As eTail West 2018 wrapped up and I headed back home to Atlanta, I couldn't help but feel that the end of a conference is a lot like the end of a vacation. After preparing for the experience, putting together to-do lists, and looking forward to soaking up new ideas and meeting new people, suddenly it's all over, you’re tired, and everything's a blur. What just happened? You had fun ... right?

Studies show that many of the psychological benefits of a vacation are actually realized during the planning phase. Your anticipation of the event alone provides all of the brain chemicals necessary to make you feel as if you had a good time.

I wondered if this were true for conferences. They're a a whirlwind of activity—lots of talks by industry leaders, tons of best practices to absorb, and myriad vendors to chat with to understand the possible solutions in the marketplace. How do you condense everything you heard and saw at a conference into actionable insights when you get home?

To be sure I hadn’t squandered all of the happy brain chemicals in the lead-up to eTail West, I took a moment to reflect on what I learned at this e-commerce summit and offer a few guiding lights as you embark on a journey to improve the customer experience.

Ditch the buzzwords for rallying cries

If you were at eTail West, you definitely heard that you should focus on customer experience, but now that you’ve left the crisp, dry air of Palm Springs you may be getting a little fuzzy on the specifics.

Looking back at my notes, I quickly realized that “customer experience,” “human experience,” and “personalization” were words used in nearly every talk I attended. But one speaker, Lucky Brands’ Kyle Pretsch, IT Director, Omnichannel and Integrations, called it like he saw it when the moderator asked him a question about customer experience. Before he answered, he pointed out that "customer experience" has become too much of a catchphrase, noting "Buzzwords are killing our industry. [We don’t need buzzwords.] We need rallying cries.”

Buzzwords are killing our industry. [We don’t need buzzwords.] We need rallying cries.

—Kyle Pretsch, Lucky Brands

This hit home with me. At FullStory, we’ve been preaching a similar message: Everyone in the entire company is responsible for customer experience, and we must equip and empower all employees to do their part. We believe that if customer experience lives in a single department, it's almost impossible for an entire organization to gather around the cause. In a world where everyone has a job to do, it's simply human nature to prioritize and write off tasks that sound like they are someone else's responsibility.

Therefore, “customer experience” can’t be limited to a job title or department. It must be at the core of your daily operations and culture, allowing everyone at your company to improve the experience of the real, live humans you call your customers.

Put the focus where it belongs

When I staff a booth at a conference, sometimes it's difficult to explain exactly what we do at FullStory. This is partly because we’re in an emerging market, and not everyone understands how session replay works or the value it brings.

Another reason is because we approach problems from a different angle than other analytics companies. When I fire up a demo and the first thing displayed is a list of real, live customer sessions, folks are understandably confused. Where is the dashboard? Why isn’t there a list of top level “features” that I can click through? How do I know when I’m “done” using FullStory for the day?

Truth is, those are exactly the types of tricks that analytics software have performed for decades. If you believe you can buy a customer experience solution in a box, and within that box there's a golden checklist that will increase your margins by 20% once completed, then you don't understand the depth of the problem.

FullStory’s focus on the individual user can be disarming in a world of “enterprise” software that focuses on abstracts and aggregates instead. But chances are you’ve already got charts and graphs a-plenty. You've got analytics. You need answers.

How do you get the answers you need?

Can you see the forest and the trees?

Back at the booth, as I reach for a Rage Click sticker and begin to explain to a conference attendee how FullStory uses machine learning to find frustration signals, a smile invariably begins to spread across their previously skeptical face. Why? Because everyone intuitively knows what a Rage Click is. Who hasn’t experienced this moment of non-zen in our age of technology? It is a uniquely human experience that employees, customers, and vendors alike can relate to.

Keying in to these shared human experiences while replaying a frustrated user's session helps you take off your business hat and put on your human hat, even if just temporarily. In this moment of empathy, you truly care to solve the problem. Then, changing back into your business hat, you can use FullStory search to pull up the aggregate data of all of the users who have suffered from a particular issue on your site so you can provide the business case data you need to fix it.

Yes, FullStory is more than just a list of sessions to watch. Search allows you to go from the micro- to the macro- via aggregated, dynamic insights generated automatically for every search and segment you create. We also have high-accuracy Click Maps that help you understand the big picture at a glance.

Finding a guide on the path to improve CX?

If you’ve committed to focusing on customer experience after attending eTail West, you’ll probably start by looking for a vendor who can help. Here are a few tips on how to start your buying journey:

1. Start with your culture.

Start by evaluating your company culture. Does it empower every employee to care about humans and offer their assistance in improving those people’s interactions with your product? If not, you may need to consider what small steps you can take toward promoting a CX culture at your organization. Angela Caltagirone, former Williams Sonoma exec and current EVP at Belardi Wong noted:

There is so much customer information coming back, like what customers are saying in call centers, what reviews are being left, what are people saying on social ... having the pulse of Voice of the Customer is a real opportunity.

— Angela Caltagirone

2. Identify your goals.

Next, before you go shopping for new tools, you need to understand what goals you have for customer experience:

  • How does your product reflect your brand?
  • What does your business strategy require in a CX tool?
  • What are you getting from your current tools and what are the gaps?

Carlos Moreno, CTO of, reminded us, "Evaluation [of a vendor] starts from within. It is much easier to evaluate a vendor if you're clear on your goals and strategy."

3. Select vendors who walk the talk.

Lastly, seek out vendors that have a similar ethos to your company culture. Find companies that are passionate about helping you make things better for your customers and not just focused on closing a deal with you. Make sure the software is as delightful to use as you’d expect for your own customers (after all, a tool based on “customer experience” should be easy to use, right?). And of course, look for a depth of data and features within the software that will help you solve customer problems every day.

Bring the learnings back home

What I learned at eTail West is that e-commerce brands are eager to "solve” the problem of customer experience. They're also thirsty for personalization. And they're in a race to gather the most data. As you'd expect, there are a lot of vendors out there promising that their tool is the silver bullet. The truth is that putting the “human” back in “human experience” is less about a tool and more about an iterative process, one that centers on genuine efforts to see customers as individuals. Ariel Kaye, CTO of Parachute quipped, "Building a brand is not a sprint. If you cut corners your customers will notice."

Building a brand is not a sprint. If you cut corners your customers will notice.

— Ariel Kaye, Parachute

FullStory is becoming a critical e-commerce tool can help that puts that perspective top of mind, guiding you on your journey to improve customer experience.