Having a standout product or service alone isn’t enough. Today, consumers seek more than just a transaction. They expect experiences that include personalized communication, easy and flexible checkout processes, proactive customer support, and more.

In fact, marketers often call these “seamless” customer experiences—the goal of making every engagement at the product-discovery level, down to post-purchase interactions, smooth and impactful on a customer’s perception of a brand. 

This is all part of the customer experience (CX), which has emerged as the key to long-term success—where brands differentiate themselves, build trust and loyalty, and foster lasting relationships with their audience. 

In this guide, we explore the current state of CX across marketing and commerce, and how it can unlock new opportunities to acquire, convert, and retain customers. 

What is customer experience?

CX is the sum of a customer’s interactions and feelings associated with a brand across all stages of their buying journey. CX goes beyond ensuring solely conversion; it also relies on emotions to boost a customer’s overall satisfaction and increase the likelihood of repeat business.  

Successful companies make improving CX a priority for their marketing strategies. To do that, organizations need to create a customer journey map and CX strategies to employ at each stage of the buyer journey.

A customer-centric approach aims to develop meaningful, memorable experiences that forge enduring connections and meet customer expectations for service. Here is what successful CX looks like across the five stages of a buyer’s journey. 

1. Awareness

What it is: Customers are learning about the brand for the first time, making first impressions critical. 

Strategies: To reach potential new customers, marketers strive to increase brand visibility through social media content, SEO, influencer collaborations, affiliate programs, and other top-of-funnel tactics. 

2. Consideration 

What it is: As customers explore options, they explore more information on products and validation of their needs. 

Strategies: Providing comprehensive product guides, comparison tools, interactive demos, and reviews can help advance their decision-making. 

3. Decision 

What it is: This is where customers make a purchase, and where customer confidence is truly tested. 

Strategies: An intuitive web or app design, transparent pricing, and clear communication about shipping, returns, and warranties help add to a frictionless checkout process. To elevate the experience even further, marketers can provide real-time personalized discounts or bundling options, as well as other relevant product suggestions. 

4. Retention

What it is: Maintaining a positive experience even after the purchase is essential for encouraging customers’ return. 

Strategies: Follow-up emails, requests for feedback, and proactive customer support help solidify an exceptional experience. For marketers, implementing customer loyalty programs or memberships prompts continued engagement, even after customers are out of the purchasing cycle.  

5. Advocacy 

What it is: Happy customers become advocates, promoting a brand through endorsements. Their advocacy amplifies brand reputation and attracts new customers.

Strategies: Encourage and incentivize reviews, testimonials, and user-generated content. Engage actively with your customers on social media, showcasing success stories and fostering a community. 

Why is CX important?

With the battle for customer loyalty more fierce than ever, CX stands out as a necessary investment. In fact, nearly half (47%) of customers worldwide are willing to pay extra for better customer service, per July 2023 Salesforce data, proving that competitive pricing won’t always win customers over.   

  • A third (33%) of UK and US adults will have only two negative experiences with a brand before they decide to abandon it, according to a January 2023 Coveo survey, while 12% only need one negative experience. 
  • 86% of US consumers would be willing to switch brands or companies because they know they can get a better customer service experience elsewhere, according to a January 2023 Shep Hyken and Five9 survey.
  • The same study also found that over three-quarters (77%) of US consumers are likely to switch or leave a brand if it responded to a customer service problem but did not make an effort to resolve it. 
consumer attitude toward their customer service experience with a brand
 A chart showing US consumer attitudes toward their customer experience with a brand or company, January 2023. (Subscribers only)

The role of personalization in CX 

One-size-fits-all approaches to CX are obsolete. Consumers now expect tailored experiences that resonate with their preferences and behaviors. Businesses leveraging data-driven insights can craft personalized interactions, be it through targeted marketing, curated recommendations, or customized services.

Consumer attitudes: The majority of consumers welcome personalization, but few believe brands can execute it well. 

  • Only 15% of consumers worldwide agree that brands are doing an excellent job of personalization, according to a Twilio survey conducted in 2022. Still, that’s double the number of consumers who had the same sentiment in 2021 (7%).
  • The majority of consumers worldwide, across generations, feel comfortable sharing their personal data with brands in exchange for an improved experience, per a September 2023 Acquia survey. This includes 80% of Gen Zers, 78% of millennials, 71% of Gen Xers, and 55% of baby boomers.  
  • More than three-quarters of internet users worldwide are willing to share their name, email address, and interest relevant to the brand for personalized interactions and special incentives, per a February 2023 Airship survey conducted by Sapio Research. A significant number would also be willing to share their demographic information (62%), mobile number for text messages (60%), and in-store location (59%). 

A priority for marketers: Personalization isn’t new for marketers, but it’s increasingly top of mind. 

  • More than a third (34%) of marketers worldwide use AI tools for personalization, according to a June 2023 Funnel survey conducted by Ravn Research. 
  • More than half of marketers worldwide believe an improved CX is one of the greatest benefits of a successful personalization strategy, per a December 2022 Ascend2 survey. 
  • The same Ascend2 study found that marketers worldwide also believe that email is the most effective place to use personalization in the digital experience.
types of personal info that internet users worldwide are willing to share for special incentives
A chart showing the types of personal information that internet users worldwide are willing to share for personalized interactions and special incentives, 2022 and 2023. (Subscribers only)

The role of technology in CX 

Innovations in AI, generative AI, machine learning (ML), and data are key in marketing technologies needed to deliver great CX. Here are top technologies that have had the largest positive impact on CX.

