No industry is safe from the fierce competition taking over the commercial sector as small and mid-sized enterprises vie for customer attention against tech giants who have mastered the trade.

In the past few weeks alone, we’ve seen Amazon make major moves against Walmart to continue dominating the global ecommerce landscape with its in-car delivery and plans to begin offering special Whole Foods promotions to Prime members, including discounts on already marked-down goods, free delivery, and cash back rewards. This shows just how skilled the tech behemoth is at creating an all-encompassing ecosystem in which customers can have all their needs quickly and conveniently met.

Since Amazon’s move into the grocery industry, other food retailers have struggled to compete against lower prices and a familiar, intuitive and reliable delivery network. Dwindling customer loyalty is creating a huge roadblock for these companies, who know consumers will easily switch stores for a better deal.

Similarly, the healthcare industry is facing a transition, shifting to the business-to-customer model that other industries have long embraced. Hospitals and medical offices alike are beginning to view themselves as brands and their audience not just as patients, but as customers who desire a personalized experience throughout their whole healthcare journey. These views were validated recently in PwC’s Customer experience in the New Health Economy: The data cure survey, which found nearly half of provider executives polled are now touting customer experience as a “top strategic priority” in the next five years.

Growing and retaining customer loyalty has never been more important, or more difficult. Marketers well know that an exceptional customer experience is critical to the success of any business, but how do they solve that puzzle?

Related Article: How Direct-to-Consumer Brands Are Upending Marketing

Find All the Customer Data Pieces

Many of the challenges marketers face can be traced back to disconnected data perpetuated by siloed marketing technologies. Without all the pieces of the puzzle, marketers can’t truly understand their customers. As a result, content lacks that special, personalized touch customers have come to expect. Without a holistic view of its customers, a company may find it near-impossible to effectively hit audiences at the right time with the more relevant message, turning targeted campaigns into spam ejected from a prospect’s inbox before it’s even opened.

To avoid this, it’s imperative companies unify all disparate customer data from across the enterprise and use this information to create a 360-degree view of their customers. This can seem like a daunting task, considering the massive amounts of data at a company’s disposal these days. A great place to start is with your current martech stack. Take inventory of the information within your stack to create a data-driven picture of your customers.

To survive in this bold new world where companies like Google, Amazon and Microsoft are in our homes and shaping consumer searching and buying experiences, companies should know all the ways they can reach their customers and how to do so effectively.

As such, companies must make it their mission to understand the current gaps in their customers’ experience, and this can only start once marketers connect the disparate systems within their domain, so they are working together to deliver a comprehensive, individualized and data-driven experience.

Related Article: The Path to Customer-Centricity Lies in Dismantling Data Silos

Learning Opportunities

Put the Pieces Together to Shape the Ideal Customer Experience

Major players like Amazon and Walmart know how to seamlessly bring relevant content and offers to customers that not only bridge the online and the physical but also encompass different services and offerings. Amazon’s latest move to bring Prime into its Whole Foods stores is a perfect example.

Their expertise comes from a keen awareness of their customers and deep insight into their customers’ journeys. Fortunately, this is something all marketers can achieve – likely with data already at their fingertips.

Get in Their Heads

Start by thinking about what the ideal customer experience might look like for your most valuable customers or largest market segments. How are they engaging with your company? At what part of a customer’s journey do they typically enter and exit their relationship with you? What are their current dissatisfactions or pain points?

Determine How You Stack Up

Once you have this information about your customers, evaluate your marketing and customer experience tactics to see how they align with your customer’s needs and patterns. Are they in step with how your most valuable customers are engaging with your brand? This will provide a necessary baseline against which you can decide changes and evaluate success.

Test Different Journeys

Using what you’ve learned about your customers’ motivations and interactions, test different journeys to plot out all the touchpoints customers have with your brand and how that relationship may evolve over time. This will enable you to create the personalized and predictive promotions and points of contact necessary to keep customers engaged and build loyalty.

Assess Yourself – and Be Honest

Create a report card that indicates what’s working and what’s not. Closely track your success against the baseline you’ve established and make changes to your course of action at regular intervals as needed to reach your goals.

For businesses to thrive, they must have a strong marketing foundation that rests on an intimate understanding of the people they are trying to reach. People can be a challenging puzzle to solve, but the organizations that are able to connect the pieces and harness that wisdom for the good of their customers are the ones who will reap the benefits.

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