Is customer experience a differentiator or detractor for your brand?


May 19, 2020

The customer experience difference can make or break you- especially today.

When it comes to e-commerce, brands have two main ways to differentiate themselves from the competition. They can compete for the lowest prices or the best customer experience. With the growth of digital channels and the shifting buyer preferences, customer experience—not price—is the real e-commerce battlefield. According to PwC’s Future of CX report, 86% of consumers will pay more for great customer experience.

Customer experience goes far beyond the ease of completing a purchase; it’s the sum total of the consumer’s interactions with your brand wherever and whenever they encounter it. Customers today want more than a transactional relationship with brands, they want to feel known, respected, and valued—and if you can manage to delight them, all the better.

With all the emphasis on customer experience, it’s not surprising that brands think they’re doing a pretty good job meeting customers’ expectations. Research by Acquia shows that 82% of marketers believe they are delivering a great customer experience; the problem is that only 10% of customers feel the same way. That’s a pretty significant disconnect between the way brands and their customers view customer experience.

Customer data preferences

Image via Acquia -Deliver the CX They Expect eBook

Consumers have reasonable expectations. They want convenience, a personalized shopping experience, and transparency. When brands deliver, they differentiate themselves from their competitors. When they don’t, brand loyalty won’t save them: Fully a third of customers will leave a brand they love over one negative experience and nearly 60% will never return after a second or third bad encounter, according to PwC.

So how do you make customer experience a differentiator for your brand instead of a detractor? A lot depends on your technology—and how you use it.

Speed and convenience matter most

The PwC report found that 80% of consumers prioritize speed and convenience in customer experience. Customers want to find what they’re looking for, get the information they need to make a purchase decision, and complete the transaction with a minimum of clicks and hassles.

Brands that invest in cutting-edge design and technology to wow the customer at the expense of speed and functionality are missing the forest for the trees. Consumers want user-friendly apps and e-commerce websites with technology that guides and automates the purchase process. They rarely take notice of fancy technology—unless it complicates their shopping experience.

Convenience and personalization work hand in glove. Acquia found that 68% of consumers felt that their online experience with brands needed to be simpler; 80% said they were more loyal to brands that understood what they were looking for and helped them find it.

Ethan Allen customized interface

Personalized shopping CX via Ethan Allen

Technology allows you to recognize your customers and their preferences. It also offers a guided shopping experience with personalized recommendations. This is foundational to good customer experience. See above where my name and preferred location are already factored into the CX when I log in to Ethan Allen to shop. This alone delivers a frictionless path to purchase as it saves time and gives me a personalized experience. 


When customers feel known, understood, and appreciated, the payoff is huge. PwC found that a personalized experience commanded a 16% price premium on goods and services—and increased customer loyalty.

Data transparency is key

Data is at the heart of a successful e-commerce strategy: Product data, enterprise data, supply chain data, and customer data. How it’s collected, used, and distributed contributes to the customer experience.

Brands that are winning at customer experience are the ones that are transparent about everything from how their products are sourced to how customer data is stored.

Data transparency is an end-to-end commitment. Customers want to see detailed product information and they are doing more research about the products they buy. Information about how a product is manufactured, where ingredients are sourced, sustainability, and fair trade practices matter to consumers. Roughly 75% of consumers will pay more for products that offer complete transparency; providing it builds trust and enhances the buying experience.

Consumers also expect accuracy and transparency when it comes to product availability, order fulfillment, and return policies. Technology that connects your business systems so you can provide accurate information about inventory, shipping costs, and delivery times builds customer confidence that you’ll deliver on your promises.

When it comes to personal data, consumers are conflicted. They recognize the trade-off between sharing personal information and superior customer experience, but they’re not confident that brands have their best interests in mind with their data policies. Only 20% would volunteer personal information upfront in exchange for a more personalized experience. Brands have to offer clear value in exchange for personal data—and they must be scrupulously transparent about the information they collect and how it is used and stored.

Is technology holding you back?

Technology enables great customer experience, but it can’t solve systemic problems within your martech ecosystem. The Acquia report found that 57% of marketers said technology was an unresolved pain point that actually made it more difficult to create good customer experiences:

Fully 84% said they needed their technology solutions to work together better in order to create a cohesive customer experience. Far from being a differentiator for many brands, CX technology is actually a detractor that hinders their current customer experience strategies. It also leaves them unprepared for emerging channels and technologies.

Customers want personal connections with brands and they have no reservations about abandoning one that can’t deliver a convenient, personalized, and transparent experience. Marketing technology that is flexible, easy to use, and integrates with other business systems is the foundation of a successful CX strategy.

Erika Goldwater, CIPP

Director of Global Communications

Erika Goldwater is the director of global communications for inriver. An industry veteran, Erika lives and breathes B2B marketing, content, public relations, and data privacy. She’s a Boston marketer who hails from Baltimore.