The last several years have seen an accelerated pace of change for marketers and have required a lot of learning and adapting. SAP Emarsys CEO Joanna Milliken understands. As a leader of a business focused on empowering marketers to deliver true 1:1 omnichannel experiences at scale, has seen the breakneck speed of evolution prevalent in her industry. She’s developed a deep empathy and understanding for marketers from her own early career as a marketing practitioner. 

Drawing from new consumer research undertaken by SAP Emarsys, she spoke recently on the Be Remarkable Podcast about how the customer experience is being reshaped, and what that means for marketers going forward.

The Pace of Change Has Accelerated

During the last three years, the pace of change has accelerated at an unprecedented pace. The pressures of the pandemic, and the resulting supply chain concerns have spurred this change, and the rise of e-commerce has emboldened customers to pursue their perfect shopping experience. 

Preferred ways to shop have shifted, with some marketers calling the last few years “dog years” in terms of dramatic change and speed of learning – one year feels like seven. While 54% of consumers still prefer in-store shopping, nearly half are opting for other channels, from apps and phones, to laptops.

Channel Proliferation Continues

Not only do consumers want to shop in their preferred way, they want to do it on the channels where they spend their time. New consumer research by SAP Emarsys shows that most shoppers are channel agnostic, and will switch between a variety of channels as needed, so brands can’t skimp on offering messaging on a full breadth of channels and just focus marketing efforts on a handful of preferred channels. To deliver a consistent and engaging experience, retailers must consider digital and physical channels as branches of the same strategy. 

There’s a big need for marketers to keep up with evolving demands — one of those demands being the desire for seamless omnichannel experiences.  This type of customer-centric engagement is what draws consumers to brands. Interestingly, despite the need to keep up with emerging channels, email is more popular than ever as part of a complete omnichannel marketing strategy.

Data Centralization Is Key

When your customers are on so many different platforms and channels, it’s important to provide a continuous seamless experience. To do that, you need data. 

Centralized data allows you to build a more complete view of your customer. Product, sales, and channel data combined form a composite that helps you see customers as individuals, which is the key to delivering personalized campaigns that engage shoppers on a one-to-one level, across all channels.

While this can sometimes be lamented as an issue, Milliken suggests seeing the opportunities in having more ways of reaching customers. She says, “The problem has always been the same: bring the data together, get the content together, meet the customer in the right channel, analyze it, do it better, do it smarter, do it faster… and we have the tools to be able to achieve that, and I think that marketers are starting to see that and getting excited about it.”

Pull Inspiration from a Variety of Industries

The common wisdom used to be that you have to understand your specific industry to market to customers well. The thinking was that car manufacturers are only competing with other car manufacturers, clothing retailers with other clothing retailers, etc. 

But, today, consumers can have compelling shopping experiences with all sorts of brands — many of which are possibly outside your industry. In fact, many of today’s top marketers glean best practices from other brands across multiple industries. The industries may differ, but the core question remains: What patterns do consumers enjoy?

Whether it’s doing research on our phones, reading reviews, a virtual “try before you buy” experience, these are all becoming standard and universal. Different industries adapt at different paces, but they all contend with the exceeding expectations of consumers. As you look to the future, take cues from brands that are entering the metaverse, utilizing AI in their marketing mix, and personalizing their shoppers’ experiences to make them seamless across channels.

Final Thoughts

Reshaping customer experience is all about giving people what they want in the places where they’re engaging, both online and in physical stores. Learn more about the trends lead marketers are paying attention to today. Listen to the full podcast here.