AI for content creation 

AI’s ability to analyze vast amounts of data has helped marketers generate personalized, compelling content at scale, from curated product recommendations to tailored email marketing communications. The technology has also been instrumental in helping brands provide around-the-clock support to improve customer satisfaction. 

For example, Jasper helps companies analyze vast amounts of customer data to identify patterns, preferences, and behavior. This enables businesses to tailor their marketing strategies, product recommendations, and customer interactions to align with individual preferences. 

Persado specializes in generative AI for marketing and communication uses. The platform analyzes customer responses and engagement data to optimize an organization’s marketing messages, emails, and advertisements for maximum impact. This AI-driven approach ensures that content resonates with customers on a deeper level, leading to improved engagement and conversion rates.

Content management system (CMS)

A robust CMS enables seamless content delivery, ensuring consistency and relevance. By centralizing content creation and distribution, CMS platforms empower brands to customize messages and engage customers at every touchpoint.

For example, Adobe Experience Manager helps brands maintain cohesive branding across websites, social media, and mobile apps for a consistent CX. WordPress is a publishing platform praised for its open-source architecture, as is Drupal, which also allows for CMS customization and flexibility. 

Customer relationship management (CRM)

CRM systems house crucial customer data, providing a comprehensive view of individual preferences, purchase history, and engagement patterns. By leveraging CRM data, businesses can personalize interactions and offer targeted promotions.

Some of the biggest CRM systems include Salesforce and HubSpot, both of which have announced AI-backed features to enable better personalization and CX.

Customer experience management (CXM)

CXM systems focus on understanding and optimizing every customer touchpoint to create consistently positive omnichannel experiences. Investing in a CXM system helps companies manage, analyze, and enhance customer interactions in real time, fueling loyalty and advocacy. 

Zendesk, for example, is a CXM tool that enhances customer support by processing inquiries and service tickets, while Qualtrics helps gather customer feedback to identify and automate areas that need improvement. 

technologies that have the largest positive impact on CX
A chart showing technologies that have had the largest impact on CX, according to marketers worldwide, September 2023. (Subscribers only)

Marketing automation platforms (MAPs)

MAPs facilitate personalized and timely communication by programming email marketing, social media posting, lead nurturing, and more. Simple or repetitive tasks can be delegated to this technology, freeing up time for marketers to focus on areas that are more complex. 

One example is Marketo by Adobe, which offers advanced automation and analytics, enabling personalized engagement at every stage of the customer journey. Eloqua by Oracle specializes in B2B marketing automation, providing tools for lead management, segmentation, and targeted messaging. Both platforms have added AI-driven capabilities to automate tasks, personalize messaging, and optimize customer engagement.

Ecommerce platforms

Ecommerce platforms provide the infrastructure for frictionless online shopping experiences. They include tools to create, manage, and optimize digital storefronts, and include a range of features including website building, product management, payment processing, and order fulfillment.

Two common ecommerce platforms include Shopify, which features a user-friendly web and app interface, and Adobe Commerce (formerly Magento), offering customizations throughout the shopping journey. These platforms invest in AI-powered recommendations, mobile optimization, and AR tools to enhance the online shopping experience, fostering higher engagement and conversion rates.

How to measure customer experience 

Measuring CX success involves monitoring metrics, often real-time analytics, that track customer perceptions, satisfaction, loyalty, and attributable revenues. By analyzing the KPIs below, businesses can make informed decisions on CX investments and identify areas for improvement: 

  • Net promoter score categorizes customers as promoters, passives, or detractors to measure customer loyalty, quantifying the likelihood of customers recommending a brand to others. 
  • Customer satisfaction score measures the level of satisfaction customers have with a specific interaction or experience. It typically involves a survey where customers rate their satisfaction on a numerical scale, offering insights into their immediate perceptions.
  • Customer effort score evaluates the ease of a customer’s experience when interacting with a brand. It assesses the effort customers must exert to resolve an issue or complete a task, indicating how user-friendly and efficient a process is.
  • Customer churn rate reflects the percentage of customers who stop engaging or doing business with a company within a specific period. It highlights customer attrition, indicating potential dissatisfaction or lack of loyalty.
  • Customer retention rate measures the proportion of customers a business retains over a given time. A high retention rate signifies satisfied customers who continue to choose the brand, indicating the effectiveness of CX strategies in fostering loyalty.
  • Customer lifetime value predicts the total value a customer will bring to a business over their lifetime. It considers factors like purchase history, average order value, and frequency of purchases, providing insights into the long-term profitability of retaining customers.

Examples of successful CX 

Etsy curates gifts: Using AI and ML, Etsy’s Gift Mode, rolled out in January 2024, matches users with over 200 gift recipient personas to recommend tailored products that respond to their personality and preferences. The gifting tool also allows shoppers to share “teasers” to the recipient, for a hint at the gift and tracking information. 

Instacart helps prep dinner: A conversational search function, released in May 2023, provides personalized grocery recommendations based on open-ended questions such as “What are healthy lunch options for my family?” or “Which ingredients am I missing for nachos?”.

Ikea lets you buy now, pay later: Through a partnership with Afterpay launched in September 2023, Ikea US is offering interest-free installed payment plans. Adding more flexible financing options can help younger consumers feel more comfortable making pricier purchases on items such as furniture.