Online customer experience is an important area of focus, when it comes to setting your digital strategy. 2017 showed us that digital and technology is growing at an exponential pace. We can now track customers more accurately than ever, at each point of their online journey. This in turn, gives marketers more power to control when, where, and how to show their published content, to optimise that online customer experience. How will this impact your digital strategy in 2018? Let’s review 10 key points to stay on trend.
1. The online customer journey
Mapping the customer journey is an important step in ensuring the goals have been met. And that the overall customer experience leads to a positive outcome, which in turn will result in more leads. But how do we transform our thinking, in order to incorporate a more customer driven approach to our marketing?
Your strategic marketing goal is inevitably to create and retain customers. We know the consumers’ attention is shifting online. So, it’s critical to not just stop at the traditional physical world of customer engagement and interactions, but to extend this with equal focus to the online world. This means stepping out of the mindset of internal departments and processes. Start seeing your business in the eyes of the digital customer, as well as the offline. For instance:
- Is there a better way to display this information?
- How can I reduce the number of clicks it takes to get my customer to convert and reach their specific online goals?
- How can I improve the overall experience?
- Is it a positive experience, or are our customers frustrated by the online journey?
Whatever the phase, it’s always best to question everything. This way, we’re continuously improving our customer journey. We are making the process more streamlined for our audience, which ultimately results in more leads.
The online experience is now part of branding
The online customer experience is all about creating the opportunity for a lead to engage with your brand, and make it more share-worthy. With a range of marketing tools, we now have the opportunity to measure the buyer’s journey, from the very first time they engage with our ads. To every single touch-point there after, from the website to landing pages, right through to an email confirmation. Due to merging between marketing, social and technology, there are now so many critical touch points in the customers journey, that it has become an essential part of the brand. Meaning, if we focus on delivering a beautiful customer experience, we are fundamentally creating advocates for our brand.
So, in order to keep our brand experience intact and our reputation strong, we are now required to deliver a sound and future-proof customer experience. In addition, this is an opportunity to move away from a non-interactive communication, and towards something more personalised. See the customer journey experience, as an extension of customer service. In turn, this will improve your conversion rate. This now leads us to our next point!
2. Personalised Content
If your company has a strong desire to connect with its customers, then there’s no better way to do this in 2018, than through creating a customised content rich experience for every customer. But how and why do we do this?
Personalised content is largely driven by great data. It shows insights into what customers want. Whilst it also reveals the capabilities in which content can speak to audiences, in a more tailored approach. I might add, that data also means compiling research, which will form the basis of your strategy.
Each of your visitors have different goals and objectives. Understanding where your customer is in their life cycle, will allow you to create content that is relevant to their needs. For instance, are they early in the game, and just interested in researching and general information? Or, are they a more experienced customer, where they simply have an idea of what they want? And are at the stage where they need to compare specific features, benefits or even costs to decide? Making content for each phase of the life cycle, will cater for a larger audience pool. This will also ensure your website is more functional, leaving your prospects less frustrated with your brand experience.
The rise of the ad blockers
In 2018, ad blocking is expected to rise even further. The stats are most likely in the single digit figures for Australia alone, so well under 10%. However, the topic has forced marketers to look at the reasons why installing ad blocking software, could potentially be an emerging trend among mobile and desktop users. At this point, it’s far from alarming. But we still need to do a better job as marketers, in presenting our messaging and content, in order to prevent the rate in which this increases.
As advertisers, it is normal to seek ways to show our branded ads to the maximum amount of impressions, to gain reach and brand awareness. However, customers like it when the content they see, is relevant to the products they want to buy. In other words, it’s more personalised.
So, instead of allowing people to feel like your content is interrupting their online experience, and consequently installing ad blockers. Create ads that blend with your audiences interests. And find niche ways to connect with your customer, by investing in relevant content, lead magnets or downloadable’s. As marketers, we need to learn how to offer our prospects something of value, in order to justify the process of channeling their information into our contact list.
4. Merge Content with Social
If it wasn’t big enough in 2017, social is exploding in an exponential way, in 2018 and beyond. You need to get your content out there and share it. It’s that simple. But, how you do it, is the trick. Advertisers are realising social media is the new form of TV, radio and press. It has simply been renamed as Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn. The key is how you execute this. And as you create unique content for traditional channels like press and radio, social media also has unique characteristics for each of the apps loaded, on millions of smart phones around Australia. It’s a fine balance between the types of content you produce i.e. podcasts, infographics, animations, ebooks, blogs, video, vlogs, downloadables, and understanding which pieces are suitable for the specific social media channels.
Social media is about connecting people. It is therefore a gateway for the everyday person, to become associated with your brand, on a personal level. While having this in mind, remember that the goal of social media is to drive the digital customer experience for that customer. To ultimately purchase and to drive more likes, shares, comments, engagement, traffic, leads and awareness your way.
The successful brands of 2018 will be the ones who invest heavily in content creation. It’s about creating a resource, and the budget that’s based on consistency and delivery of micro content. We’re used to putting the emphasis on large resource heavy communications strategies, like traditional media. We now have to change our mindset, by increasing the frequency of our content, to match that demand. Plus, the instantaneous environment that social media creates. If you’re not where the attention is, you’re simply not relevant, and your brand will loose traction fast.
