Fostering empathetic, connected online experiences has become a vital part of digital brand experiences in the past couple of years. That said, delivering connected experiences is often easier said than done. Forrester recently shared a survey reflecting how companies that create connected experiences across their channels experience major benefits in innovation, revenue growth, reduction of costs, customer experience success, and digital transformation.
Connected experiences are personalized omnichannel experiences. Customers receive relevant product recommendations, support agents help customers in their moment of need, and employees see the bigger picture to make strategic decisions. The experiences are tailored to the user’s context and intent, and occur across every channel. And most importantly, all of these experiences operate in a single system that uses machine learning to generate insights and apply those insights for each audience.
The survey attributed successful connected experiences to having these five key capabilities:
- Real-time personalization
- Harnessing of user signals
- Understanding of intent
- Cross-channel delivery
- Machine learning implementation
We spoke with Lucidworks experts to get their takes on these five key capabilities and why they are so important to crafting a meaningful, connected experience for both customer and employee. Here’s what they had to say:
Why is real-time personalization a key part of connected experiences?
- Jess Jurva, Chief Customer Officer: Every human being wants to be known and to feel as if every life experience is curated uniquely for them. It’s what makes them feel connected to the world around them. Real-time personalization allows brands and employers to deliver a uniquely curated connected experience as their customers are shopping or as their employees are working.
- Frazer LaChance, Digital Sales Manager (UK): It’s about closing the feedback loop and making digital experiences feel as connected as in-person experiences. When a shop floor associate sees a 6’2” male wearing a ‘Love BBQ’ t-shirt they don’t go have a meeting and contact the potential buyer with links to products they may be interested in. Those signals are taken in and processed in real-time, and the buyer is directed to the areas of the store they’re most likely to find what they were looking for, or hopefully something they didn’t even know they needed.
- Garrett Schwegler, Program Manager for Global Digital Commerce: The faster we can pivot and understand our user in the moment the better. If a customer calls up customer service (or visits a store) and returns a product because they’re not happy with it, we should not suggest or recommend that product online. We should learn from that return and share those insights with our merchandisers to curate the next best action.
Why should brands focus on harnessing signals in their connected experience?
- JJ: Signals provide the data required to enhance the digital experience. However, collection alone will not deliver meaningful connected experiences. It is imperative that brands and employers have the right platform to not only collect signals but to also analyze, understand, and predict behavior. Without doing so it would be very difficult to deliver the curated unique experiences that customers and employees expect.
- FLC: Signals are naturally processed by people in-person—hundreds of signals may be processed in a second. Online-mostly retailers might use only basic profile information like gender and country to infer what forks in the journey should be offered up and it’s not a very nuanced experience. At the end of the day, delivering connected experiences is about delivering more human experiences and signals, just like sights, smells, and sounds, are a critical part of doing that.
- GS: Shoppers aren’t that concerned about being ‘omnichannel’ – they are all channels all the time. You need to meet the shopper where they want to be met and act like you’re the same company that just interacted with them. Harnessing signals lets brands make those connections in real-time.
How does understanding a user’s intent impact the experience?
- JJ: In my lifetime I have yet to meet a human mind reader. Wow, what problems this person could solve! While there may not be a real-life human mind reader, we do have technology that can at least understand and predict a human being’s intent. As we all know, every human being wants to be seen and to be known. Through collection and interpretation of signals, brands and employers can begin to understand what their customers and employees intend and leverage that to deliver uniquely curated connected experiences. That could look like personalized product recommendations that hit home for shoppers, or proactive suggestions for internal experts that can assist support agents with a tricky customer issue.
- FLC: User intent is a complicated recipe. To really understand it takes a high volume of high-quality signals, it takes experience and it takes context. Move away from thinking about users as profiles, they are complex people with multiple personas, and should be treated as such even in the digital world.
- GS: This ties directly back to personalization over segmentation. Understanding a user’s intention or goal allows you to deliver a much more meaningful, personalized experience that goes beyond simple characteristics like age, gender, location, etc. Instead, understanding goals is an opportunity to make the user feel like their unique needs are truly understood, and they are not being pigeon-holed through a pre-staged process. They want to feel like they are being shown something that is relevant to them – not someone whom the brand is guessing is like them.
How does cross-channel delivery make a difference?
- JJ: To reach a targeted audience, whether it be customers, employees, etc., you have to go and be where they are – through both offline and online channels. Threading the needle per se through every aspect of an audience’s life allows for the opportunity to deliver a connected experience.
- FLC: Again it’s about being human and making users/shoppers feel valued. When a call centre doesn’t know you previously sent an email and this is the third time you’ve contacted them, expectations are already so high that it’s enough to make you shop for alternatives. Plus, you could be burning out valuable employees who are trying to deliver best-in-class customer service but are working with one hand behind their back if you’re unable to connect them with valuable customer insights. Delivering poor cross-channel experiences communicates to your loyal customers “we don’t care about you” and that’s the opposite of what you want.
- GS: When you are able to meet the customer where they are, it helps emphasize the feeling of a personalized experience. Even more so, knowing where they have been helps them feel remembered and thought of when seeking customer service. This can make all the difference compared to silhoed brand experiences that are disjointed and leave customers feeling like just another number in the crowd.
What kind of benefits does machine learning bring to the table?
- JJ: Machine learning is broadly misunderstood simply because there are a lot of confusing terms and concepts about AI, data science, deep learning and the like. It’s hard for most people to distinguish the differences in meaning and application of these methodologies and technologies as they are often all jumbled together yet do intersect. That said, machine learning can be and is a powerful method to understanding users in a faster and smarter way. It allows for the ability to constantly adapt and provide the best possible unique connected experience.
- FLC: To deliver a connected experience means to deliver a human or natural experience. As humans we don’t take much more than a few seconds at most to map the relationships between sights, smells and sounds – we don’t keep a diary, review signals each evening and decide what we think after the fact – it happens in real-time. To deliver connected experiences things need to happen automatically, the dots between signals need to be connected in real-time so that users/shoppers can be met in the moment, just like humans have done when they connect with one another since the dawn of time. All of that requires robust machine learning.
- GS: Machine learning can get very complicated, but at the end of the day what it does is simplify things. ML allows connected experiences to happen naturally and intuitively through a complex combination of data points. It does so by automating the mechanical aspects of building personalized experiences so that monotonous tasks go to the machines and the human elements can be the focus of, well, the humans.
Connecting Everything Together
The important lesson here is that none of these elements of a connected experience should exist in a vacuum. To create connections between EX and CX, these capabilities must all function in concert with one another.
Looking for support to tie all of these elements together and deliver a meaningful total experience? Let’s talk.