New survey shows better customer experience vital for growth.

New Zealand companies have a clear pathway to success but many are yet to tap into a key element of growth – enhanced customer experience driven by clever use of data, according to a new survey.

The Qrious Mood of Marketing Survey 2019 is a two-yearly temperature gauge of a cross-section of New Zealand companies and the marketing which helps them succeed – and this year identifies customer-centric strategies, effective use of data, long-term brand building and embracing new technologies as the recipe for success.

Last held in 2017, the just-released survey tracks the habits of growth companies and the CEO of Qrious, Nathalie Morris, says those habits provide key knowledge for organisations in a business environment where profit and revenue is "harder to find than ever."

Qrious helps New Zealand organisations with data strategy and optimisation, analytics, insights, artificial intelligence and data-driven marketing – and Morris says only 27 per cent of the survey's respondents* said they were working in a growing business.

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"We can see that, increasingly, a smaller group of companies are taking a larger slice of the pie, leaving the majority of organisations in their wake," she says.

It is in the measures taken by growth companies that Morris says the blueprint for future success can be seen: "We defined it as four key habits – customer-centricity, taking a long term view of brand equity rather than short-termism revolving around price and functions, the need to gather and effectively use data and the embracing of new technology.

"Since the 2017 survey, the demand for customer experience (CX) has increased more than any other measure; CX is vital – successful companies are now using data to craft world-beating customer experiences.

"The old saying 'the customer is king' has been around a long time. It is still valid but what has changed is that the growth companies we identified in the survey were three times more likely to rate themselves as customer-centric; that's a big difference."

The report also found that only 25 per cent of New Zealand marketers believed their company to be strongly customer-centric.

"If you're talking customer experience and customer-centricity, look at Uber," she says.

"They simply studied and got rid of all the pain points of using a taxi. You can see how far away your ride is – no more frustrating waits. When you arrive, there is no more fumbling around with a credit card. You just get out of the car.

"That allowed them to disrupt that market by providing an end-to-end customer experience superior to anything else around that that time."

Many of those companies enthusiastically pursuing customer-centricity and experience were also using that focus to drive a long-term view of organisational success, centering on loyalty and retention gained from understanding customers rather than short-term gains. They were instead turning to long-term brand equity and customer experience, underpinned by relevant and effective data.

"Companies allocating more budget to brand equity and customer experiences are clearly out-performing their competitors," she says. For example, 58 per cent of those companies investing in long-term views are in growth mode while only 42 per cent of short-term view companies can say the same, according to the survey.

"Some companies are a bit like politicians, who often practise short-termism because an election is coming up. Some, including public companies caught up in their annual financial reporting cycle, do the same – yet short-term practices, like focusing on price, just encourage commoditisation and a race to the bottom," Morris says.

Data was the key and the survey showed short-term acquisition was out of fashion – replaced by a longer nurturing of the customer, driving their loyalty to the brand and with enhanced, data-powered customer experiences.

New Zealand was proving slow to adopt cutting-edge marketing technology and innovation like artificial intelligence and voice technology, though companies in growth were bucking that trend.

"Data is the critical factor," she says. "The fastest growing organisations use data to build connected and consistent personalised journeys for customers...they are not afraid to experiment with new technology, giving them a head start on recruiting the talent to deliver data-driven customer-centric plans."

Yet many Kiwi companies were struggling to take advantage of the new knowledge data was bringing: "Very few organisations say they don't have enough data," says Morris. "But it is how you interact with that data, how you use it, that helps most when it comes to understanding the customer and their needs, helping to build personalised and enriched customer experiences."

That challenge was underlined by another survey finding – companies' demand for people with skills in analytics and insights actually declined since 2017…except in growth companies where such core skills are expanding fast.

"That shows you," she says, "these strategies are proving the difference between success and decline in today's challenging market."

Tony Mitchell, CEO of the New Zealand Marketing Association, says customers are taking ownership of their brand experience, empowered by technology producing deep customer insights.

"Marketers are moving further into their organisations and with their unique understanding of data, customer and brand, they understand better than most what makes today's organisation succeed."

For more information: www.qrious.co.nz/moodofmarketing2019
*The Mood Of Marketing respondents are from a variety of sectors, working across B2B, B2C and blended organisations. This year 26 per cent of respondents work for companies of less than 50 people, and 53 per cent in companies generating less than $110m in revenue, bringing the demographic closer to the New Zealand average. On average the respondents have spent six years with their organisation and five years in their current role.