That is the key finding of a study by Adobe, which surveyed 1,668 U.S. enterprise decision makers spanning marketing, advertising, ecommerce, creative and IT roles. The study points to a business landscape where the customer is at the center of all the decision making taking place within an organization, and where customer experience can make or break the brand.
“Companies are no longer just competing on the basis of products or price,” said Stacy Martinet, VP of marketing strategy at Adobe. “Consumers expect, fluid, coordinated experiences that add value to the engagements they have with brands, and their products and services. This research proves that a focus on customer experience directly impacts business performance and is a primary way that organizations plan to set themselves apart from the competition moving forward.”
Indeed, the study found that CX maturity correlates to strong business performance. Organizations that report being “very advanced” in CX are over 3.5 times more likely to have exceeded their top 2018 business goal, in comparison to companies lacking CX maturity (61% vs. 17%). Additionally, experience is the primary way respondents cite their organization will set themselves apart from the competition over the next five years (25%), ranked above product quality (20%), innovation (13%), mobile (3%), and price (2%).
Brands that are successful today have a better understanding of their customers, as well as their needs and wants. Now more organizations use artificial intelligence to draw value from data and enhance CX. A majority (51%) of brands are already using or planning to invest in AI and machine learning this year, up from 40% last year. Brands ranked analysis of data (43%), email marketing (32%) and optimization/testing (26%) as the top marketing activities they’re currently leveraging AI for, with analytics and marketing teams making the most use of AI to automate tasks (23% and 14%, respectively).
“Data insight is now table stakes for getting the experience right, and AI is key to gleaning those insights,” Martinet said. “AI is changing how businesses make decisions, allowing companies to take action on their data. AI enables companies to serve up contextually relevant information and experiences to customers in real-time.”
It’s no surprise then that the study also found that better use of data is the top marketing priority in 2019. Top marketing priorities include better use of data for more effective audience segmentation and targeting (65%) and integration of marketing tools for greater efficiencies and better workflows (52%). Better data can help companies solve their top challenges, which they cited as difficulty tracking marketing effectiveness and media spend (51%) and ensuring a consistent experience throughout the customer life cycle (47%).
When identifying the single most exciting opportunity for their organizations in 2019, creating compelling content for digital experiences and optimizing the customer experience ranked highest, tied at 20%. In the next three years, the biggest percentage of respondents (39%) cited delivering real-time personalized experiences as the most exciting opportunity.
Also uncovered in the study is a need for a more holistic customer view. Indeed, 42% of brands surveyed identified a top strategic priority as the need to improve customer intelligence and insights to get a single customer view. Forty percent also said a top marketing challenge keeping them awake at night is the difficulty of getting a holistic view of customers across all interactions.
“Companies that want to provide truly transformative customer experiences need customer data that is real-time, intelligent, and predictive,” Martinet said. “Over the course of the next 12 to 18 months, we’ll see companies focused on building a seamless flow of connected customer data—behavioral, transactional, financial, operational, and more—to get a true end-to-end view of their customers.”