The Unbreakable Bond Between Customer Experience & Marketing: Fulfilling the Brand Promise

What do you think marketers say is the single most exciting business opportunity in 2023? Social media marketing? Influencer partnerships? Video and live streaming?

The surprising answer: customer experience. In Econsultancy and Adobe‘s latest Digital Trends report, CX beat out all the usual buzzworthy suspects, with marketers singling out "optimizing the customer experience" as their top business priority.

Clearly, marketing and customer experience are inextricably linked. Marketing owns the critical role of defining the brand and attracting customers by promoting that brand promise. But CX is ultimately about delivering on those expectations. Every interaction a customer has with a company either enhances or degrades their perception of the brand.

The Business Case for Marketing-Led CX

The spotlight on CX isn‘t just coming from marketers. A recent PWC study found that 32% of customers will walk away from a brand they love after just one bad experience. In the U.S., even when people love a company or product, 59% will walk away after several bad experiences.

This is a major red flag in an age where switching costs are lower than ever. If customers aren‘t happy with the experience, they can easily find an alternative.

On the flip side, brands that invest in creating exceptional experiences are seeing outsized returns:

  • Companies that lead in CX outperform laggards by nearly 80%. (Forrester)
  • 84% of companies that improve CX report an increase in revenue. (Dimension Data)
  • Customers are willing to pay a price premium of up to 13% (and as high as 18%) for luxury and indulgence services, simply by receiving a great customer experience. (PWC)

As interactions increasingly shift to digital channels, CX is becoming a key source of differentiation. A 2022 Salesforce study found that 84% of customers say the experience a company provides is as important as its products or services. Marketing is on the front lines of orchestrating that experience.

CX and Marketing: Better Together

Winning and retaining customers today requires a holistic strategy encompassing the entire customer journey. CX is the sum of all touchpoints a customer has with a brand, from initial awareness generated by marketing, through the sales process, to post-purchase service and support.

The most successful companies recognize that CX doesn‘t stop after the sale. Often the most powerful opportunities to cement loyalty, drive repurchases, and earn referrals occur in those post-sale interactions. When executed well, positive customer experiences create a virtuous cycle that attracts new customers.

HubSpot‘s flywheel model puts CX at the center, with Delight powering Attract by turning happy customers into brand advocates. This word-of-mouth marketing is one of the most potent ways to draw in new prospects. But it hinges on delivering stellar CX.

HubSpot Flywheel Model

A Walker study identified three crucial elements of winning CX:

  1. Personalization – Tailoring experiences to individual needs and preferences
  2. Ease – Making interactions simple, seamless and effortless
  3. Speed – Providing fast, responsive service across channels

Digital marketing equips brands to engage customers one-on-one at scale. But aligning all the tools and touchpoints to provide a consistent, positive CX is an ongoing challenge. Marketing-led CX requires tight orchestration across the entire organization.

Who Really Owns CX?

Does responsibility for CX sit with marketing, sales, customer service, or elsewhere? According to research by Gartner, nearly 90% of organizations have a chief experience officer (CXO) or chief customer officer (CCO). But only 11% of CX leaders report directly to the CEO.

In most cases, the CXO or CCO sits within marketing or customer service. PWC found that 31% of CCOs report to the CMO, while 20% report to the head of customer service.

Clearly CX leadership is still finding its footing in the C-suite. But one thing is certain: delivering great CX is an organization-wide imperative. Another PwC Digital-IQ survey found 65% of execs view CX as vital to boosting business performance and gaining a competitive edge.

While the whole company owns CX delivery, marketing is often best positioned to be the voice of the customer. By gathering data and feedback to deeply understand customer needs, marketing can advocate cross-functionally for CX improvements.

Reliable customer insights help break down departmental silos, which are kryptonite for CX. Armed with a single, unified view of the customer, teams can more easily collaborate to provide a seamless experience across touchpoints. Marketing is a natural leader in this effort.

4 Ways Marketing Can Elevate CX

So what can marketing do practically to advance CX across the organization? Here are four best practices:

1. Listen to Customers at Scale

Modern marketing technology makes it possible to track individual customer behaviors and preferences at scale. This conversational data should flow beyond marketing to inform CX improvements.

Developing rich customer segments and monitoring KPIs like conversion rates, churn, and satisfaction helps pinpoint where the experience is falling short. Sharing this data organization-wide focuses everyone on driving measurable progress.

