Digital influence – that is, the degree to which sales are influenced by digital at some point in the customer journey – is growing at an increasing pace. We are fast approaching a day when we can assume 100 percent of consumers will be connected 100 percent of the time. To survive and thrive in this environment, brands need to start preparing for that day now. This is not about connecting digital channels, but instead, this is about leveraging digital in a dramatically different way to increase digital share of mind.
Consumer power is consolidating with improved access to information, ever-broadening product choice, and opportunities to share their experiences more widely. As a result, consumers have become more demanding and many are now more skeptical about the ability of big brands to keep their promises. With consumers expecting more, it’s harder for brands to keep up.
While the digital revolution has handed additional power to the consumer, including more information and more choice, it has also increased the complexity of making decisions for consumers. Consumers have found ways of dealing with this tyranny of choice and many now use tools such as social media or price comparison websites to inform their decisions and exert their power.
This shift in the balance of power between consumers and brands has disrupted the traditional path to purchase. Instead of a funnel-shaped selection process, consumer journeys are now subject to interruptions, diversions, and delays. Moreover, when considering a purchase, consumers prefer to pull information, rather than have brands push it to them. For example, consumers are now actively looking for inspiration by exploring other consumers’ social media profiles rather than expecting brands to inspire them through traditional advertising. Post-purchase consumers are not only actively sharing views that influence others, but are also becoming more involved in product development.
Beyond simply consuming products and services, consumers have also become critics and creators. Many brands have been slow to respond and have retained silos that separate their various marketing touch points with consumers. Most of those that have responded are “fast followers” with few consumer businesses really innovating.
Innovators are those businesses that have started to regain ownership of the customer journey and digital share of mind by:
- Listening – establishing social media listening tools to track what consumers are saying about products or services and engaging with them directly.
- Inspiring – developing tools to use customer advocacy and social media platforms to encourage consumers to promote products and services.
- Co-creating – using crowd-sourced ideas and engaging in conversations with active followers.
Brands need to invest in developing capabilities to have better consumer-centric business models. Consumer engagement needs to go beyond the marketing function as it requires better collaboration across different parts of the organization in managing different customer channels. Brands need to:
- Decide on the appropriate engagement approach for their brands’ categories whether it is being actively engaged in the conversation, monitoring it, or simply ignoring it.
- Develop content creation and management capabilities focusing on informing and educating consumers rather than just selling to them. Arming consumers with the right information helps them move independently through the shopping journey, creates trust, and increases their loyalty.
- Invest in technologies and develop analytics capabilities to help integrate and track across all channels. Every individual journey should offer targeted response in real-time.
- Ensure staff at each level of the organization understand the role they play in serving consumers and empower them to make the right decisions in how they respond to dissatisfied consumers.
- Manage the reputation risks associated with social platforms by establishing tools to listen to conversations, engage with consumers, and help to share positive stories beyond the most valued consumers.
Different brands will adopt different strategies in building their digital presence. What’s right for any particular brand will vary by category, market share, and target audience. However it is created, a strong digital presence relative to the competition is a key element of brand growth. With tools that provide a simple and comprehensive view, marketers can now bust through the jargon and the data deluge to see clearly how digital builds their brands.
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