We all know it, because we experience it each day — as consumers, we’re empowered. For most products and services, there is always another option. With increasing power, it’s no surprise 84% of consumers say being treated like a person is crucial to winning their business. We don’t have to put up with being treated like a number, because there is always another place we can go to get what we need, whether down the street or across the ocean.

This is great as consumers, but it presents a huge challenge when we’re on the other side of the transaction. For businesses, the key differentiator today is customer experience. Most organizations understand this, but few seem to be delivering. In 2018, 80% of companies thought they offered a great customer experience, while only 8% of customers agree.

There are signs that organizations are beginning to understand this. Customer centricity is all the buzz these days because more and more of us recognize its importance. At the same time, the stakes seem to be higher than ever — one out of three customers will abandon a brand after one negative experience, while 92% will after two to three.

Here are three steps you can take to help improve the customer experience.

1. Know your customers — they expect it

Part of the reason we’re in the state we are in is that consumer expectations, both for personal and business purchases, have accelerated over the past 18 months. According to a report from McKinsey, about three-quarters of Americans changed their shopping habits in 2020, with 40% of them changing brands too — twice as fast as 2019. In fact, 25% of consumers say they switch brands more often than ever before, looking for an experience that matches their high expectations.

Consumers understand that companies have a wealth of data about their purchase and browsing activities, and they expect the company to use that data to provide a personal experience across channels and content types. Based on Salesforce State of the Connected Customer, Fifth Edition, 52% of customers expect offers to always be personalized — up from 49% in 2019.

Even with privacy concerns, 61% of consumers want personalized offers from their favorite brands, and 56% say they’re happy to share browsing history with brands for more relevant offers. But 47% also agreed with the statement, “Most companies don’t use my personal information to my benefit.”

According to Salesforce’s recent State of Marketing report, “the number of significant data sources used by marketers alone grew 50% from 8 in 2019 to 12 in 2021.” Yet most of these data sources are unconnected.

For example, take the task of tracking customers when they switch from smart phones to tablets to computers. Two-thirds of marketers have no idea when a customer switches their device — even though 67% of purchases are the culmination of a multi-device journey. Companies today suffer from the same problem: disconnected data.

Breaking through the disconnected-data challenge of today requires several things.

First, you have to be able to collect data from each channel and touchpoint. You then need to ensure you can integrate it. But this is just the beginning. To make your data actionable, you must understand it. The first step for this is ensuring you have unified customer profiles. You need one place where you can see a customer’s web activity, CRM information, service tickets, mobile app behavior, et cetera. The second piece is segmenting customers into meaningful groups — the gold standard being the segment of one.

If this all sounds overwhelming, you’re not alone. This is the main reason the customer data platform (CDP) market is growing. By bringing together multiple data sets and creating a single customer view, CDPs not only offer a 360-degree view of each customer but help turn that view into highly personalized digital interactions. Part of the challenge that drives the implementation of new technologies is that consumer behavior has changed.

2. Meet them where they are — with relevance

The big and not so surprising change in consumer behavior during the COVID-19 pandemic has been the shift to e-commerce and remote options. In the United States, e-commerce grew more than 3 times as quickly from 2019 to 2020 as it had during the previous 5 years. With all the changing consumer habits, marketers and brands are under pressure to keep up, often with expectations defined only yesterday, by continually evolving in a timely manner. And the trends don’t look to be changing:

  • Digital factors are expected to influence 58% of U.S. retail sales by 2023
  • 48% of consumers say they plan to shop mostly online, while only ~17% of consumers plan to shop mostly in person
  • ~75% of consumers want a mix of in-store and digital shopping

The quick takeaway is consumers are increasingly online, whether shopping online only or using online channels for aspects of their journey. This all comes back to a point made above — experience is key.

Meaningful digital engagements happen through personalization — ensuring every experience with your digital presence is tailored to each customer or prospect. This is done by dynamically showing content, including recommendations and offers, that resonates with your audience’s real-time interests and intentions. This starts with your website, but it goes on to include every digital channel you’re on.

The importance of omnichannel can’t be overstated. Today’s consumers use an average of about 6 touch points. And whether engaging on your website, app, email, and social channels, customers and prospects expect consistency — consistency of content, messaging, and experience. The good news is that getting omnichannel right creates a virtuous loop — you use tailored content to drive interactions, and each interaction offers more data to glean for insight.

This isn’t, of course, a new message. But it’s a critical reminder if you haven’t gotten on board. According to the Treasure Data/MarTech Alliance, the top three areas marketers will be looking to improve over the next year are:

  • Connecting physical and digital experiences (50%)
  • Developing omnichannel integrated marketing campaigns (37%)
  • Delivering real-time experiences (35%)

3. Speed your content velocity

So, you’ve connected and activated your data. And you’ve connected your channels to enable consistent omnichannel experiences. There’s one more key ingredient to ensuring you can meet your customers where they are with consistent and relevant experiences: content. Lots and lots of content.

If you’re like the over 75% of executives who say content is the strategic key to growing customer lifetime value, your question is likely something like this: How do I produce enough? At Sitecore, we are constantly looking for ways to do the same thing. And we’ve found that a huge piece of the puzzle is how your team works.

When marketing departments use multiple tools, disjointed systems, and convoluted processes that inhibit collaboration and visibility, this severely limits their productivity. In fact, the two go hand in hand. Streamlined collaboration is as much about visibility as it is about communication and workflows. Each member needs to know what’s currently being worked on as well as what’s already been produced.

As we’ve talked and written about before, content reuse, remix, and repurpose is crucial. But you can’t reuse something if you don’t know it’s there. Likewise, if someone has created a press release, for example, you should be able to pull an aspect of messaging from that for a social post. Visibility is essential, but making modular content is an even better way to enable the reuse and repurposing of content.

Depending on your organization’s digital maturity, this may all seem like a lot or like it’s just within reach. No matter where you’re at, we can help. We’re passionate about helping organizations reach their customer experience goals. Whether delivering an 8,000% ROI, expanding subscriptions by 115%, or offering over $1 million in savings, the intelligent implementation of our platforms is driving digital transformations with impressive results across the globe.

Whether you’re looking to understand your customers, embrace omnichannel, increase collaboration and visibility, or complete a digital overall, our suite of solutions can do it all. From complete to composable, check out Sitecore’s solutions here.

Julia Gebhart is a Product Marketing Managerat Sitecore. Follow her on LinkedIn.