Photo credit: Rodion Kutsaev on Unsplash
Advancements most brands have made during the pandemic brought the digital transformation era to a close. Now, we are swiftly entering the post-digital transformation age.
The new reality is that if a brand didn’t start interacting with customers via digital long ago, that brand is likely no longer in existence. According to an Everest study, 73% of companies could not provide business value from their digital transformation initiative. So, wherever brands may be in the process, there’s clearly some misalignment between what is being delivered and how customers want to be served.
Today’s connected customer has a new set of unreasonable expectations, but in reality they aren’t too unreasonable. Everyone accessing an app knows they can have their questions answered in a matter of seconds, and they expect it to recognize who they are and what they need.
Brands will need to do much more than simply provide interactions and interfaces if they are to lock in customer loyalty in the post-digital transformation age. Below we discuss three considerations for how brands can get ahead of the curve:
Recognizing, Personally Serving Who’s Behind the Screen
As soon as a digital experience is brought to the marketplace, it automatically starts to become dated and is under the scrutiny of customers. With emerging technologies being implemented every day, brands need to know that – before they do so – they must know their customers on a more personal level. What are their preferences and dislikes? Will the funds being poured into digitization be worthwhile? By understanding specific audiences’ explicit and implicit needs, brands can curate a next-gen digital experience and personally serve each customer.
If we look at the supermarket segment as an example, the conventional grocery shopping model is now competing with that of intelligent stores. Amazon Go is pioneering “just walk out” technology, with food kept warm for customers on the go who want contactless collection. According to RBC analysts, Amazon Go stores bring in nearly double the revenue of a traditional convenience store. An online poll by Pipslay also revealed over 60% of American adults would like to see an Amazon Go launch in their area. Long-term growth now relies on constant digital iteration that anticipates what the customer’s trying to do and improves the end-to-end experience.
Preserve Emotional Connections in the Digital Experience
In the post-digital transformation age, every industry is under threat of digital native competitors and market share is harder to hold on to. Recognizing consumers’ emotional states may be one of the most direct means of breaking out from the “sea of sameness” where brands blur into one.
In this new dynamic, the brand and experience have effectively become two sides of the same coin. Digital and physical interactions are driving brand perceptions. So, companies need to take a brand’s unique emotional connection and infuse that into every experience to drive positive and long-lasting perception.
Think about all the emotional states that individuals experience when engaging with a company. If I’m hungry and in a hurry, I need a rapid interface to allow me to order, such as Shake Shack’s “Shack Tracks,” digitally-enabled pickup windows. Or I might be looking to try a new cuisine and want guidance on available options. Companies can harness these emotions and use them as a differentiator to get noticed by certain customers within the sea of sameness.
Avoid the “Messy Middle”
It’s often said a company has a mere seven seconds to provide the information the customer wants or risk them trying a competitor. The linear purchasing journey is now a complex and disjointed path, with consumers exposed to new brands outside of typical advertising channels. Most websites and mobile applications have the same format, menu style and visuals, and create this “messy middle.”
When customers find a website that resembles any other, they’ll start to commoditize it and pick out new ways to differentiate themselves. The customer might look for the cheapest deal, the most convenient fulfillment or perhaps the closest location, but they won’t separate the brand in any way. This reinforces the fact that leveraging the consumer’s emotional state will help cut through the noise and drive an action.
With New Digital Expectations, Opportunity Knocks
The pandemic era has seen companies accelerate their digital transformations in a matter of days and months in order to remain relevant. Now as brands embark upon a new transformation journey, what’s interesting is that there’s no defined recipe for success. Once you’ve launched a digital experience, it’s already time to think about the next wave of iteration to anticipate what the customer will want next.
To stand a chance at surviving the new digital climate, brands need to find a way to truly differentiate each experience, provoke an emotional response from consumers, and ensure their purchase journey is as seamless as possible. Looking beyond simply providing a single interface means using the experience as an avenue for expressing your brand and driving customer loyalty, engagement and/or advocacy.
Rajesh Midha is President of Ogilvy Experience North America