Nancy Rademaker: The X factor of customer centricity
Our recent DeepCrawl Live summit saw a range of speakers from across the digital sector presenting remotely to attendees across North America and the EMEA.
Nancy Rademaker’s presentation – The X factor of customer centricity – drew on her 20+ years of experience working in tech (including 5 years at Microsoft) and offered some incredible insight into how data is stepping up to serve customers whose needs and expectations are changing faster than they ever have before.
Moving from ‘The New Normal’ into the ‘wellbeing age’
Due in no small way to the coronavirus pandemic, 2020 has seen more shifts in customer behavior than any of us could have predicted a year ago.
As Rademaker highlights, the move from digital as novelty to digital as norm has well and truly happened. Covid saw change that was predicted to take years happen in weeks.
Back in 2019, the vast majority of executives were anticipating massive industry disruption and 2020 really delivered on that – with new technologies, new competition, new customer expectations, and the global pandemic all posing new challenges to the resilience and agility of global businesses.
So if the digital new normal is here, where does Rademaker see us going next?
‘We are on the cusp of entering the age of wellbeing,’ Rademaker says. ‘This is our physical wellbeing. It is also our mental wellbeing. It’s also about our social wellbeing. It is about having inclusion. It is about our financial wellbeing with initiatives like microloans, microlending and universal basic income. And then of course it is about the wellbeing of the environment.’
The arrival of the coronavirus pandemic has, if anything, begun to push us into this wellbeing age quicker than Rademaker expected. It has forced businesses to change internal practices to protect the health of their staff (for example remote working and social distancing). It has also pushed companies to change how they engage with customers (pivot to digital, search in particular). And it has solidified and, in some cases, amplified changes in customer behavior.
Our human behavior has changed
Rademaker points to five new characteristics in customers today:
- Informed: The internet now reaches 59% of the global population according to We Are Social. Perhaps more significantly, mobile devices reach 66% of the people on earth. And Covid-19 has only forced more engagement with these channels.
- Individualistic: ‘Customers are the centre of their own universe,’ Rademaker says.
- Impatient: Our attention spans have declined from 15 seconds in the 1970s to 7.6 seconds today. ‘We don’t like waiting. We don’t like any queues. We want it now.’
- Intuitive: We make most of our decisions with our intuitive, or emotional, part of our brains. Especially during these overloaded times.
- Influenced: We use social media so much (up 43% during the coronavirus pandemic) that we are more influenced by friends and family than we are by brands. According to Rademaker, 75% no longer believe companies, while 78% say they do trust their peers.
CX considerations for these new customer characteristics
For each of these new character traits, Rademaker details a number of key CX considerations that businesses need to have at the forefront of their strategy.
With informed customers, transparency needs to be a priority. Security and privacy engender trust. While ensuring there are no hidden costs added late during checkout increases the likelihood the customer will come away having had a positive experience.
Individualistic customers crave personalization. They respond better to targeted advertising and want to engage with content that is tailored to them.
The impatient character trait means that convenience and speed are essential for a good customer experience. Rademaker talks about this in terms of the FAST model: frictionless, accessible, self-service, technology. This goes beyond simply streamlining the checkout process, to bringing more digital tech into traditional stores, and even offering zero-click purchases.
Where customers are increasingly making decisions based on intuition, brands need to be looking to evoke the right emotion. Keeping customers happy during purchase is a given, but data and technology are more often being used to recognize emotion in real-time – with content being tailored and targeted experiences being tweaked accordingly.
For the influenced characteristic, Rademaker points to the importance of ‘instagrammable moments’ – experiences that consumers love to talk about. 90% of customers will give a review and 70% of reviews are positive. Brands need to shape experiences people want to shout about. They need to make it as easy as possible for new advocates to have their voices heard.
Accurate data is crucial
Of course, data is central to better customer experience. Brands need as comprehensive a picture of each of their customers as possible in order to better shape each personalized experience.
Big data and AI-led algorithms are already influencing who we communicate with (on Facebook), what we listen to (on Spotify), what we watch (on Netflix), and so on. The search space is founded on algorithms, while big data and AI are increasingly shaping our experience here – from autocompleting searches to personalized results.
Rademaker suggests brands should be gathering this data before they are even sure what they will use it for but warns that it has to be accurate. She highlights how data can sometimes be surprising and counterintuitive – citing the Smart Finance app which calculates loan eligibility via customer mobile phone use. Perhaps unexpectedly, the more gambling apps you have on your device, the more credit-worthy the app deems you to be.
Considerations for SEO
As we mentioned above, big data and AI are changing search.
The sector – owing most to Google’s dominance – is moving towards ever more intelligent search. Rademaker reminds us that engines increasingly understand concept and intent in relatively ambiguous keyphrases, and Google is most often trying to provide an answer in the SERPs themselves rather than just a link to a webpage.
From a CX perspective, Rademaker describes search as somewhat slow, especially when thinking back to the impatient character trait being so prevalent with modern consumers.
Improvements are coming in the form of visual search, shoppable images, and tools such as Google Lens which allow users to get results generated from the camera on their devices. Voice search, via devices such as Amazon Alexa, is growing in popularity too, with 45% of internet users globally using such tools at least once per month.
Rademaker highlights how these changes in search habits will affect traffic from rankings in the SERPs. Searches on desktop have traditionally meant brands needing to be in the top 10 to be relevant, while searches on mobile – with less on-screen real estate – have forced marketers to really aim for the top 3.
An AI strategy is no longer optional
Rademaker concludes that in order to meet the expectations of today’s customers – i.e. this growing number of people who are informed, individualistic, intuitive, impatient, and influenced – AI has to be built into strategy.
‘For some people this is a bit scary,’ Rademaker says. ‘They think it’s man vs. machine. I don’t agree. I think it is man with machine. Humans aren’t being replaced, we are being promoted. It is not just AI. It is also IA: Intelligence Amplification.’
Rademaker assures us that CX pays off too, deducing that even a moderate investment in customer experience results in an average 21% year-over-year increase in revenue. Customer experience has also been proven to be a viable route during times of recession too, with CX leaders seeing three times the returns than the laggards during the 2009-2010 financial crisis.
‘In the end, it is about creating this wow experience for your customer,’ Rademaker says as she draws her presentation to a close.
As we move into this post-Covid age of wellbeing, the new normal is not only digital and augmented, but it is also a time when customers – for all their needs and expectations – must come first.