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Customer Experience is the buzzword today, especially in the era of the internet. Marketers are struggling to keep pace with the ever evolving customer against the backdrop of emerging technologies. But have you ever pondered about the wealth of insights that one can garner about the Indian customer by simply observing the grandiosely ceremonial Indian wedding ritual.

Anyone who has attended a wedding in India knows the sheer number of elements that need to fall into place for it be a grand success. From shopping for traditional outfits and jewellery to getting the decor, catering and accommodation right, a wedding involves a mammoth effort from many quarters. Add to this mix an emotional element, and it becomes an even tougher balancing act. Weddings in India are not just events, they are cultural and ceremonial occasions that are cherished for a lifetime. A KPMG report on ‘Market Study of Online Matrimony and Marriage Services in India’ estimates that the marriage services industry in India was worth ₹3,681 billion in 2016, making it an opulent segment. For brands and wedding planners, there are key customer service lessons to take away.

Customer is king and going Omnichannel

Extending the best hospitality to guests is on top of the list for families hosting a wedding, in line with the ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’ motto of likening guests to gods. Anticipating a guest’s needs is of the essence. Brands can learn a thing or two about treating customers like kings. Customers expect to be served 24×7 on their terms in a digital world, and brands need to provide seamless touch points. Prospective buyers may move from their smartphones to tablets or laptops and the CX needs to be seamless and efficient.

Contemporary weddings marry online with offline experiences. Take the use of hashtags made of the couple’s names, live streaming or researching online. Customers could glean information on clothes, jewellery and other accessories online and then head to the physical store for a fitting session if they need to. A decor brand can allow customers to pick themes online and then organize a demo at the store or venue. An efficient online store combined with a physical experiential store that is interactive, engaging and user-friendly can be a winner. The use of augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR) to choose and test colours, patterns, jewellery and the overall look makes for great CX. According to a Goldman Sachs report, VR and AR market in retail will touch $1.6 billion by 2025.

The devil is in the detail

Attention to detail is crucial in an Indian wedding simply because of the many elements involved, and planners/hosts go through details months in advance. This often includes planning for invites, ceremonies, welcoming of the groom and their party, the guests, song and dance shows, return gifts…the mind can boggle at the logistics involved. Brands should learn to pay the same attention to detail, and be intuitive about customers’ needs.

Stress on engagement and personalized interactions

Paying attention to each aspect often means personalizing experiences. Much like a wedding experience where attention is given to each guest and individual care is given to each ceremony and its elements, brands should focus on personalizing experiences for customers, whether online or in-store. This means creating buyer personas, capturing and using data to flesh out a 360-degree model of a customer. The use of intelligent assistants and chatbots will boost conversations that will take the customer through the next phase of the buyer journey. Much like modern-day wedding guests wouldn’t blink an eye over the use of live streaming or hashtags of couple’s names for social media use, today’s customers are not averse to chatting up virtual assistants, and as a Gartner survey famously predicts, “the average person will have more conversations with bots than with their spouse.”

Indeed, Indian weddings have come to rely on a lot of online interactions, from booking venues to choosing wedding planners or managing guest lists. Social media has come in handy as well, as an increasing number of hosts take to messaging and social networking channels to collaborate and come up with solutions for certain challenges. WhatsApp or Facebook groups can be used for attendees to collaborate among themselves for accommodation or commutes. Collaboration through groups also helps hosts/planners manage multiple events at the same time. Assigning specific tasks to different teams, creating signages, providing online alerts all help. There are takeaways for brands here as well. Collaboration boosts customer experience. A brand would need to create a platform for customers to engage among themselves and create conversations.

Creating ‘WOW’ moments

Memorability is an important aspect of any event, more so with the big fat Indian wedding. There are some weddings people remember 25 years hence, simply because the hosts took care to make it memorable. Creating a surprise event or positive triggers are some ways to make an event memorable. That wedding where a flash mob came on stage? Or your favourite music played in your room? That wedding where you were given a keepsake you cherish? Or you were sent framed photographs, customised return gifts or a playlist curated especially for you just as you reached home? You still remember them. Lesson for brands: look for the one thing that customers will cherish for a long time to come. Create a ‘wow’ moment. Don’t just meet customer expectations, beat them!

Much as a wedding holds a deep emotional relevance in not just the couple’s minds but also families, brands need to hold customer experience close to their heart. The great Indian shaadi is a melting pot of promises, morals, emotions, joy and spectacle. Any brand needs to keep these elements alive to strengthen ties with its customers.