It’s 9:15. Coffee in hand, you’re making good progress through your inbox ahead of the presentation you’re giving at the 10am team meeting. All is well.
Your phone rings. It’s reception. A potentially significant new customer has turned up unannounced and would like to speak with someone now who can explain the benefits of your company’s services and why she should place her business with you ahead of your competitors.
Admittedly, it’s not a common scenario in today’s business world. But something pretty close to it is playing out for your brand on the internet – possibly right at this very moment.
Defined by your digital presence
We now live at a time where purchasing and communicating overwhelmingly starts online, and prospective or existing customers have high expectations that they will be able to satisfy their need to engage with your business digitally on demand.
Various statistics are available to back this up. Google, for example, tells us that 89% of B2B researchers use the internet during the research process, while 82% of consumers with smartphones consult their devices about purchases they’re about to make in a store, according to a study on the ‘research online, buy offline’ (ROBO) economy carried out by Bazaarvoice.
Search engines will soak up a lot of the initial activity in this awareness phase but when interest has been piqued, they will move through to your website, which takes on multiple tasks including communicating your brand, selling your credentials and creating the all-important engagement that will drive a user to connect with you at a deeper level. Similar levels of pre-purchase sleuthing will also be taking place on social media channels as prospects get a feel for your voice and your values.
Passing the test across touchpoints
It is a complex reconnaissance process, and it means your brand is effectively being stress-tested across all digital touchpoints on a near-constant basis. The expectation is that you will present a continuous version of yourself at each point, with inconsistencies in what you say or how you present yourself having potentially damaging implications, given the ease with which prospective buyers can move on to the competition. Pass the test, however, and your good digital health puts you in a position to reap the rewards of growth.
There are hacks, shortcuts and smart tools that can make maintaining your digital fitness easier but there is no escaping the fact that it requires effort, with so many layers involved. To make it simpler, it can be broken down to three crucial elements that should form the key pillars of your digital ecosystem. These are the aspects that should be acknowledged as ongoing operational overheads to the business, that need to be considered in relation to each other, and that need to be regularly audited, reviewed and actively maintained.
All about the experience
The first element is the Experience Strategy. From your social media channels to your website and beyond, the various interactions that audiences have with your brand combine to form a complex picture in their minds. The consistency and quality of these experiences provide an indication of your professionalism and credibility while making them pleasurable helps forge an emotional bond.
By empathising with external users and asking yourself the kinds of questions they are (probably subconsciously) asking of you, brands can get a sense of how well they are delivering a consistent experience at every point. Does it feel like a fluid conversation with the same ‘person’ or can several conflicting voices be heard? Is the user rewarded for spending their valuable time with the brand or would they get more from engaging with a competitor?
The second element is the Design System. Users will form judgements based on the visual cues presented to them and inconsistencies will act as bumps on what should be a smooth journey. Businesses can address this by ensuring they have clear and up-to-date brand guidelines for digital platforms that govern the brand archetype, tone of voice, fonts, colour palette and use of logo – among many other things. Ask yourself: Has each digital touchpoint been designed to be user-friendly, intuitive, useful and impactful? Do they work together in line with the Experience Strategy? If not, the trust you are looking to build with customers can be gradually eroded with each digital interaction.
The final element to consider is Technology. And brands must exercise caution here. There can be a tendency to be side-tracked by technology itself rather than harnessing its strengths to achieve a business objective. But setting out in pursuit of shiny things with a vague aim to achieve ‘digital disruption’ is unlikely to yield much of a return compared with investments that satisfy the unmet needs of core audiences.
Maximising the benefit from technology can mean navigating technical constraints, incompatibility issues or performance problems. And wherever challenges arise, it’s invaluable to refer back to the business strategy to inform your decision-making. It’s also important to remember that when it comes to innovation, technology does not necessarily equate to technical difficulty - it can be as simple as thinking about doing things differently, introducing efficiencies or re-aligning activities with business goals.
Focusing on each of these three core elements in isolation will enhance your brand’s digital activities but taken together, they can form the basis for the overall success of your brand online. To emphasise just one, or perhaps some, of the parts is to neglect the multiplying benefits of having all three humming in unison.
When that happens, you’ll be confident your digital house is in order and that your online audience is experiencing your brand as you would want them to at each touchpoint – after all, you never know who’s going to come knocking.
What are your thoughts? Does your brand have the digital power of three? Let me know by commenting below or by sending a direct message.