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Customer Experience - Literature Review

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You are required to review the current literature on the Integrated Customer Experience and write a literature review which could be suitable for publication in an academic marketing journal.

PART A - Project plan, structure and chosen references

PART B - The literature review

Literature Review

Introduction

Consumer experience is considered to be the most important element for every business organisation. This ideology applies over every business enterprise in an indiscriminate manner; whether they are operating solely on web, whether they have both physical and virtual existence. The quality of customer experience is directly rooted with organizational survival and sustenance irrespective of the market condition and competition. Nevertheless, the concept of "Customer experience" was first addressed by Gilmore and Pine; their paper was titled with a word called "Experience economy". The core essence behind this word was about "how services are being commoditized and leading organisations are competing over customer experience". Better customer experience always led to better market position and a competitive edge altogether. The concept of "customer experience" was first tossed during late 1998-99, however the idea have emerged considerably. This has helped organisations to ensure they pay more attention to developing the product quality as they do it for advertising and promotional purposes. Although, they have emphasized over "experience economy", the core of this concept is still connected with the "quality of the product". It is practically impossible to expect pleasing response from consumer if they are not being delivered with quality products.

Main body

Branding Community
However, Roderick et.al, (2013) have emphasized over the "virtual context" more than anything else. They have shed their light upon "consumer engagement within virtual brand community". Their study involves an exclusive research about engaging customers on virtual platform and nurturing the relationship respectively. A community doesn't have any value until its members contribute on regular basis; lack of enthusiasm from community members would soon result in member drainage. The overall functional philosophy for any "brand community" is identical. Brand communities are typically beneficial for both consumers and business enterprises; consumers can gather information and any potential issue. While on the other hand, business organisations are also benefitted; these brand communities symbolize avenues for generating potential constructive outcomes in the most cost-effective manner. Consumers rely upon these brand communities for every possible product or service; they can gather valuable information regarding good and bad qualities about any product in particular. This is an extensive methodology for engaging consumers in the most effective manner. Brand communities do offer a promise of about a marketing program, which is in line with consumer empowerment, interests and intrinsic motivators. However, Roderick et.al, (2013) have also argued that, "despite of frequent theoretical use of "engagement" throughout the context of "brand communities", there have hardly been any attempts that were made to explore the term.

Nevertheless, the quality of customer experience as mentioned earlier is directly connected with the survival of any business enterprise. It might as well be the reason for an organization's downfall or failure, depending upon the quality of the experience they have caused for their customers. Marketing goal on the other hand must always be about "customizing offerings", which would help in recognizing that "customers are contributing equally". A co-producing customer is of great value, as his/her involvement is the key to ensure "customization does fit their demands in an appropriate manner". This in particular perspective concentrates over customers thought process about buying or consuming a particular brand. There are different elements that play vital role in consumers' consideration about buying or consuming a product. A customer before finalizing product purchase considers viewing hedonic responses, visual or aesthetic criteria and symbolic meanings. This eventually helps them to finalize their decision regarding buying or consuming a particular product. Such valuable information certainly has the potential to influence consumer decision; such information is based over the previous experiences gained using identical brand and product.

Hair et.al, 2012 have emphasized over different measures of the experimental aspect. Organisations today are extensively concentrated upon creating quality experience for their current and potential customers. That is significantly connected with their competitive advantage over other competitors. There is another sector that has often been emphasized especially when it is about "quality of experience", which is the "service sector". However, limiting the concept of "customer experience" to the "service sector only" wouldn't be much constructive, as customer experience for products is also important for organisations. The experience that consumers gain while consuming a particular product has vital importance for organisations, as that is the reason consumes will either be back or not.

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Customer Experience Designing
Customer experience draws a roadmap that organisations and business enterprises can follow for making considerable improvement. Marketing literature does propose that ‘anything that a customer is receiving or buying that, the consumer would certainly come across an experience good, poor or satisfactory or any other'. A service always offers an experience and every service encounter does provide a scope of emotional engagement, however ordinary the service or product is. However, one particular problem that organisations have always faced is "how can they engineer consumer experience in a systematic manner". That is the only way organisations can achieve "triple bottom-line"; not only refining customer experience, but for organizational workforce and the financial bottom-line as well. Irrespective of the advantage that constructive customer experience can offer, designing experience has hardly been given much attention. However, the notion has gained much attention over the past decade and as a result several tools were designed for reinforcing the "assessment of consumer experience" and "designing" it as well. The list of these tools included- generating experience clues, planning "servicescape", "consumer journey mapping", "service transaction analysis", "walkthrough audits", "consumer experience analysis" and etc.

