New: Salesforce’s State of Marketing Report Shines a Light On The Critical Role of Search

Salesforce state of marketing report

No matter how amazing your product or service — no matter, even, if you’re that rare unicorn whose offering practically sells itself — you probably still have an Achilles heel when it comes to customer experience. Everyone does. In fact, you could accurately say that the underpinning of any exceptional customer experience is a keen understanding of where your brand is most likely to fail and building your strategy accordingly

More and more, data around consumer behavior tells the same story: failing to prioritize customer experience in this way is a sure way to lose business, no matter what else you’re doing right.

As Salesforce highlights in the sixth edition of its State of Marketing report, 84% of consumers and business buyers say the experience a company provides is as important to them as its products and services. That’s up from 80% two years ago, indicating that consumer expectations are continuing to rise when it comes to their interactions with brands. 

 If those numbers don’t make you sit up and take notice, consider that yet another study expects consumer experience to overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator by the end of 2020. Keep in mind, too, that 86% of consumers say a negative customer experience is the reason they quit doing business with a company. But 96% of dissatisfied customers won’t complain — at least not to you. But you can be sure they’ll be talking about it to other people.

 As Inc. reports, “It takes roughly 40 positive customer experiences to undo the damage of a single negative review.” So it’s well worth investing time and money to get the CX angle down pat. Indeed, good customer experiences lead 42% of consumers to purchase again, according to a Zendesk customer service study

Similarly:

  • U.S. consumers are willing to spend 17% more to do business with companies that deliver excellent service, up from 14% in 2014
  • As a cohort, millennials will spend the most (21% more) to ensure excellent customer care, with 86% reporting they are influenced by negative reviews when purchasing a product or service.
  • A moderate increase in customer experience generates an average revenue increase of $823 million over three years for a company with $1 billion in annual revenues

 On that last stat, Forbes highlights a 2018 Forrester Research study, which compared the stock prices of customer experience “leaders and laggards to the S&P 500 and found that leaders significantly outperformed both laggards as well as the S&P.” According to Forbes, “The message is clear… those organizations that are better positioned to meet and exceed the experience expectations of their customers in a consistent and repeatable way and those that are best able to adapt to the changing needs of their customers are those who will continue to outperform the competition.”

Salesforce’s report also reveals “Marketers are taking a real-time approach to customer experience because customers demand it.” It goes on to note “Customers now expect dynamic interactions — where the content they see on one channel is tailored based on their actions from a previous channel.” Just over half of marketers describe their cross-channel content as dynamic, up from less than a third two years ago. Also notable is the company’s finding that 84% of marketers are using AI, up from just 29% in 2018 — “an eye-popping 186% increase in adoption in two years.”

Building a better customer experience through search

All of this illustrates the importance of taking control of every moment where a consumer is interfacing with your brand, both before and after they’ve converted and become a customer. This is accomplished first by understanding — and subsequently directly addressing — the ways in which consumers’ expectations about a digital experience with a brand have evolved. 

Advances in natural language processing (NPL) have engendered a world in which search is no longer mechanical. It no longer relies on precise, immutable text strings to cough up the desired results. Today, consumers are used to asking for exactly what they want, no matter how messy or convoluted (i.e., human) the language they use to ask for it. Search engines are capable of answering even our most complex questions, and because of that, we want to search even more — to the tune of more than 2 trillion searches per year on Google alone

The customer journey no longer starts with a trip to the store — it starts with a question, and it encompasses the non-linear path that follows. You might know that this process is happening on search engines, but it’s now happening on your website, too. More and more, customers are coming to your website, full of intent and expectations, and armed with the questions that will mark the beginning of their experience with your company — doesn’t it make sense to do everything in your power to make sure the answers they get in return impress them?

A great customer experience begins with the ability to seamlessly deliver answers about your brand when people ask questions. If customers can’t trust your brand to understand what they want, give them the information they need, and make it easy to purchase, why would they choose to do business with you again? Well, quite simply, they wouldn’t — 68% of people say they would not return to a site that provided a poor search experience. In the end, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand why an exceptional search experience leads to a better customer experience across all channels.

 And as you think about investing in a better customer experience through search, remember: While more than 95% of unhappy customers won’t complain about you to you — choosing instead to gripe to their friends — there’s a flip side to that. Zendesk reports that nearly 90% are happy to share good experiences. Again, it doesn’t take an advanced degree to know that keeping customers happy is a win.

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