What’s the future of customer experience? To judge from a panel discussion at the most recent Sailthru Lift, customer experience will soon be everybody’s job. It will be better measured, and merchants will find new ways to act on that information. We’ll also see brands become more strategic in they way they blend the online and offline experiences.

The panel featured Laura Holliday, the chief marketing officer of online wedding registry Zola; David Glueck, vice president of data science and engineering at men’s clothing company Bonobos; and Dana Hork, director of membership at online retailer Jet. Marigold Engage by Sailthru’s chief marketing officer Eric Porres moderated the event.

All three panelists had an expansive view of customer experience, and hinted at similar ways that retailers would manage, measure, and improve it, detailed below. To view the whole panel from Sailthru Lift, watch the video at the bottom of this post!

1. Make Customer Experience Everyone’s Job

Each panelist insisted that customer experience should not be relegated to a specialized, isolated team. With just 35 employees, Holliday says that at Zola, customer experience is not officially anyone’s job. Instead, “Everyone’s primary job, when they come into work every day, is to enhance the customer experience, from tech to customer service to marketing. We talk about it relentlessly.”

Glueck’s perspective was similar: “I’m trying to think of who at the company doesn’t focus on customer experience,” he said, “because really, it’s everybody.”

Jet does have a dedicated customer experience team, but part of Hork’s job is to make sure their insights get transformed into a better experience for members, no matter which department has to make that happen.

2. Find the Right Metrics, and Leverage Them

Measuring customer experience was a challenge to all. Bonobos has tried to use customer lifetime value as a barometer, said Glueck, but it’s frustrating: “You either have to wait so long to measure it that by the time you find out, it’s too late to do anything about it, or you use really complicated predictive models to figure out what it is.  But then, those models require a bunch of assumptions, and then you’re not sure if those assumptions are really true, or, if they were true, if they remain true.” Bonobos also looks at conversion rates from email, frequency of site visits, and purchase frequency. Glueck said he’d also found net promoter scores to be highly correlated with lifetime customer value.

Holliday described Zola as “hyper-focused on NPS.” When someone says they would definitely not recommend Zola to a friend, Holliday says, “We really stalk them. We’re in LinkedIn profiling these people, we’re looking at their Facebook, we’re getting any information we can.” Holliday knows, for instance, that a 22-year old in Wyoming is not going to have a great experience on Zola, partly because she isn’t in Zola’s target audience. Now Zola’s marketing is much more geo-targeted, focusing on urban customers more likely to love Zola.

Jet circulates all of its NPS results internally, sorting troublesome issues by the team that can fix them, and sharing the information widely. “It’s not meant to point fingers,” said Hork. “It’s literally so that everyone has the information at their fingertips in order to be able to take those learnings and apply them.

3. Combine the Strengths of Stores with Online

What’s next in customer experience? Both Glueck and Holliday pointed to the ability to better merge the in-store shopping experience with the online one. Glueck said beacon technology is worth watching, even though, at this stage, he thought it was still a bit too prone to  the ‘creep-out factor.’ Holliday said Zola is examining the value of a physical store, since Zola offers many lesser-known brands that customers might want to see in person.

In fact, when asked what’s coming next, only Hork, from Jet, was solely focused on online (perhaps not surprising, given the company’s current business model). Jet, said Hork, is working to make sure that technology such as recommendation engines really does differentiate her company, and not just replicate what others have done. All of which sounds like good news for browsers, customers, and shoppers, in both the digital and the offline realms.


The 4 Drivers of Customer Retention

17 Stats on the Current State of Customer Experience

Customer Experience Trends for 2016