. For the CMO, it's less about organisational redesigns and more about a cultural shift — one that reshapes how marketers work toward common goals that unlock dynamic creative outcomes.

Fostering authentic inclusivity

As the consumer population diversifies — by race and ethnicity, sexual orientation, or differences in ability, for example — it's imperative for brands to authentically reflect a range of backgrounds and experiences within their messaging, advertising and brand campaigns if they expect to effectively connect with future customers. But it's not enough to just market inclusiveness or diversity.
 
The research found that 57% of consumers are more loyal to brands that commit to actionably addressing social inequities and consumers want to support brands that represent them and their values. Further, the data indicates that high-growth brands are more frequently establishing key performance metrics for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) objectives than their lower-growth competitors. Simultaneously, the highest-growing brands are reducing the cultural and demographic distance between the makeup of their teams and the markets they aspire to reach.

Supercharging customer service with AI

A dynamic experience for customers means delivering the assistance and information they need, when, where and how they want it. Deloitte's study asked consumers what information they found most helpful in making purchasing decisions and found that timely offers and knowledgeable customer service topped the list. 
 
With these insights, businesses working to optimise artificial intelligence (AI) within the customer experience — achieving harmony between the human side of customer service centres and machine capabilities. By designing and deploying an AI strategy that helps brands meet customers in their moment of need, customer service leaders are creating an end-to-end customer experience that seamlessly blends AI and human service — ultimately, to better serve their customers and their bottom line.

Rethinking customer engagement

"The pandemic and societal reckonings of the past eighteen months have irrevocably changed consumer expectations. Brands must work even harder to build dynamic, strong connections with their customers in order to thrive," says Stacy Kemp, principal at Deloitte Consulting LLP.
 
Barbara Venneman, principal of Deloitte Consulting LLP, adds: "Organisations must examine what comprises the basis of dynamic customer experience — people, data and experiences — and holistically rethink every engagement a brand has with their customer from start to finish."
 
 
 

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