In 2020, a crucial lesson surfaced between consumers and businesses: digital customer experience is vital at every level. Companies had to look beyond their customer experience models and pivot their digital marketing strategies to accommodate rapidly increasing online consumer demands. Enter digital marketing: the customer experience lever brands quickly adapted to using.
Digital marketing did more than entice new shoppers this year. This year, the most successful brands used digital marketing to develop customer loyalty, streamline the customer journey, and give purpose to every transaction.
Meeting Consumers in New Virtual Avenues
In a 2020 Edleman survey, 22,000+ respondents in 11 markets indicated that “brand trust is more vital than reputation, performance or even how well a brand treats its customers.” Bringing trust to the forefront of a company’s marketing strategy and digitally enabling the business model stands to improve the customer experience experience ten-fold. However, performance and respect still go a long way, especially as all interactions shifted towards virtual.
Before 2020, the focus was overwhelmingly on the on-the-go consumer with mobile being the predominant virtual medium. With a travel lull came less cell phone usage. Consumers are more inclined to use a tablet or laptop, and, as a result, global demands have shifted simultaneously. Consumers want 100% of their content delivered online.
Consumer expectations encompassing an all-inclusive virtual connection are in stark contrast to pre-COVID consumer behaviors when tactile brick-and-mortar transactions influenced a significant digital marketing sector and drove spending behaviors and how consumers searched for information.
Cotopaxi provides a nice example of this transition to the digital marketing sector. Their “Questival” cultivates outdoor exploration in the community through 24-hour scavenger hunts in various locations guided by the brand’s app. Following the COVID-19 outbreak, however, Cotopaxi launched a nationwide “Questival Quaranteam”, offering virtual challenges and encouraging participants to upload photos and videos of their endeavors to social media and the brand’s app. In the end, the virtual race saw the best engagement metrics Cotopaxi had seen, a boost in audience size, and skyrocketing sentiment from fans.
Creating a Seamless, but Striking Digital Experience for Customers
Standing out amongst the clutter of social media feeds and digital avenues proved challenging for brands using traditional messages. People craved new content that was relatable and relevant to Discounting narrow and slanted news channels and choosing instead to download apps that offer quantified neighborhood-specific data. A desire to connect virtually with family, and friends, indicates a new pattern in the way products and information are being shared. These newfound behaviors impact how consumers search for information relative to daily activities and shop for essentials. And with most of the global workforce, suddenly thrust into the situation of accommodating a living and working environment from home, all the time, delivery is at the core of everyday life.
With the global community facing the continuing prospects of living in a new normal, turning their attention towards their devices as the sole source of information, and to each other to share that information, means businesses must invest in new digital marketing strategies and radically shift to adapt. Successful digital marketing means meeting customers where they are. Even as early as April of 2020, roughly half of U.S. adults (53%) said the internet has been essential during the pandemic.
- Unique collaborations: Adopt, support, and market smaller trending boutique brands. Donate a portion of every sale to a cause that relates to the company’s mission. Partner with a brand to create a dual customer loyalty program.
- Memorable moments – Recreate online and physical shopping experiences. Pop-up shops and smaller stores minimize costs related to space and inventory. Commit to marketing and offering limited and relevant products.
- Bring Awareness – Convert advertising budgets into unique original content. Mirror the business model by creating online experiences; cooking classes, virtual personal trainers, self-care tutorials. Offer push notifications that match these new experiences, and source and refresh old blog content that may provide relevance. Leverage new promotional strategies and market them to meet audience demands. Be open to feedback.
- Improved delivery: No surprise, the need for food and grocery delivery has increased exponentially. In 2020, GrubHub alone reported a 20% increase in order totals. Partner with third-party platforms offering contactless delivery. Cut costs but keep the quality by marketing through a ghost kitchen.
- Become more contactless and cash-free – Incentivize all the possible ways that the customer experience is contactless and cash-free until post-COVID when all touchpoint transactions can resume safely.
The Source of Truth
The customer experience relies on one significant source of truth: a company’s willingness to remain transparent and open to ever-changing consumer demands. The bottom line is to market with existing customer voices. Investing in new technology to support new customer needs for this social proof will be critical for embracing transparency in this new chapter.
In a year of such uncertainty, digital marketing must emphasize the business model’s many aspects – the receiving of information, goods, and services – directly to consumers’ homes. And the understanding of how to do so in the safest manner possible. Use social media platforms to leverage consumer preferences in real-time. Become community-driven to engage with consumers, ask questions, welcome feedback, and provide solutions.
Despite the challenges, consumers have remained unyielding. However, expectations have changed. To drive customer experience:
- Design digital marketing strategies which rest on a foundation of trust, authenticity and transparency.
- Make brand-specific improvements that represent core values and mission statements.
- Show consumers by featuring highly-engaged customers; that’s who new customers trust the most.
The surge in online usage to rapidly understand consumer sentiment and develop new ideas has proven precisely why and where consumers prefer to be met.
Mikkel Andreassen is passionate about customer experience in every color of the beautiful customer engagement spectrum. He loves building great connections with his customers, which often lead to meaningful friendships that last a lifetime and inspire his work. Driven by the genuine belief that customer experience is the pivotal force that drives a successful business, he is currently at the helm of Dixa’s customer experience strategy.