We’re so excited to share that the first-ever CX Midwest — a summit brought together by Bold Orange offering a day of learning and networking for senior growth and marketing leaders — was a roaring success. Speakers and panelists from some of the country’s top brands took the stage to share stories, offer insights, and provide advice — all to help the audience think more holistically about how to evolve their organization’s CX approach and strengthen connections with their customers.

As Bold Orange CEO Margaret Murphy put it, “CX Midwest stems from the premise that authentic human connections drive business and societal progress. We saw an opportunity to bring business leaders together to network and learn from leading brands on how they’re reaching customers on a deeper level throughout the buying journey.”

Murphy kicked things off with some introductory remarks that emphasized one of the event’s most important messages: every interaction has to make an impact. The customer must always be at the center of everything you do. It’s the truth for B2C and B2B brands alike.

From there, a slate of great content followed:

  • Best-selling author and speaker Shawn Kanungo gave a keynote focused on the role AI will play in the future of CX transformations.
  • Panels featuring leaders from Nike, Walgreens, Mastercard, Optum Health, Reddit, United Airlines, Winnebago Industries, and Hashku delivered candid insights about strategy, content, technology, media and everything in between.
  • Speakers from Self Esteem Brands, General Mills, and Andersen Corporation presented BOLDtalks, energizing bite-sized presentations, on human-centered design, data strategy and personalization.

With the event behind us, it’s time to reflect on — and build upon — the invaluable information that was shared. Gathered here are some of the most striking insights from CX Midwest. We hope they’ll inspire new ideas for transforming your organization’s approach to CX.

Authenticity still matters — in fact, it matters more than ever.

Unsurprisingly, a key theme of the day was the power and importance of emerging technologies. They’re changing the ways we work, the things we can accomplish and what consumers expect from every interaction. Obviously, this is hugely important for brands to recognize and react to. But don’t forget this important lesson from our keynote: it’s also imperative to not let digital innovation come at the expense of humanity. Despite it being easier than ever to stay connected to one another, only half of the global population actually feels connected (Gallup). In other words, technology — even when created and deployed with good intentions — has the power to alienate. To avoid this outcome, keep a few key questions in mind during the experience design process: How can you help people live their lives? How can you make things better for them? How can you bring customers closer to what they really value? How can you inspire them? Your commitment to your customers’ quality of life should guide how you use available technologies.

Don’t get lost in infinite data.

The other side of the technology coin is data. With new tools at our disposable, we’re able to gather ever-increasing amounts of data about… well, everything. According to IDC, the sum of the world’s data will reach 175 zettabytes by 2025 — a number so huge that it sounds made up. The temptation to know as much as possible about your customers means it’s easy for organizations of all types to suffer from information overload. Thankfully, one of our speakers offered some tangible and replicable advice to help find your way through the noise: harness a platform like Salesforce to enable relevant zero- and first-party data capture — and capture only what you need to activate your experiences. This will help you circumvent issues related to increasingly complex privacy regulations and the slow death of legacy targeting methods, plus zero-in on the information that’s most useful to have. From there, you’ll be able to leverage what you’ve captured to create tailored journeys and deliver more personalized content and experiences.

Personalization is powerful.

Speaking of personalization… Here was another key theme that carried us through the day, and the message was simple: the ability to deliver personalized experiences is essential to staying relevant to your target audiences. Just look at this: according to one McKinsey study, 77% of companies using direct one-to-one personalization observed an increase in market share. Execution, however, can be complicated — that’s why it was so helpful that some of our speakers shared an approach for breaking the work into phases: Start by deploying personalized experiences based solely on concrete actions taken by your customers. Next, layer in the direct inputs that your customers provide. Finally, incorporate the preferences your customers express. In other words, don’t try to come out of the gate with highly complex personalized experiences that leverage all your available data. Take small steps, focusing on incremental growth, and you’ll be much more likely to achieve sustainable long-term success.

It’s time to decide how you should use AI.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re worried about AI (38% of employees think that their job will be automated soon) or even just tired of hearing about it — it isn’t going anywhere. That means your job now is to figure out how you can best use it as a tool to improve your own capabilities and drive value for your customers. If that’s something you’re struggling with, try reframing how you think about the role of artificial intelligence: rather than an output, treat it like an input. How can AI be incorporated into your company’s existing workflows? Could you use it to generate initial inspiration for SEO-optimized content? Or to more quickly bring to life a creative concept for an upcoming video shoot? Rather than getting distracted or discouraged by the hype train, focus on the practical steps you can take today to benefit from this powerful new tool.

Innovation takes time — and that’s okay.

Most of us are determined to be as efficient as possible — always. A noble goal, but what if that weren’t the case? What could we accomplish if we allowed ourselves, and our teams, more time to ponder, explore and experiment? Again and again, the speakers and panelists at CX Midwest emphasized the importance of purposefully opening up more time and space for the sake of innovation. And for good reason: according to McKinsey, “business leaders expect that by 2026, half of their companies’ revenues will come from products, services, or businesses that haven’t been created yet.” Use human-centered design to sketch out new ideas, diagram some unconventional approaches, create paper and cardboard prototypes — you get the idea. Not everything will turn to gold, but that’s okay. You won’t arrive at the good ideas — the ones that change your business for the better — if you’re afraid of the time you’ll lose on the ones that don’t work out.

If nothing else, align on the moments that really matter.

CX isn’t the job of a single team — or at least it shouldn’t be. After all, according to Qualtrics, “the gap in stock prices between CX leaders and CX laggards grew from 24% in 2019 to 66% at the end of 2021.” In an ideal world, a commitment to the customer would be every company’s guiding ethos, one that encourages constant and robust collaboration. In reality, it isn’t always easy to foster such a silo-free environment. To start heading in the right direction, choose a few key moments in your customer’s buying journey, bring together a cross-functional team (marketing, product, technology, operations, etc.) and strategize with your colleagues about how you can collectively improve your chosen touchpoints. What changes would you make as a group? How will you bring your ideas to life? Choose a framework for bringing CX opportunities to market and use it to guide your approach.

Take a pause before you jump on the bandwagon.

As we mentioned above, technology is evolving at a breakneck pace, and that means businesses are too. Just a few years ago, the idea of shopping in the Metaverse seemed more sci-fi than everyday reality — and yet here we are. According to a study from Roblox and the Parsons School of Design, more than 50% of Gen Z values their virtual closet as much as their closet IRL. But just because your brand can do something doesn’t mean it should. At the end of the day, your focus must remain on creating relevant and frictionless experiences for your customers — and the latest innovation isn’t necessarily the right answer. Remember: 74% of consumers will ditch a brand if they find the purchasing process to be too complicated (Salesforce). As your organization begins to incorporate emerging technologies into its business, product and marketing strategies, make sure it’s doing so meaningfully. For example: if someone is trying to buy a jacket, they might not want to enter an immersive, interactive environment — they could just want to buy the jacket while expending as little energy as possible.

Ready to turn insight into action?

At the end of the day, taking action is the only thing that counts — because action changes everything. Get in touch to explore how Bold Orange can help your business create stronger customer experiences to drive acquisition, growth and retention.