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Thursday, January 5, 2012

What all brands must do to win consumers’ digital hearts and minds

 According to Gartner’s latest figures issued earlier this month, Smartphone sales reached 115m units worldwide and account for 26% of all mobile phone sales.  It goes without saying that if your customers are adopting smartphones and spending increasing amounts of time in the digital world, then you should be too.

Unfortunately many brands racing ahead with the digital revolution are stumbling across a big obstacle along the way to their goal: a limited knowledge of how their customers are connecting to them, their services and one another through these mobile devices.

This post highlights four considerations that you must address if you are to create real customer engagement in today’s digital arena.

1. Be relevant
Whether it’s community-based platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn, social gaming, location-based communication, social commerce or virtual currencies, the digital world offers plenty of compelling reasons for users to keep coming back.  The challenge for brands is to ensure they create and retain their relevancy with customers in this multi-channel environment. Brands need to consider how the content, features and functionality they have created for their website and the off-line world, translates to the digital world. Online fashion store, ASOS, is a great example of a company that has done this brilliantly. It recently extended its digital presence from a website to a fully featured Facebook commerce application – and in doing so has created an additional channel to interact with its 450,000 fans.

2. Collaboration and co-creation
The days of brands living in a world where their identities, personalities and behaviour are defined purely from one source (usually their advertising) are well and truly over.  Thanks to community-based platforms, brands are now shaped as much by what their customers say as by what they say about themselves.  One of the world’s best-known brands, Pepsi, proactively seeks ideas from the public on how they should deliver their CSR initiatives.  And leading coffee chain, Starbucks, recently changed its bricks and mortar café experience as a direct result of feedback they actively sought via its digital channels. These are both great examples of brands proactively engaging with their customers in the digital space, and the net result is of benefit to both parties.

3. Connect the dots between the physical and digital worlds
Advances in technology have enabled digital channels to replicate the physical relationships that are so important to us as human beings.  Communicating with friends and family using Skype is a great example.  Chatting on Facebook is another.  In fact, we can now communicate with each other at a speed and with an ease of use that has never been possible before. In the digital world it’s vital to ensure that your brand has a relevant presence at all the digital touch points visited by your customers.  But it’s also important to recognise that your customers are in the physical world too.  Ensuring your brand is available in the right place at the right time is a key consideration and that’s where connecting the dots becomes important.  Starbucks does this particularly well and its 20 million Facebook fans are regularly invited to participate in café-based promotions and events.

4. Touch-based interaction
Connecting with your consumers in the digital space is as much about using the most appropriate mobile technology whether that is a tablet, Smartphone, mobile gaming console or laptop as it is about having appropriate content.  Once you have the right content, mobile devices are fantastic tool for drawing customers in and encouraging them to engage with your brand in a way that feels totally natural.  As an example, ebookers recently launched an iPad app called ebookers Explorer.  It pulls together socially-generated content from across the internet, tailored to the destination and activity the user is looking to explore.  As well as being easy to use, it delivers personalised content in an easily digestible travel magazine format.

In conclusion
At the end of the day, we know that know digital marketing is worth doing – so it makes sense to do it right. As with all successful marketing initiatives, whether in the online or off-line world, your customers should have pride of place the centre.  Understand who they are, where they go and how they get there, and the chances of your winning consumers’ hearts and minds will be high. By Maggie Lonergan, client development director, Fortune Cookie.

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