Two years ago, Gartner published a study that contained the following statistic: 89% of companies plan to compete primarily on the basis of customer experience by 2016.

Since we have embarked on 2017, Loyalty360 solicited the expert opinions of some of its members and asked their views regarding this Gartner statistic related to customer experience as a crucial business differentiator for loyalty marketers.

“Consumers continue to demand a positive experience throughout each step of the purchase path,” Blackhawk Network CMO Teri Llach told Loyalty360. “Interestingly, we see a positive payment experience as more essential than ever to a successful purchase. Payments are no longer just a functional step; instead, payment experiences now influence where consumers shop, what they buy and when. With myriad emerging payments options at their fingertips (mobile wallets, P2P, online payments, EMV), consumers can now be selective about how they pay, and are noticing the experience when they pay.”

Forward-thinking companies are generating greater CX, loyalty, and engagement through their own payment systems and use of branded value, such as alternative payment systems, gift cards, rebates, and loyalty points, Llach noted.

“It’s an elegant move, as the act of paying cannot be removed or circumvented by the consumer during the shopping process, but it can be elevated,” Llach added. “The key is going beyond just offering a branded payment solution to creating one that actually makes life easier or adds real value in the customer experience. Think about brands like Starbucks and Amazon–both have found a way to win the hearts and minds of consumers by offering seamless and personalized shopping experiences. In this instance, both brands have loyal shoppers that have adopted each brand’s unique payment solutions—Starbucks’ gift card/mobile app and the Amazon Dash Button, respectively—because they generate incremental value and provide a delightful CX.”

Meanwhile, Stellar Loyalty CEO Kevin Nix at Stellar Loyalty told Loyalty360 that new technologies have forever changed consumer expectations in terms of speed, convenience, and personalization.

“As a result, winning the consumer’s wallet based on pure product differentiation has become increasingly hard,” he explained. “It’s simply not enough anymore. A good or great product married with a poor customer experience (CX) detracts from the consumer’s perception of the product and the brand. The consumer now looks holistically at the product and the CX as one complete impression of the brand. Creating a fantastic customer experience is now make-or-break for brands in any industry.”

InMoment President Lonnie Mayne offered his views as well on the current state of customer experience as a key competitive edge.

“Nearly every brand on the planet, whether they are aware of it or not, is competing primarily on customer experience today,” Mayne said to Loyalty360. “Even in industries that are highly monopolistic, brands are being compared to best-in-breed CX leaders and held to much higher bars. Those that refuse or drag their feet in moving toward this new way of doing business are putting their futures in serious jeopardy. The minute customers have a choice, they will migrate toward companies that show they’re willing to invest in creating experiences−and relationships−that are meaningful.”

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