The future of customer experience

During Meltwater’s latest webinar Nick Harknett, Director at Youd Andrews gave viewers insights into how we can utilise technology to create a positive experience for customers.  Here’s a summary of the content shown.

We now live in an age where customers expect speedy delivery, vast product choices and convenient sales and after-sales process. With expectations set to increase, it can be challenging for marketers to meet such demands.

Since the dot-com boom, many technological opportunities have presented themselves to brands, enabling retailers to leverage their relationships with the consumer further by improving the customer experience and creating a seamless journey. A few notable technological advancements include:

  • Big data capability
  • Movement to mobile
  • Predictive analytics
  • Attractive reward schemes
  • Improvements in payment technology.

“Many companies were looking at big data to find additional growth opportunities, that actually wasn’t always what the customers wanted… From a consumer perspective,, I don’t think many companies were using big data to think about what the customers really wanted in order to buy their loyalty for the longer term.”- Nick Harknett, Director at Youd Andrews.

However, there are some great companies that do use technology and data to boost customer experience – Nick tells us of Charles Tyrwhitt, a British clothing retailer.

So, what makes Charles Tyrwhitt a great exemplar to look up to?

  • They offer an excellent omnichannel experience
  • They follow digital breadcrumbs successfully. Whether customers interact with them in store, online or by phone, the retailer captures all information on the customer, such as what they like and don’t like
  • Charles Trywhitt ensures that every element of the sales process and after-sales experience makes the customer feel important and valued
  • Problems are resolved efficiently
  • Customers are regularly invited to provide feedback

Nick adds, “you have to do the basics well. Whilst there’s lots of good technology, you really need to think things through from a marketing perspective and put yourself in the shoes of the consumer.”

What do consumers expect from us with regards to customer experience? 

The race is on to providing a flawless customer experience.“40% of consumers want a far more tailored experience going forward and I think what we’re starting to see is consumers taking control of technology,” Nick adds.

On-the-go options

We don’t simply ‘go shopping’ anymore, we are constantly connected. We can order our food shop on our lunch break, or buy a book while on our commute. In fact, we can buy almost anything from our mobile phones, so there’s no longer a need to have to jump in the car and journey out to purchase something. An omnichannel approach is therefore vital to ensure we don’t miss opportunities to tempt customers into buying on-the-go.

Respecting time

Consumers are spoilt for choice since we have thousands of products and services to choose from. Often the element that is likely to swing our choice is the immediacy of arrival. Amazon jumped on this trend and offered Prime, a subscription-based service that allows users to receive their goods in one day as opposed to the usual 3-5 day turnaround. We should aim to meet the immediate needs of consumers by replying promptly to queries and complaints and delivering items quickly. Those companies that can meet the needs of even the most demanding customer will thrive.


Consumers expect hyper-personalisation. They don’t want to be bombarded by ads for pink fairy costumes because they bought it as a present one time for a younger sibling. Our marketing approach should be relevant and contextual. Customers provide us with a huge amount of data that can probably tell us why they bought the pink fairy costume – and that it probably isn’t something they’re likely to buy regularly.

So, how can we use big data to provide a personalised experience?

  • Listen to feedback from customers and adapt our product lines and customer experience based on what customers actually want, not what we think they do
  • Create loyalty schemes with a focus on mobile. Many retailers now offer rewards to customers who shop using their mobile. Restaurants also have apps where customers can order and pay their bill from their mobile, and earn rewards for purchases
  • Use customer data to provide a segmented and personalised approach.
  • Use data to provide relevant product suggestions and support
  • One way we could harness customer data would be to look at whether customers buy certain products at certain times of the month or year, and make product suggestions accordingly. If we know a customer buys a certain vitamin every month, we can notify them of stock changes, incentivise them to purchase more than usual at a discount or organise a regular delivery of them

What is the future of customer experience?

Part of meeting the demands of customers requires is utilising new technology that can create a more seamless customer experience. Here’s what Nick thinks are the upcoming technologies that we’re starting to see now, but certainly will see in the future of customer experience.

Voice Activation

Most of us would have seen the adverts for Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Cortana and Apple’s Siri. These type of voice activation products are becoming more advanced by the day. We can ask them to play a song, remind us about something in our calendar, and even order us a product.

Whilst voice activation provides a huge opportunity for the increasingly busy and demanding customer, it also has downsides. For example, regional dialects and accents may not be understood by the app. This could cause frustration and result in a decrease in customer satisfaction. Privacy is also a concern to many. When we use a voice activated device, we are essentially bugging our own homes. These devices have to be constantly ‘listening’ and hackers may be able to exploit this. Whilst there are ways to up security for apps like Alexa, there are a number of horror stories that may put consumers off.

Augmented/Virtual Reality:

“The second big trend in this space is AR/VR…China seems to be leading the way particularly with automated shopping carts and automated convenience stores, where people can pay through WeChat. There’s a lot of interesting stuff coming out of China” says Nick.

From virtual changing rooms, to automated convenience stores, virtual reality can also be used to save time and create a personal experience for the customer. For example, showcasing detailed showrooms or demonstrations of how a product works or act as a personal shopper, recommending products and offers based on customer data.

Outside Insight

This article explains how brands in China have been using VR to improve customer experience.

Nick warns that whilst these technologies are exciting, brands should consider why they are using this technology. Is it for the right reasons (to improve customer experience)? for PR? Or for a gimmick?

“What I find is that those who focus just on the gimmick tends tend to lose out in the longer term” says Nick. “What I find is that those who focus just on the gimmick tends tend to lose out in the longer term” says Nick.

A wrap up of important lessons from Nick:

  • The customers will always be ‘king’
  • Have a robust business model
  • Think about how technology can help the consumer, not the other way around
  • Track market trends
  • Smart technology won’t replace smart marketing. The human brain makes the difference