Where does customer experience end and digital marketing begin? In today’s customer-centric world, the two practices are increasingly intertwined. One thing experts agree on is all digital marketing activities should be conducted through the lens of customer experience.
After all, the goal of digital marketing is to help establish long-term relationships with individual customers, which can in turn support the renewed purchase of products and services as well as open the door to potential upselling and cross-selling opportunities.
Each customer’s relationship with an organization is a sum of all their experiences starting with initial brand awareness and lasting all the way through to their post-purchase level of engagement, said Dutta Satadip, a CX thought leader who has built customer experience organizations at Pinterest and Google.
“As more products are becoming subscription-based and companies are trying to reach customers directly, focusing on branding and acquisition is limiting,” said Satadip. If organizations can optimize the post-purchase segment of the customer lifecycle, they are well positioned to derive considerable customer lifetime value.
“Traditionally, marketing and customer experience have resided in silos,” Satadip said. In the future, by working together, both groups will have the opportunity to capture the “real voice of the customer” across the entire customer lifecycle.
Strive for a ‘Balanced Blend’ of CX and Digital Marketing
How best to describe the optimal relationship between customer experience and digital marketing? Robert Rose, chief strategy officer at The Content Advisory, suggests the visual analogy of mixing a goal-appropriate cocktail, where the overriding challenge is to achieve a “balanced blend” of the two categories.
“Certainly, not all of the customer’s experience is digital marketing — but all marketing is definitely part of the customer’s experience,” Rose said. “So, the density of digital marketing versus pure customer’s experience is based on the amount of marketing we put into it.”
For instance, if an organization’s goal is to deliver value or solve for a job-to-be-done without regard to its brand or product features, then the focus (or the majority of the drink) is customer experience. “If our goal is to persuade, or move an audience to take a deeper action toward purchase, then it would seem we’re adding some marketing to the cocktail,” Rose said.
‘Digital Marketing Is the Execution of CX Strategy’
“There’s no such thing as customer experience OR digital marketing,” said Carla Johnson, marketing and innovation strategist, speaker and author. “The entire digital marketing strategy needs to be developed through the lens of customer experience.”
It’s vital for brands to stop thinking in terms of two separate strategies. “Digital marketing IS the execution of the customer experience strategy,” Johnson said. “If your digital marketing strategy doesn’t take into account that it delivers to the customer — the user experience of the brand — then the time and budget you invest in digital marketing will never live up to its potential.”
‘Digital Marketing Is a Subset of Customer Experience’
Nicole France, principal analyst and vice president at Constellation Research, agrees with Johnson. “Digital marketing is a subset of customer experience — always and completely,” she said. “Customer experience, as a term, describes the sum total of the individual experiences and interactions a customer has with a business. With that in mind, ANY marketing communication, whether digital or otherwise, is a part of customer experience.”
Digital channels represent an increasingly important way in which organizations communicate with prospective and existing customers. This means digital marketing has become an even more critical element of customer experience than in the past, particularly now during a global pandemic when other engagement opportunities may either be limited or inaccessible.
“Marketers in particular need to avoid putting their customers off — whether by bombarding them with communications or missing the mark on attempts at personalization,” France said. “At best, customers will ignore these communications; at worst, they’ll get annoyed enough to stop listening or doing business with you.”
Examples of personalization gone wrong can be benign, but irritating, such as referring to a customer by the wrong name, suggesting irrelevant products, or recommending something that the customer has just purchased, according to France. There’s also the danger of an organization using customer data to act upon inferences instead of waiting for an appropriate signal from the customer that they are ready to engage, as in the high-profile and emotionally charged example of retailer Target and a pregnant teenager.
About the Author
China Louise Martens has been fascinated by how individuals and organizations choose and use business software for over 20 years. To dig deeper, she’s interviewed and profiled end users, developers and executives as well as software vendors and IT observers.