Three Steps to Simplify Your Customer Experience

Your customers crave simplicity; let's give it to them.

In a recent Harvard Business Review1 report highlighting a Corporate Executive Board study about “decision simplicity”, the ease with which customers can gather trustworthy information about a product to efficiently make a purchase decision was shown to be the best predictor of purchase stickiness among 40 different variables tested. Of course it shouldn’t come as a surprise to the marketer that customers want simplicity, we’ve been hearing this for years. But instead of making things easier for our customers, historically, we’ve layered in complexity. Whether it be constraints from regulation, technological advancements and limitations, or the scale of our product assortments, ironically, it seems it’s easier to make things more complex for the customer.

Think of it this way: remember when you used to buy VCRs or DVD players that had so many features you couldn’t figure out how to use most of them? At the time, all you wanted to do was watch the movie you had rented from Blockbuster (remember them?) And if you were a really advanced user, you might record a TV show and watch it later. Good luck! The product and its features had become the star, not the customer.

Then technology met simplicity. In 2001, Apple launched the deceptively simple digital music player, the iPod. What Apple and others had begun to understand was that to be successful, the focus needed to be on the customer, not the product. The explosion of products, services and experiences that make consumers’ lives easier has been swift and far-reaching. It has disrupted legacy businesses from retailers and department stores to taxis, food delivery, and film and television.

So how does the simplicity and customer experience revolution translate to loyalty and CRM? Start by thinking about the customer and how the experience will feel in their daily life. As marketing has evolved from campaigns that were one-to-many, then one-to-one, and now one-to-moment, we’ve learned that there are a wide variety of paths to purchase that the customer can take. And the number of paths seem to be growing each day. To counteract this, marketers should work to make the customer’s experience both simple and valuable:

1. Acquire and leverage valuable data.

Loyalty programs help marketers capture a wealth of customer behavior data, and analyzing these behaviors gives you as the marketer valuable insights into where your customers are in their journeys, which allows you to impact what they do next. In other words, you can help your customer make a decision based on what you’ve learned.

2. Avoid the trap that we as businesses have laid out for ourselves.

With hundreds of thousands of products and product attributes out there—on store shelves, online, in your “You May Also Like” queues—the natural urge for a marketer is to showcase the facts and features of their products and why the consumer should buy it now. Instead, leverage your customer and product data. Sort through the details for them. Know where they are in their process and present only the information that helps them make a decision in that moment.

3. Design cross-functional teams and empower them to think outside of functional silos.

For example, instead of thinking about an email campaign, bring together a broad team of marketing capabilities and start with a brief that targets a customer segment or persona and how they experience your brand. Doing so will help the team create cross-channel experiences that engage your customer in the ways they want to engage with you. Not the other way around.

In short: Focus on the customer. Think like them.