I’m always on the lookout for interesting articles to share. You can share articles you find interesting with me on Twitter at @Bazaarvoice.

How the customer experience sets you apart in the age of social business
by Stefan Pfeiffer for SmartBlog

Stefan touches on the convergence of all channels through which a customer interacts with a business, and all experiences across every part of the business. You can no longer have siloed information for one person’s business account and personal account, with no overlap. If they call for service or use your mobile app, they expect to be able to access all of their information at once. In short, they want to you know them. That means collecting all of their data, making it available across every channel and to every associate they interact with, and using it to improve their experience over time – all of which make marketing smarter, says Stefan:

“Personalized advertising that builds on what the customer already owns, identifies gaps, and spots ways to expand the relationship is much more effective than trying to ram something down people’s throat by inundating them with spam mail and other in-your-face methods.”

The companies that learn most quickly who their customers are and what they want will set themselves apart through superior experiences.

The New Digital Experience
by Mitch Joel for Six Pixels of Separation

Dovetailing with the idea above, Mitch discusses a huge opportunity that most brands are still missing – a chance to, as he puts it, “do things” instead of “show things.” So, a brand can show you a snappy, well-written Super Bowl ad. Or, it can make a branded experience that connects with and improves your life – something like NikeFuelband, which makes the Nike brand an integral part of the user’s life and fitness goals. Marketers aren’t maximizing their opportunity to become a permanent, useful, meaningful part of consumers’ lives through great experiences. We’re still focusing too much on showcasing creative work by a third party; we’re choosing to inform through ads rather than engage through experiences. It’s time to create, says Mitch:

“Let’s just be sure to remember that as brands we can now actually create things. Meaningful things. Valuable things. Not just meaningful and valuable messages, but actual things that consumers would use, would share, would connect to and, who knows, maybe even pay for?”

The diffusion of brand, ownership, and experience
by Ian Greenleigh for Brian Solis

Ian’s article follows right in the same vein. A person’s experience with a brand is quickly moving beyond product ownership into something bigger (and when done right, more meaningful). In the past, your interactions with a brand may’ve been: See a commercial, own the product. But today, a brand experience extends before, during, and after ownership. You design your own custom shoes before every buying them. You sync your recently-purchased Fitbit to a mobile app to track your physical activity during the day. You have brand experiences that aren’t tied to a product at all, like Charmin’s “SitorSquat” app, which shows reviews of nearby public restrooms to help you find the cleanest. And you find branded content worth sharing, like behind the scenes footage from New York fashion week. All of these experiences are as much a part of today’s brand as the product itself – and brands have to work to make their overall experience engaging and shareworthy.

iPad app suggests tailored purchases for shoppers
by Tim Feran for The Columbus Dispatch

This example perfectly sums up the lessons of the three previous articles. Apparel retailer Lane Bryant’s new mobile/tablet app, “Just For You,” learns a shopper’s fashion preferences before curating items specifically chosen to fit their personal style and needs. It uses basic information like size and past purchases, but it goes beyond those facets as well by getting shoppers to volunteer useful personal information. It gathers reviews of past purchases to find specific concerns, like tops that ride up. It asks lifestyle questions like, “Do you dress to blend in or stand out?” And it has shoppers rate a series of hypothetical outfits in order to better understand their style and narrow down selection.

The end result is a better shopping experience that brings items “handpicked” for the shopper to the front. And in return, the retailer gets better data, letting it continually improve the experience each time the shopper uses the app.