Smartphones are transforming retail.

Phones, tablets, gaming consoles, smart speakers.

Today’s consumers use all of these devices to engage with content that drives their buying decisions.

We recently surveyed 1,000 people and found that half of them use more than one device. Twenty-five percent of Millennials surveyed said they use three or more devices simultaneously to engage with digital content — a 130 percent increase year-over-year.

But at the same time, we also found that 49 percent of shoppers still buy in brick-and-mortar stores, while 48 percent shop online and 44 percent use a brand’s web site.

These realities underscore the need to deliver a holistic customer experience across devices. While today’s focus is on smartphones and tablets, new channels are shaking things up. For example, 10 percent of survey respondents said they used smart speakers or home assistants to buy products in 2018, a 160 percent jump from the previous year.

Brands now have no choice but to create content that dovetails with people’s device usage. The question is how to match the right content with the appropriate device, at the right time and place for the consumer.

The answer lies in the data. Every swipe, click and voice command provides clues to consumer intent. But it’s time for you to take all these inputs and use them a lot differently than most companies have over the last decade. To master this process, you need to reinvent your data strategy and adopt an approach that turns the conventional wisdom about consumer research on its head.

Moving beyond customer demographics

The customer journey gets less linear every day. From smartphones to connected devices, every device has become an indispensable, tangible tool that influences purchasing decisions.

These devices also create plenty of touchpoints. That’s good news from a data-gathering standpoint because massive volumes of data enable sophisticated analysis. But too much data also can make it tough to distinguish between the rare strategic gems and the masses.

Meredith Cooper 

To parse the good from the bad, you need a data strategy that is about more than just targeting demographics. To succeed in this new era of customer experience, you need to target behaviors.

Today, there’s an overemphasis on audience segments, but to truly understand the customer — regardless of device — it has to be less about who they are and more about what they do. Thanks to behavioral data and advances in technology, tracking what a customer does paints a much clearer picture.

Personalizing the customer experience — minus the creep factor

One of the industry’s greatest challenges is taking all the available customer data and drawing actionable insights that drive a more impactful, personalized customer experience.

And that first begins with unifying customer data and organizing it into a single profile. The next step is to apply artificial intelligence and machine learning to your customer data to drive more compelling, creative and personalized messaging. AI helps you better grasp the who, when and where of the customer experience, but it’s also critical to strategically use these disruptive technologies to deliver personalization in a way that doesn’t alienate your audience.

Our survey highlights the need for this delicate balancing act. Fifty-one percent of respondents said personalization would make them more likely to buy, while 49 percent said it would make them more loyal and 46 percent said it would make them more likely to recommend the brand.

But buyers also don’t want brands getting too personal. More than eight out of 10 respondents said they would stop buying something if the personalization crossed a line and got too creepy. Seven of 10 respondents said they actively adjusted their privacy settings when dealing with brands.

Making customers’ lives better

With better data also comes greater responsibility. As your brand relentlessly focuses on behavioral data to understand customers and their journeys, you need to be super transparent about what data you collect and why — and how you use it.

It’s also about knowing your audience and understanding what customers will be more comfortable with providing certain data, as opposed to others. For example, someone who is Gen Y or Gen Z is obviously a digital native and may be more comfortable with having a personalized experience and potentially sharing more data than someone who is an occasional online shopper. It’s key to take this context into account when crafting omnichannel experiences.

This kind of gut check can reinforce what should be your brand’s underlying goal for using data to create content on multiple devices. The focus has to be on making customers’ lives better — not just driving sales. Staying true to this guiding principle is core to delivering a great experience, regardless of what screen your customer uses.

Meredith Cooper is senior director of product marketing at Adobe Creative Cloud for enterprise.

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