It’s been six years since Gartner predicted customer experience would become the new battlefield. According to recent research, however, enhanced brand efforts aren’t necessarily translating into competitive differentiation — while 89% cite digital experience as a high priority, almost two-fifths of consumers say current experiences have little impact on what they buy.

This doesn’t mean experience is overestimated. There are multiple opportunities to positively influence consumer attitudes and actions with engaging interactions; as shown by findings that course-changing experiences can drive 54% growth in brand advocacy and 37% brand preference uplift. But achieving such gains requires the right foundation of true customer centricity.

Going beyond ensuring better integration between marketing activity and the wider business, brands need to implement strategies that always put customers first. In short, they must embrace the customer sandwich model.

Much more than just a snack

While admirable, setting the objective of re-framing business strategy around customers isn’t enough to guarantee delivery on desired outcomes, from better competitiveness to higher marketing performance. The concept of this model stems from the idea that strategies should be built differently from the outset to ensure success: starting and ending with customers and layering everything else in between. What brands end up with is a comprehensive basis for ensuring customer centricity at all times and offering streamlined experiences.

How is the sandwich stacked?

Every great sandwich has many layers, and a customer sandwich is no exception. Here is a brief rundown of what each level contains:

Layer one: At the very top is prioritisation of customer needs. The chief consideration for customers isn’t whether experiences will hit brand metrics or sales goals; it’s about finding the products, services and answers they want, quickly and easily. Consequently, identifying their requirements should also be the number one focus for brands.

Layer two: Sitting beneath this is consistent customer representation. Driving sustainable revenue and growth will always be an important aspect of any brand strategy, but adding this level ensures customer and business interests are evenly balanced. Often led by Customer Success Manager, team KPIs are customer needs and duties include designing processes to cater for them, in addition to cultivating closer relationships.  

Layer three: The hearty middle section mixes together all broader teams. Covering every worker — as well as the procedures and technologies they use — it’s centred on optimising organisation-wide cohesion and links directly into the next tier.

Layer four: A sophisticated tool for coordinating customer journeys. By unifying diverse data, this element of the sandwich produces a complete customer view that helps brands drive seamless, tailored, and valuable experiences.

Layer five: Advanced data amalgamation capabilities are also especially critical for the last layer, which returns squarely to customers and persistently aligning with their needs.

What does successful preparation involve?

The key challenge brands need to overcome is far from new: silos. Although most are aware of the problems fragmentation can fuel, there is an ongoing tendency to structure teams in isolated verticals, such as ad management, analytics, and CRM.

When each silo is following its own unique workflow and independently collecting, and storing data, the result is a splintered picture of customers that’s frequently composed of numerous differing perceptions. For example, customer service specialists might have a qualitative perspective on historic customer enquiries via email or instant chats, while marketing and analytics teams see quantitative data on recent responses to digital advertising campaigns.

Fortunately, addressing these issues isn’t as complicated as it seems. By drawing on two key ingredients, brands can optimise the effectiveness of both customer sandwich assembly and the long-term operations.

Customer data platforms (CDPs): These tools allow brands to instantly collate multiple pockets of data — including individual team information, past purchase records, and data about online and offline interactions — and turn it into a single knowledge pool. In the context of the customer sandwich, CDPs act as the journey orchestration mechanism; constantly organising data to generate joined-up customer understanding brands can tap to optimise cross-channel experiences and accurately assess experience impact.

Common KPIs: Similarly, establishing shared KPIs that can be applied across the board helps brands steer their organisations in one clear direction. To retain a customer first orientation, what’s most essential is avoiding the temptation to root KPIs exclusively in short-term and often revenue-based goals. Instead, the principal emphasis should fall on metrics such as brand loyalty, purchase friction scores and assessing product quality, with other business specific KPIs coming in as vital but secondary measures.

The missing piece of the puzzle

Often, the most powerful changes are relatively simple. By supporting their aim to maximise customer centricity with a model that puts customer needs at the heart of every step they take, brands can vastly increase their chances of winning the fight for customer attention, confidence, spend, and lasting devotion. Moreover, combining the customer sandwich and CPDs will better equip them to strengthen ties with new and existing customers via highly personalised experiences, as well as proactively anticipating their future needs.

By amalgamating incoming data about customer habits, interests and buyers, CPDs give brands the means to immediately adjust communications across every touchpoint. From bespoke advertising messages and promotions to tailored services, this powerful tool puts brands in pole position to use exceptional experience as a real value generator and differentiator.