For example, skin care brand Olay wanted to engage 1:1 with customers while still reaching a mass audience. They developed an AI-powered tool called Olay Skin Advisor that asks customers questions about their skin and recommends personalized product solutions.

Within the first six months, over 1 million customers had completed the skin assessment. Olay gained rich first-party data to optimize its products, marketing, and CX, leading to doubled conversion rates and a 40% increase in ROI.

2. Capture the Voice of the Customer

Direct customer input is essential to understand the experience from their perspective. While traditional research methods like surveys and focus groups still apply, digital tools open up new feedback channels:

  • Social media listening
  • Live chat transcripts
  • Online reviews
  • Website behavior tracking

Marketing should gather input across the full customer lifecycle to identify pain points and opportunities holistically, not just in siloed stages. Creating customer journey maps is a great way to visualize the complete experience.

Online pet retailer Chewy has built a fanatical customer base by obsessing over customer feedback. Chewy reads every comment and review to understand what pet owners love and what the company needs to improve.

When a customer tweeted that her goldfish had died, Chewy saw an opportunity to surprise and delight. They overnighted the customer a new goldfish with a personalized note of sympathy. The story went viral on social media.

3. Drive Customer-Centric Change

Too often, marketing focuses solely on acquisition, handing leads off to sales with little thought to what happens next. Instead, marketing should leverage customer insights to steer the end-to-end experience.

When marketing uncovers CX issues, that data gives teams a factual basis for collaborating on solutions. Marketing can lead workshops to reimagine processes through a customer lens. Engaging executives with quantified business impact helps secure buy-in and resources for CX initiatives.

Logistics company UPS struggled for years with subpar CX stemming from lack of coordination between marketing and operations. Marketing promises of fast, reliable delivery were often undermined by fulfillment and service issues.

To fix this, UPS established a "customer first" management approach. Marketing took the lead in mapping end-to-end journeys and identifying failure points. They engaged cross-functional teams to redesign processes around customer needs.

While it required heavy lifting, the payoff was huge. UPS‘s Net Promoter Score (NPS) leaped from the 20-30% range to over 80%. Stock price quadrupled within 10 years of launching the program.

4. Embrace Automation and AI

CX leaders lean heavily on marketing automation and AI to engage customers with the right information at the right times. Automated tools do the heavy lifting of tracking customer activity to trigger personalized messaging.

AI supercharges marketing‘s ability to understand and interact with customers contextually. Intelligent chatbots deliver instant answers 24/7. Machine learning fine-tunes content recommendations. Predictive analytics targets at-risk customers for proactive outreach.

Besides improving CX, automation accelerates marketing activities like lead response. Following up within 5 minutes boosts conversions dramatically, but most companies take 5 days or more. Timely, tailored engagement builds trust and loyalty.

When used strategically, AI can be a CX game-changer, as cosmetics brand Sephora discovered. Sephora built a smart chatbot that simulates the in-store consultation experience.

Based on the customer‘s answers, the bot provides customized product recommendations and tutorials, driving 11% higher conversion rates than the site average. AI helps Sephora maintain the "high-touch" element of its CX even as interactions move online.

The Future Is Customer-Centric

As we look ahead, delivering exceptional, end-to-end customer experiences will only become more important. A Salesforce study found 88% of customers say the experience a company provides is as important as its products or services.

At the same time, CX expectations continue to rise. Customers demand 24/7 service, personalized interactions, and seamless cross-channel continuity. Meeting these demands requires coordinated efforts from marketing, sales, service, and beyond.

Marketing is uniquely equipped to orchestrate CX by being the customer expert and advocate. By operationalizing customer data, feedback, and insights, marketing can lead the charge toward a truly customer-centric organization.

It‘s time for marketing to claim its pivotal role in shaping CX. The companies that put customers at the heart of everything will be the ones that thrive for years to come. And marketing has the power and perspective to pave the way.

To sum up:

  • CX is becoming a make-or-break source of competitive advantage, and marketing has a central role to play.
  • Customer insights should flow from marketing to the rest of the org to drive CX improvements.
  • Marketing can advocate for CX cross-functionally and secure executive buy-in by tying CX initiatives to measurable impact.
  • Technology like automation and AI is key to scaling hyper-personalized experiences.
  • The future belongs to customer-obsessed brands that harness marketing muscle to fulfill their promises.