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Perfect Customer Experiences Are Impossible – That Doesn’t Mean Marketers Shouldn’t Try

  • - Daniella Harkins
  • 4 min read

Marketers are facing sky-high consumer expectations and heightened privacy concerns, compounded by fast-evolving technology. Today, customer-experience nirvana means advertising should be personalized to everyone. On every channel. Across every touchpoint. And in real time.

Let’s bring those expectations down to earth—it’s not possible to attain perfection across every interaction. Even with all the right audience personas, customer journey maps, creative, and communications and media strategies, the best-laid plans will all fall short at one point or another. There are too many uncontrollable elements that prevent marketers from delivering this elusive ideal customer experience.

For example, you can’t control how and which devices consumers are engaging with you on. You may be able to confidently associate devices as belonging to my husband, but you cannot account for me browsing on his phone while mine is charging.

Knowing that the perfect customer experience is impossible to attain in every situation, should everyone just raise the white flag? Of course not. The industry has a collective responsibility to do better and reach for more in a privacy-conscious manner.

Here are a few suggestions to help you strive toward perfect customer experiences:

Don’t develop creative in a black box. Doing better starts with driving a better creative experience. While the art vs. science debate shows no signs of quieting down, savvy brands are not pitting the disciplines of data vs. creative against each other. Instead, they extend audience insights into the creative process to make messages and offers customized to the consumer.

A surefire way to break down these silos is to bring in your creative agencies earlier in the process. As agencies increasingly beef up their data and technology expertise and capabilities, it’s wise to start taking advantage of their ability to dissect data in creative ways. More insights translate to a deeper understanding of consumers, ultimately resulting in more meaningful creative. Of course, there are always exceptions. Nike’s Colin Kaepernick ad was notable for prioritizing emotionally resonant creative over data. But by and large, the cure for lackluster creative is to inject data into the process—early.

Get more strategic with mobile and TV. Reaching audiences on the right channel is fundamental to exceptional customer experiences. U.S. adults spend the most media time on TV and smartphones, yet brands could benefit from taking a more sophisticated approach to these channels. In particular, marketers have not figured out how to leverage the increased time spent on mobile appropriately for advertising. A good place to start is to reduce your reliance on mobile web cookies, which are highly transient and cover a limited scope of activity (90 percent of internet time on smartphones takes place in apps). Mobile first-party data onboarding can help increase the impact of advertising through these apps.

As for TV, linear TV is not conducive to delivering personalized experiences, but advanced TV has the potential to. Brands still face some headwinds here, since the buying and measurement process for addressable TV is far from what digital offers. Fortunately, we seem to be headed toward a tipping-point where there’s more TV data available for measurement. Once that happens, a lot of dollars will follow, so it would be wise to start thinking about your addressable TV strategy today.

You should also look at opportunities to leverage these channels in tandem. Consumers certainly are: 94 percent keep a smartphone on hand while watching TV. Studies have shown that mobile ads boost the effectiveness of TV ads, giving you ample reason to unify these customer experiences.

Shift to a customer-centric organizational structure. Traditional organizational structures pit marketing teams in competition with each other. For instance, acquisition teams may be focused on the lowest possible cost per acquisition, whereas upsell and cross-sell teams want customers with strong expected lifetime value potential. Emphasizing targets over value is counterintuitive to building rewarding customer experiences.

Instead of figuring out how to get more people to respond to ads, start looking at lifetime value. Structure your organization around audience segments and create models to find your most valuable customers under these new criteria. Organizational-wide alignment will result in long-term relationships with the right consumers.

Take credit card acquisition. With team buy-in on what makes a valuable customer, an issuer can focus on acquiring consumers who are likely to upgrade from a Gold to a Platinum card rather than those who will cancel after they get the bonus. Or imagine an upscale retailer that exclusively uses catalogues to engage high-value audiences who prefer to interact with their brand via this premium print product. The retailer can suppress this segment in digital channels and instead focus its digital marketing strategy on growing less-valuable audiences into higher spenders.

Remember, there’s no silver bullet to perfect customer experiences. Perspective is crucial: Customer centricity is not a destination. (And if it were, you would never reach it.) It’s a long and arduous journey that requires a lot of sweat equity, but it’s worth it in the end because you’ll give consumers better experiences that lead to growth. Don’t forget that perfect is the enemy of good, and sometimes you have to just be better than you were yesterday.