On the other hand, Rafols et.al, 2012 have argued that "service system designing can be highly beneficial in terms of enhancing customer experience". This wouldn't only be helpful in terms of enhancing consumer experience, but the customers would as well be actively participating. Active participation or contribution from a customer is solely dependent over "how satisfied he or she is". This is the biggest possible advantage of providing constructive experience to the customers". This is an era of globalization, where no market is a local or national market. Organisations face the fiercest competition that they have ever faced before; providing quality customer service is crucial in such scenario. Malhotra, 2007 on the other hand said that "involving customers into designing process would be the best possible idea to achieve best possible outcomes". Referring customers as co-producers refers to the idea of "active participation from consumer's end in order to gather the exact idea of their needs and demands". This would be helpful for both the parties- organisations and the customers as well; organizations or manufacturers would be able to understand their customers better and customers would have their needs fulfilled effectively. The brand community serves an identical purpose, where customers share their views, opinions and experiences of using or consuming a particular product. This helps other members of the community to be safe and secured from buying a product that isn't worthy. Business organisations also depend upon these brand communities, they act as a valuable source of information that can help achieve customer satisfaction and eventually loyalty. As opined by Rafols et.al, 2012- this is more like a "holistic approach" that helps in designing better experience for the customers. The "experience design" has also been categorized into four fundamental phases, which includes- acquiring skills about experience design, gathering information and analysis, designing service clue and finally implementing and verification.
Moreover, these four steps define the ideal pathway to ensure the designing procedure is in line with the sort of experience a customer desires. This is the key to ensure a customer base that is ever growing and loyal as well, which in today's globalized competitive environment is precious. Customers can be highly fickle minded, which is even worsened by the presence of numerous alternatives due to a globalized economy. Customers today are able to choose form a market that is filled with numerous alternatives, they aren't restricted to certain brands, which automatically raises the level of competition among manufacturers. This is the reason organisations today pay considerable degree of attention towards designing quality experience for its customers. Although, these steps and procedure appears to be an ideal solution to design the best possible experience for the customers, there are limited evidence of "how following this have actually helped any organisation".

Rafols et.al, 2012 however have also supported the idea of a field-based and empirical approach in order to evaluate any possible change within organizations. Although, these field based methods are comparatively less reliable, but they do have the potential to offer great insights into vital issues. For example: it is necessary for every organisation to map every potential change in current trend; a field-based methodology is the ideal solution in such circumstances. Market trend, experience design, customer satisfaction and customer loyalty are interconnected; field based methodology helps in gathering vital information that can later be used for reciprocating customer needs.

Innovations in retail marketing

This is an era of technological revolutions; the business world is also affected by the continuous innovations in technology. Establishing an uninterrupted connection with the customer is of vital importance, which is directly connected with organizational survival and sustenance. Apart from the developed economies, the under developed and emerging markets have also seen considerable economic growth. This clearly projects "globalization by the retailers" and "globalization of retailing". Reinartz et.al, 2011 have argued that, the contemporary retailing has gradually become global in its scope. The particular term "globalization of retailing" includes several interconnected developments including- retailers from mature markets intend to establish in a market that is yet under developed or developing, supply chain securing operations every retailer has become global and finally gradual outbreak of retailing innovations across different parts of the world. The globalization forces to a great degree have influenced the retail market environment across various countries worldwide. All of these for obvious reasons have influenced how customers could view their preferred brands and products and purchase them. Alongside such changes, global scale retailers have also been confronted with a fact that- retail market structure across different countries is proportionate with its phase of development. Retailers across the entire western mature market face a typical set of challenges, while markets that are yet under developed or developing have different set of challenges and opportunities. However, the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) nations market has been projected to grow with a considerable speed. Retailing across mature market can come with challenges and opportunities as well. Most of the North American market is filled with consumers with stronger purchasing power, which certainly signifies that manufacturers need to go beyond of meeting the basic needs of North American consumer market. In other words, the manufacturers and organisations have to face a different kind of competition; they have to compete in terms of "creating superior value for their customers through innovations that does go beyond their satisfaction levels" (Shankar et.al, 2011).

In case of an under developed or poor market such as- African markets; organisations have to consider local conditions. For example: a major section of consumers across Africa doesn't have any bank account, which means their purchasing power is considerably low or even zero. This is the reason retailers across these markets have to focus on satisfying the very basic needs of their customers. Irrespective of the odds in both conditions, customer satisfaction and experience holds massive importance. Customers in both situations would be expecting quality; the North American consumer would look for quality in superior lifestyle, while the African consumer would look for quality in its basic product consumption.

Conclusion

This is an era of globalization, the market is more consumer oriented than it has ever been before. Customer experience in these situations is the key to ensure organizational sustenance in a globalized market. This wouldn't only help an organisation to acquire more consumers but would also help them to carve a competitive edge over its competitors in every market situation. A very basic idea of consumer experience is, consumers would be willing to spend their money over and over again, if their needs and demands are fulfilled. There are always numerous alternatives customers can shift to, unless their demands are met.

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