Customers are in control. Anyone in a customer-facing role has seen the increasing demand for personalized experiences and the desire to interact with a brand on their own terms.

While having customers who want to interact and buy from your brand is clearly a good thing, the demand for content, products and services when, how and where customers want it has tipped the power scale in consumers' favor. Brands need to adopt a next best action approach to stay one step ahead of their customers, and ensure their products and services are top of mind, available when needed, and positioned in the best way based on an individual’s needs.

A next best action approach means you have created systems to personalize and automate the content and channels a customer can take, based on their preference, their stage in the customer journey, and any other relevant behavioral data. In this article, I’m going to discuss three aspects of next best action approaches that can improve the customer experience.

How Automation Can Help Personalize Experiences

The statistics speak for themselves: 80% of consumers are more likely to buy from a company that provides a personalized experience, and 42% of customers are frustrated by content that is not personalized. These and other findings point to the increasing need for companies to find ways to meaningfully tailor messaging, offers and experiences to their customers’ individual needs and behaviors.

Next best action varies from simpler marketing automation in that it can provide several potential next steps as opposed to one prescribed approach, and it can approximate (or even in some cases reach) the holy grail of one-to-one personalization. The next best action may be to move further through the customer journey, take advantage of an offer based on a previous purchase, or it may be to access information that might be relevant to that individual based on their individual behavior.

Because consumers are often looking for answers quickly to solve their challenges, next best action marketing can quickly guide them as they navigate the customer journey. Being a helpful guide that is perceived as empathetic and understanding of the individual improves their customer experience.

Related Article: Understanding Rules- vs. Intent-Based Marketing Personalization

There Is No Monolithic Customer Persona

Next best action exists because customers don’t all have the same preferences, nor do they exhibit the same behaviors. If everyone acted the same, a simple marketing automation trigger could achieve great and lasting results across the board. 

But because there isn’t a single monolithic customer persona, next best action allows brands to reach individuals with more personalized offers and messaging that is appropriate based on their behaviors and stage in the customer journey.

Learning Opportunities

This doesn’t mean you should throw out your audience segments and existing personas. But it does mean that next best action can allow for nuance that simpler segmentation doesn’t allow for. As we discussed before, this level of personalization is aimed at creating a better overall customer experience. Just as one individual is not exactly the same as another, one customer may have unique preferences or ways they research, compare and buy products. Providing multiple routes to accomplish key tasks in the customer journey allows individuals to find the best path for them, and improves the customer experience as a result.

Related Article: Is It Time to Rethink Your Customer Personas?

Measuring Your Success With Next Best Action

Of course, there's no point investing in next best action approaches unless you can measure and prove they achieve your goals. These goals can vary greatly depending on your organization and your customer base, but might include anything from increasing revenue per session through personalization, increasing Net Promoter Score (NPS) or Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) during a particular part of the journey, or increasing the customer lifetime value (CLV).

The best way to start measuring is by testing several ideas or hypotheses, and determine if your assumptions are true. Multivariate testing can help you speed up the testing process. Using next best action with multivariate testing means that at each decision point in the customer journey, you can provide and test several different next steps. The learnings from these tests may provide deeper insights on individual customer segments’ preferences, or may provide you with reason to continue to provide several options to your customers.

While you can (and should) measure individual steps in the customer journey to ensure they are working effectively, a next best action approach also encourages organizations to look at the long-term CLV in addition to individual points of purchase. While individual touchpoints can be optimized, the end goal is a more loyal customer who buys more, buys more often and refers others.

Provide Customers Options to Improve Their Experience

Taking a next best action approach to the customer journey can improve both the customer experience as well as your sales and revenue targets. Next best action creates a more tailored customer experience for the individual and accommodates a larger array of preferences. This translates into greater customer loyalty, more referrals and a more valuable customer over the long-term.

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