Over the last fifteen years, consumer technology adoption has exploded, boosting the multitude of ways for consumers to access products and services. The old world saw growth from store openings and ad-spend with competition coming in the form of like-for-like retailers battling it out for footfall, via location and cost.

Today, consumers interact with businesses and brands in completely different ways. Each one of us can personally interact with a business across a range of devices from our laptops, to our mobiles and smart watches. From there, contact can stem through applications, social media channels, forums, marketplaces, and video games – that’s on top of physical pop-up stores, traditional advertising and having an in-store presence.

As the number of these touchpoints grows, so does each customer’s sphere of influence. This has created a huge amount of difficulty for businesses that are trying to measure the overall impact of the end-to-end customer journey. Some testify that it may not even be possible to measure all the complex and nuanced elements that can determine a purchasing decision. Despite their best efforts, brand perception can be hugely and unfairly impacted by one bad experience gone viral. With the stakes for brands to create flawless customer experiences inching ever higher, here are some of the key ways that customer-centric marketing has evolved in the age of social media:

The secret to personalisation at scale

The holy grail of curating good customer experiences is the ability to deliver personalisation across any touch point – easy to say, but very tough to do. To execute this well, businesses are working hard to implement a Single Customer View (SCV), unifying the mobile, desktop, and tablet-based traffic in a user-specific manner, rather than looking at customers as visitors from different device.

Being able to actually identify who a person is regardless of how they came to you, and tailor your interaction based on that information, is crucial to own and ultimately shape the experiences your customers have. Doing this at scale requires a host of technology including Data Management Platforms (DMP) to store ‘unstructured’ data and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools to organise and make sense of these complicated customer discovery paths.

Personalised with personality

AI is a term we all hear about a lot, but in reality it is tough to know what exactly it means to many businesses trying to understand its real-world application. If each business needs to provide a personalised customer experience to thousands or millions of consumers, it won’t be able to do this without serious help with the otherwise manual processing of all this data. Humans can’t keep pace alone.

AI can help take the strain in looking for patterns in the data, highlighting repeat behaviours and then automating processes which act upon those repartitions – all within milliseconds, and while continually learning as practices evolve. Take a product recommendation on a retail website – the more data it knows about the consumer in real time, the better it can recommend products they might be interested in, improving the experience for the consumer while increasing the conversion rate for the website.  In conclusion it really does pay to be personal.

The rise of the Chief Customer Officer

At the moment, we’re seeing more and more businesses hire Chief Customer Officers to manage and guide this process. Some of the integration work will be seriously tough, as unifying different data sources can take a lot of very smart people scores of hours to get right. Having the resources to execute on the strategic insights gleaned from the process and the time to step away from ‘business as usual’ to implement them, is also very challenging. But the benefits realised by the companies who do it best are inspiring – we see this in some of the rapidly growing digital-first businesses who are able to explode onto the scene garnering massive support and social reach, as they operate without the burden of legacy systems that don’t talk to one another. The key is to focus on the customer from the very start. Get it right with technology and you’ll reap the rewards.

Customer-centric marketing by its very nature will continue to evolve just as quickly as our digital habits do. As many of the most successful companies in recent years have proven, customer-centricity exists as a culture rather than a particular tactic, department or responsibility. Economist Lawrence Abbot observed in 1955 that, “what people really desire are not products but satisfying experiences”. Even against the backdrop of the ever-changing landscape of technology, this phrase retains relevancy and speaks to the way that digital services have well-and-truly overturned our lives. To win over consumers in this new era of digital adoption, marketers need to embrace the idea that user experiences are the new competitive battlefield and a means to create powerful differentiation from competitors.

Grant Coleman

Grant Coleman


Grant Coleman, VP & Market Director, UK, SC and Benelux, Emarsys