In a 2017 survey, 71% of small businesses claimed to understand the importance of going digital. Yet almost 30% of those surveyed did not even yet have a company website, and 21% of those who did, reported that the site was not mobile friendly.
A working website, let alone one that is compatible with mobile devices, is now the bare minimum. In order to compete in the new digital world, the most well-established legacy companies are having to rethink their marketing strategies. They're integrating social media, web analytics services, creating their own media sharing platforms and mobile apps — and it’s paying off, too.
ONE: More Effective Marketing
LEARN ABOUT THEM
Once upon a time, companies relied on the gut feelings of ad men to strategize their approaches to branding and marketing. Thankfully, the guessing games days are over.
In the digital world, marketers use analytics programs to learn about consumers, what they like, what they value in a brand, what turns them off, and what keeps them excited and coming back for more. This data helps companies understand their existing target audience, where they can expand that audience, and how.
STRATEGIZE AND PERSONALIZE
Embracing the digital world not only makes marketing more effective than the old ways of trial and error, but more efficient, less time consuming, and less costly, too.
Taking the information provided through web traffic analytics and imbedding that information into marketing strategies, the result is a personalized campaign that feels personable, too. In other words, rather than sensing they’ve been tracked, studied, and targeted, consumers feel as though it were they who discovered a cool new, perfect brand, not the other way around. And this is a powerful difference, because who doesn’t want to find a hidden gem?
TWO: Consumer Lives
There are two discernible shifts that takes place when companies embrace the digital world. First, rather than trying to devise a quick and often temporary marketing strategy, they begin to build a much more powerful and longer-lasting brand identity. Digitally savvy businesses understand that this is how you go from being an industry afterthought to becoming the first or second that comes to mind.
You can tell when companies have a strong brand identity if their brand name is somewhat synonymous with the goods and services they sell. For example, when people think of liquid dish soap, they think of Dawn. When people think of toilet paper, they think of Charmin. So rather than the brand just being another option, the name in and of itself essentially becomes a symbol for the industry as a whole.
The second shift that occurs is rather than trying to sell their goods and services to consumers, their new brand identity allows companies to engage with consumers instead. In the new digital world, to actively engage consumers is to become a part of their day-to-day lives. Establishing a presence on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat is the most common way to start engaging consumers, but there are other ways, too.
One way is to create online content that is valuable, informative, and relevant to the lives of your target audience. You can also start discussion boards, online contests, surveys, test groups, giveaways for tagging and sharing your brand’s content, and insider rewards programs via email and/or mobile texting.
Another way to engage is by turning your product or service into an entire consumer experience. For example, a Colorado ski resort created its own mobile app for skiers to measure their performances. The app also serves as a social network by encouraging guests to connect with each other, share ski performance data, photos, and even meet up in person.
THREE: Better Customer Service
EVERY STEP OF THE WAY
When companies improve their customer service, the difference is often hundreds of thousands of dollars in increased revenue — all thanks to positive reviews and customers who actually return. A customer’s journey begins the moment that they first encounter your brand name. From then on, it is up to you and your company to provide them with a standard of service that keeps them coming back for more.
Having a website that is user friendly and compatible with mobile devices establishes a solid foundation for good customer service, but digitally-savvy companies are excelling in the area for two reasons. One, they make it easy for customers to contact their brand online. And two, their customer service representatives reply to those online inquires as quickly as possible.
BLUNDERS = OPPORTUNITIES
Poorly stitched clothing, a misplaced restaurant reservation, bad stock advice — even the best of businesses makes mistakes. But when customers don’t get what they pay for, they often experience a particularly high level of emotion (e.g., frustration, disappointment). And it makes sense, because no one wants to feel taken advantage of or as though they’ve been ripped off.
Commonly referred to as “moments of truth,” it is of utmost importance to provide outstanding customer service during these instances. One study found that when companies act fast and go above and beyond to correct mistakes, over 85% of customers rated those companies even more favorably than they did before the mistake was made. On the other hand, when customers felt as though a company did not do enough to correct mistakes, 70% said it was unlikely that they would return.
Businesses that embrace the digital world have the power to turn these business blunders into business opportunities. First, they daily monitor their customer reviews and when they receive a poor rating, they reach out to that unsatisfied customer to make it right. But, they don’t stop there.
For example, an online jewelry retailer who is digitally-savvy would replace the damaged necklace and send a coupon code for 40% off their next item. This prompts customers to reconsider the brand, perhaps revise their review, and tell others about the experience which ended up being a positive one.
FOUR: Greater Brand Loyalty
THE DIGITAL EXTRA MILE
When businesses switch their mentality from merely trying to make a one-time sale to becoming part of their customers’ lives, they receive greater brand loyalty from those customers in return. In the past, it was the town baker, who with every weekly bread bundle threw in a few cupcakes for the kids. Or it was the dry cleaner who offered a complimentary shoe polishing with every winter coat. Or the florist who sent an extra bouquet with every large floral arrangement.
Today, businesses earn greater brand loyalty from their customers online. By providing quick and responsive customer service, free shipping, membership benefits, and offering discounts to customers who tag or share their brand’s content on social media, digitally-savvy companies can continue engaging their customers long after their first transaction is complete.
Businesses that embrace the digital world typically have customers who are not only more loyal, but also more trusting. One reason this happens is because of regularity and familiarity. When a company actively and consistently engages its customers, the very name of the brand itself becomes regular and familiar — and it is simple human nature to trust that which is familiar. A second reason for the increase in brand loyalty is due to a change that occurs within the company itself.
After taking care of its customers and establishing itself as part of their daily lives, companies often begin thinking and behaving like a kind of guardian over their customers’ comfort and welfare. But this is not a sentiment that can be manufacture; instead, it develops organically after time, energy, and relationship building.
Of course, it cannot be faked either because customers today have the entire world at their fingertips. They, too, are savvy. In order to believe a company is looking out for their best interest, consumers need to read it between the lines of that brand’s content. They need to feel it in the way they are treated after a completed transaction. And they need to see how that company handles those monumental moments of truth.
FIVE: From Customers to Advocates
WHAT DOESN'T WORK
In the past, brands worked to create a kind of persona that consumers looked up to, idolized, and strived to achieve (think Coach and Hilton Worldwide). While previously one of the most effective branding strategies, we hardly see it anymore. When we do, its success is fleeting at best, going out as rapidly as the next short-lived trend is coming in.
So why doesn’t it work anymore? In short, it’s a brand strategy that doesn’t attempt to earn anything from its consumers, nor does it add value to their lives. Because being a brand consumers look up to and being a brand that makes their lives easier are not mutually exclusive. Consumers will, however, go out of their way to advocate for the latter.
ADDING VALUE: MEMBERSHIP
An incredibly effective way digitally-savvy companies turn their customers into advocates is by treating them like members and each of their transactions as another facet of that ongoing membership. In fact, their membership begins the moment a customers visit your website for the first time, often long before an initial purchase is ever made.
People are much more likely to advocate for something of which they themselves are a member. This is why shopper loyalty programs and subscription services have become so popular. But there are also subtler, more engaging ways to go about it..
For example, instead of using airbrushed supermodels to advertise their infamous trench coats, Burberry decided to photograph actual customers actually wearing their clothes. Customers then began sharing photos of themselves in Burberry wear, tagging the brand all over the internet and across social media platforms. The campaign resulted in a sense of community and belongingness — and just like that, Burberry customers became its advocates.
Burberry is only one of many brands to embrace the digital world and successfully transform itself into something relevant for the modern era.
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