‘Digital’ is no longer a buzz word in business circles, nor is it viewed as another tool in the marketing arsenal. It’s now so integrated into our lives that it underlies everything we do.
Consequently digital has radically changed the rules with regard to managing a brand’s development and reputation. Companies are now operating in a post-digital world, which continues to evolve, and challenges marketeers to constantly update their strategies to stay relevant.
Traditional brand building models are no longer adequate on their own and must be fully underpinned and leveraged with a digital strategy if they are to flourish. Put digital centre stage if you want to succeed. Fully embracing digital is critical to building a brand that remains relevant with today’s customer and enjoys sustainable growth.
Understanding Your Customers Online
Customers are increasingly becoming ‘digital natives’; embracing digital technology in all aspects of their daily lives. Creating a brand that remains relevant in the post-digital world starts with understanding the post-digital global culture.
Digital natives like to converse and share information online. The ease at which today’s customers can talk about a brand online, share their opinions, and influence the market means that, in essence, digital natives have become co-creators of your brand. They drive your image, reputation and bottom line.
As your customers becoming increasingly powerful in shaping your brand it is critical you fully understand they are in effect co-branders. Rather than trying to control customer opinion, successful brands are those who aim to listen, understand and engage with their customers. To succeed you must build your brand strategy with a fully inclusive thought process that respectfully includes, understands and integrates their input.
Your customers will talk about you and disseminate their opinions to the market whether you engage or not. Far better to proactively and responsively be part of the conversations! Anything that hinders speed and agility contributes to failure. The market is littered with disaster case studies of brands that arrogantly ignored or poorly responded to their customers, contributing to their own demise.
Brands that embrace this fluid and constantly changing dynamic with their customers have a far greater capability for exponential growth and lasting success.
Engaging with Your Customers Online
Never before has engaging with digital natives at all touch points been such a critical factor in the development and success of brands. Customers increased access to information, choice, and purchasing opportunities means it is a much more non-linear decision making process.
Customers now are much more influenced in their purchasing decisions by online conversations, reviews and pre-purchase interactions, even if their final actual purchase is made offline. Social endorsement carries huge weight in the purchasing mindset today.
- 76% of customers recommend companies they trust to a friend or colleague. (Source: Edelman)
- The Millennial generation are highly-skeptical of brand content and marketing in social media. Instead 86% of customers in that group say that user-generated content has more influence on what they buy. (Source: Bazaarvoice Study)
- 62% of all online shoppers read product-related comments from friends on Facebook, with 75% of these shoppers clicking through to the retailers site. (Source: Sociable Labs Social Impact Consumer Study)
With the voice of their peers having greater influence than the voice of the proprietary company, brands must make sure that they solicit feedback from customers in order to ensure their offering remains relevant, satisfies their customers needs and builds customer loyalty. Amazon is a great case in point with its recommendation system, loyalty programme, post purchase feedback and mobile app.
Unsatisfied customers can damage brand reputation at an alarmingly fast rate. By having an appropriate brand strategy and structures in place to respond and engage with your customers at all relevant touch points you can ensure that digital natives are poised to support your brand development in their online interactions. Honesty, integrity and responsive consistency in all your brand interactions is critical to your success, and is the cornerstone to your brand risk management strategy too.
Technology also offers brands new opportunities to engage with their customers e.g. QR codes have been used by multiple B2B and B2C brands such as Irish Management Institute, Guinness, Tesco and Volkswagen to instant purchasing options with apps on mobile devices e.g. Amazon, Ebay and many of the utilities companies too.
The ability to extend the reach of your brand experience has never been greater. By embracing digital in all aspects of your business your brand can offer customers a flexible and consistent experience, which they can also adapt to suit their lifestyles, and you can use to manage their expectations too.
Create a Consistent Brand Experience On and Offline
Customers no longer see a divide between their online and offline experience of a brand. Virtual and real worlds are now merged into a more complex tapestry of ongoing experience. Touch points that range from websites, to apps, social media platforms and face-to-face interactions all offer different kinds influence when it comes to building a positive and consistent brand experience.
Digital is now a fully integrated part of peoples’ lives therefore it should also be fully integrated into your brand strategy so that your online and offline brand activity seamlessly merges into one great experience for your customers and enhances their lives.
Consistency in the brand experience is critical in the building of a relationship with your customer. Customers expect to be able to get feedback, deals and reviews, even while standing in a retail or service environment. Brands must be proactive in order to be relevant.
Apple’s commitment to ‘humanizing technology’ demonstrates success, which includes a formidable combination of its quality products with the experiential “wow” of the Apple Store and it’s ‘genius’ service. This symbiosis between the real and the virtual, including making an appointment online to get customer support at the local store, is a significant contributory element to Apple’s success. Apple seamlessly simplifies and enhances their customers’ lives.
Digital technology has forever changed our cultures, work and home lives around the world including social structures. This needs to be reflected in your business to ensure long-term success and be a critical part of your brand risk management strategy too.
• How thoroughly have you integrated your brand into the post digital world?
• If you are falling short in your online brand strategy, how quickly are you going to address this risk to your business?