Want people to be obsessed with your brand? Then you have to be obsessed with them and their needs. That means understanding and optimizing every interaction they have with you – your marketing, your employees and your product and/or service.
Because in the age of always connected consumers who are looking out over a sea of unimaginable choice, they’ll ditch you in a heartbeat over one bad interaction and leave a trail of bad reviews. So you have to set a goal of improving every error and complicated experience. If perfection sounds like too high a bar to aim for, remember, your most successful competitors are striving and achieving it. The good news is that 64% of consumers are willing to pay a premium for simplified brand experiences.
The Brand Loyalist Equation
The adage used to go, keeping existing customers is cheaper than acquiring new ones. But the new reality is customers are temporary – a result of a rational attachment — but fans are long term, and have come to see your brand as fulfilling emotional needs. A fan’s value goes beyond the transaction, since they will talk about you in glowing terms whenever it’s contextually relevant. Fans buy from you, but they also sell for you. And a Nielson study shows that 84% of consumers trust recommendations from family and friends.
How do you get there? Ask yourself if customers know what your brand stands for. This gets you to your why. And it’s much more powerful than what you do or how you do it. Again, there are so many choices, consumers want to choose brands that align with their values.
Once you know your why, apply it consistently across every one of your channels. Not some, not most – all of them and all of the time. That’s where and when customers shop. The problem with killing it in one area but halfassing it in another is that people want to trust your brand, and disjointed experiences raise confusion and tension.
Getting Better Every Day
Being everywhere at once and doing it well requires a continual commitment to true service design and improvement. We are so far beyond the world where you could publish an app or site and call it done. Your digital and real-world brand manifestations are part of your product and need to be rolled out in the same way – quicker development cycles with an eye toward creating competitive advantages out of everything from customer service initiatives to product packaging.
The holy grail becomes true personalization, transforming the a-brand-speaking-to-many-consumers paradigm into a-brand-talking-and–listening-to-one-very-satisfied-consumer. If brands want my money, understand more than my preferences. Understand why I prefer those things. Serve me relevant content and choices. Actually, serve me just the one thing you know I’ll love. This comes back to the “simplicity” of brands that consumers prefer.
We’ve been promised integrated brand experiences and they’re really starting to happen. Customer Experience Management (CXM) platforms such as Sitecore, are now the centerpiece of a robust contextual marketing ecosystem by linking together content, commerce, analytics, and experience and allowing brands to individualize their message and digital experiences like never before.
Do Machines Have Feelings?
Maybe yes, maybe no. But your customers do, and that’s all that matters. And there are times when nothing but the empathetic response of a live voice will do. However incredible advances in artificial intelligence (AI) have made task-oriented service by bots a pretty satisfying for consumers and financial rewarding for brands.
If you haven’t heard of Bixby, it’s Samsung’s new digital assistant coming to a Galaxy S8 smartphone and promises to go beyond regurgitating data (Siri, what’s the capital of Montana?), and respond to requests for complex actions. Like, Bixby, see what time this train arrives at the station and have an Uber meet me there. Then tell my wife I’m on my way.
Sure, this is good for companies with the ability to develop this kind of advanced tech and conveniently have the platform to roll it out on, but it actually is good news for marketers of all sizes. First off, it stands as an example of how society will accept AI and deal with the privacy issues of an ever listening digital assistant powered by a commerce engine. If you think Google is reading your thoughts now, just wait.
Secondly, it’s an opportunity to make your offering compatible with existing services like Bixby. As the technology gets deployed more and more, it becomes less expensive for brands to deploy it. You want to be the pizza shop or vacation destination digital assistants dial up when people are hungry or planning a vacation. This means having the infrastructure that plays nice with the bots, including solid SEO. In fact, 20% of voice searches are location focused which plays into the hands of local brick-and-mortar retailers.
Getting Your Brand Ready
There are many improvement initiatives brands should be taking today to ensure they’ll be around next year and the year after. First, check the basics. Does your digital experience work without excuses? Is it compatible with how consumers engage? Does it match your offline experience? If the answer to any of these questions is “no” then determine if it’s poor execution or a limitation due to your technology stack.
Then consider how to turn your brand into a digital leader in your category – look at how Burberry turned itself into a top luxury digital brand or how quick serve restaurants have integrated digital ordering to speed up service. These examples leave us with two truths: the future here, and there’s still time for you to work your way in and win it.
Robb Stevenson is digital marketing heavyweight who has help clients from startups to Fortune 500 companies with their digital transformation initiatives. Robb uses a combination of his marketing, strategy, and technology expertise to help brands reach consumers in new and innovative ways.