5. Omnichannel is retail’s best friend
Omnichannel just means that customers are now shopping using a range of channels (including digital) that leads to foot traffic within stores. It is the mergence of the online and offline world coming together, to create action amongst consumers. It is therefore important to start implementing an integrated digital customer experience. So, ask yourselves where the customer looks, reads, views and buys. Plus, how to make sure that you make it as easy as possible for them to know about you.
In 2013, 30 billion phone calls were made to businesses from mobile search alone. This number is to increase to 73 billion by 2018. BIA/Kelsey
SEM ads on Google are a perfect example of how online demand is generating clicks, driving traffic in-store and getting the phone to ring. It’s the convenience of finding a search result, that’s relevant to my specific needs and location. Google refers to this as micro-moments. These essentially shape the customer journey, to drive decisions, which will ultimately result in physical store visits.
Omnichannel does not only allow for a better online customer experience, but also allows us to track customers. To understand them, and make sure we make our products and services available to them, at the time they need it. With the connection to data, we are able to track our marketing efforts from the online to physical world, and demonstrate how this effects the bottom line. Not only as a retailer, but also in B2B. In-store tracking, such as beacons and sensor devices are paving the way to connect our physical interactions, to digital analytics and tracking data.
6. Big Data
As technology grows at a fast pace, businesses are becoming more paralysed with the amount of digital data they need to face. As one of my clients used to put it, it’s “Analysis Paralysis”. Let’s face it. Data is relentless. It streams in from multiple devices, channels, and several touch points like websites and apps. It can be intimidating for brands. But a big key to the puzzle in 2018, will be their ability to achieve integrated solutions towards managing their data. The successors will be the ones that have the tenacity to segment the data, integrate it, make sense of the information, and use it to apply strategy. For instance, there is e-commerce, point-of-sale, mobile apps, social networks, and large email databases to contend with. It requires a fair bit of muscle, determination and co-ordination. And 2018 is the must year for many brands to do this.
Most businesses are seeing this as a process of digital transformation. But it can be easy to loose sight of the overall objective in mind, and that’s to fundamentally improve customer experience. By getting a 360-degree view of our customers’ behaviour and interests, we will be building a marketing strategy orientated on earning genuine brand loyalty. Big data is everywhere. It’s about harnessing the science of your customer experience, to build a customer-centric approach to your marketing.
In addition, organising and syncing our data, will ultimately increase the speed of our organisations’ ability to make better and faster decisions. We can also save time and money on key strategies. For instance, like whether or not you should introduce a new product or service.
7. Mobile! Mobile! Mobile!
84% of CIOs at customer-centric companies now focus on the mobile customer experience. Forbes
Mobile has empowered people to replace their Yellow Pages directory, with a device that streamlines those micro-moment. It saves us the most valuable commodity on the planet – time! When we look for a restaurant, directions, or a tradie, we’ve opted to deal with a smaller screen, to enable convenience.
From search to speed
Mobile has inevitably left businesses with the task of constructing a mobile-friendly user experience (mainly responsive websites), and optimising bids for location based searches. User experience is no longer just about the website design. It stems from a location based search ad triggered. Plus, the ad copy to increase click-through rates on mobile. And ad extensions to improve convenience. Or, targeted funnels that land people on the right page, and content that relates to the initial search query. And to think, mobile drove the intention and demand for all of this!
Speed is more and more critical by the week. Even though, the NBN is crawling it’s way across Australia. Businesses are now forced to step up their site speed, in order to retain customers on their site, and reduce bounce rates on mobile. In addition, Google has made this an imperative requirement. So much so, that it now effects page rankings.
Stop the after thought
In 2018, we need to stop thinking of mobile after the fact. It surprises me that still to this day, agencies and web developers are designing websites and showcasing proofs of the desktop version, before commencing work or even pitching the mobile piece. People are spending more time and attention on their smart phone devices. And it’s only going to increase from here. Businesses should be spending 50% of their time, energy and resources in improving mobile. Because more often than not, it is the very first interaction with many brands in 2018. It may seem over dramatic. But this seriously needs to start happening.
8. Video, 2018 is Your Year
From now, till the next few years, more than 80% of content online will be video. And if you don’t have video, as part of you marketing mix, then your going to loose in a big way. Netflix, Stan and various streaming services have pushed the envelope in the amount of content we are consuming, via the internet. As we binge on popular series, and YouTube subscriber channels, we become more in tune to a lifestyle of choosing what we want to watch. As opposed, to being fed traditional broadcasted shows.
Mobile is pushing the convenience for video to increase even more. It’s a lot easier to watch a video on a moving bus, on the way home, than to read an article. YouTube Red allows users to listen to videos, like podcasts, even though the phone is on lock. This allows people to multi-task, whilst consuming content.
And we are not talking purely about recorded videos. Live videos are a new trend to tell stories. And a new way for businesses to translate their culture, content and their thought leadership. The millennials love videos. Instagram and Snapchat have introduced live stories, which take video to a whole next level.
Improving customer experience, means creating rich video content that makes it easy for our audience to engage. To really understand what we’re about in the shortest time possible. Brands need to be more focused on the quality and frequency of low-cost video content. To speak to multiple personas and customer phases, as opposed to the producing one-off resource intensive pieces, that shout out to a broad audience. The more content we publish, the more in demand we appear to prospects. And in turn, the more relevant we are in the market place. Video will continue to enhance the customer experience in a massive way. I truly believe there are no limitations here. Better get started, a new financial year awaits.