What is driving the customer experience journey in APAC?
APAC is quite a diverse, heterogeneous market and so customers experience very different journeys in different markets depending upon infrastructure, purchasing power, government policies and so on. A common thread that has emerged across many markets is the emergence of smartphones and the mobile web/app economy. For most of us, our day starts and ends with the smartphone and we pick our devices up more than 150 times a day, therefore a customer’s expectation of her journey is pegged on immediacy and instant gratification. Brands have been slow to adapt to this trend to provide a seamless, friction-free, multi-channel experience for the customer.
What key influences impact consumers’ purchasing decisions in APAC?
Consumers in APAC are fairly value-conscious and they like to spend a good amount of time researching and comparing on aggregator/comparison sites and also check with their friends and family through social media before making a purchase.
Do these differ across markets in APAC?
In my view, the core behaviour is universal across APAC but the channels and medium may differ. While Google is fairly popular in most APAC nations, in China, Japan and Korea users are likely to use Baidu, Yahoo and Naver as their preferred search engine. Likewise each market would have its preferred aggregator, comparison and social media sites to conduct their research and comparison.
Are there specific nations that understand the customer journey correctly?
Each market has its unique flavour and customer journeys differ across markets and categories. While no specific nation has championed the cause of customer journeys, mature markets like Australia, Japan, Singapore are investing more resources to plan these out better.
How are brands able to map this customer journey accurately?
There are a lot of tools in the market that help brands identify, map and prioritise customer journeys but it needs to be backed up by strong political will in the organisation and it must be treated as a critical, strategic agenda. Many companies hire consulting and research firms to identify different buyer personas and for each persona, they track and discover the corresponding customer touchpoints and journey permutations. While that’s a good starting point, it is important to continue to monitor the journey paths and touchpoints and to optimise as you go along.
Does this customer journey differ depending on the beauty and personal care segment i.e. natural cosmetics, active ingredients, anti-ageing, colour cosmetics, innovative packaging etc. If so, how?
The customer journeys and corresponding touchpoints definitely differ across categories and segment, primarily based on the involvement required in the path to purchase, which are a function of utility and aesthetics as well as price points. For high involvement, high-value purchases like anti-ageing creams, it is likely that customers do more due diligence about the formulations, benefits and price points before committing to a purchase.
What are chatbots are how are they helping to improve the customer experience for beauty and personal care brands?
Chatbots are interactive software that allow humans to chat with brands and organisations through social media or mobile apps. A good example would be the Facebook Messenger chatbots that many brands are using to interact with their customers to help answer questions, share news, as well as recommend relevant products to them. They are helping improve the customer experience as they are not interruptive unlike sales telecalls; customers can choose when and where to interact with chatbots. They are available 24/7 and can help answer questions instantaneously and, if programmed well, they can also help make very personalised recommendations and that further enhances brand-customer interaction.
How are mobile chat apps helping to build brand awareness by understanding consumer trends?
Through machine learning and artificial intelligence, chatbots can be programmed to interact with customers in a personalised manner. For instance, when two customers interact with a Sephora chatbot, the interaction path and pattern would be different and the chatbot would make personalised recommendations to the customer depending on their demography, interests, market trends and so on. Not only can this potentially improve brand affinity but also have a positive impact on loyalty and sales.
How are CX tools expected to develop through to 2018?
CX tools are expected to become smarter through artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms; faster and more reliable through integration with cloud computing.