Improving the customer experience has become a priority for marketers. However, managing how the customer interacts with your brand across multiple digital ‘touchpoints’ isn’t just a theoretical goal – it’s crucial for staying competitive. Here are five tips for embedding customer experience into your digital strategy.
- Identify your touchpoints
With an exponential growth in technology in the last decade, there are many more ways for customers to interact with your business. Moments of interface between brands and customers take place across the company website and social media channels, and extend to campaigns and sponsored activity, such as Google Adwords and outdoor activations. It also takes place during after-sales, including fulfillment and feedback.
Each ‘touchpoint’ represents a challenge and an opportunity for marketers; you can either impress customers when you interact with them, or disappoint them. Just because there are many touchpoints, however, doesn’t mean your brand has to be active over all of them; this could be impractical, especially for small to medium businesses.
Action: Making a record of all your touchpoints is the first step towards strategically managing the customer experience
- Choose your channels
As part of building your digital strategy, it’s important to establish which channels are most appropriate for your customers. This is likely to involve a degree of research, to discover the channels that your customers use the most. If your product is funeral policies, the relevant channels are likely to be very different from a business selling key locks. Understanding where your customers are spending time online is crucial if you are to reach them with communications.
Bear in mind that your audience may prefer offline communications, such as magazine adverts, or out-of-home billboards. It might seem paradoxical, but it’s important to take this into account when forming your digital strategy. After all, the customer journey could involve seeing an offline outdoor execution, which creates awareness, followed by an online conversion through the company website, which may well have been unprompted by digital advertising. Take this into account by adopting a view of your customers that anticipates this zigzag journey between channels.
Action: Adopt an end-to-end view of how customers experience your brand, through advertising to fulfillment
- Be active, passive and responsive
Most brands have a presence that requires regular maintenance, such as on the company website, Twitter or Instagram. This could be described as the ‘passive’ element of your strategy. Brands are also likely to require bespoke, ‘active’ strategic elements for each campaign they run, which combine a blend of channels, content and duration, to achieve specific goals. There will probably be overlap between the active and passive elements, such as tweeting or writing blogs on the company website, to support a new campaign.
Of equal importance is the need to respond to customers who contact your brand directly with enquiries or complaints. Today, purchase decisions are heavily influenced by online reviews, and comments from people in their social media network. You’ll need to be prepared for adverse feedback, and your digital strategy should outline how this is relayed to the product development team, legal department and so on.
Action: Combine active, passive and responsive elements in your strategy, to cover all aspects of customer experience
- Nail your tone of voice
With so many ways to communicate with your customers, it’s important to be consistent with the language you use. Treating each touchpoint separately quickly becomes unmanageable and can cause confusion among your audience about what your brand stands for. As part of your channel research, establish the style with which your customers expect to be addressed. This presents an opportunity to win trust among your audience and build a relationship with them, if you can communicate in a similar way.
A more sophisticated approach is to deliberately subvert your customer’s expectations. This has been demonstrated by supermarket giant Tesco, which has gained a lot of positive attention for replying to customer social media enquiries in a variety of creative ways, such as in verse. For a large corporate entity, this can have the effect of humanizing the brand. There’s a degree of risk in this type of strategy, but as long as there are guidelines underpinning the approach, it can be effective.
Action: Establish a tone of voice for your brand to be followed in all digital communications
- Measure and respond
Web analytics tools offer marketers a treasure-trove of data that can be used to refine the customer experience. A key plank of your strategy should be to measure and refine your approach at every step. Using popular free software, such as Google Analytics, it’s possible to see where your customers have been prior to arriving at your website, for example. If it turns out they largely click through from Google search results, it might persuade you to rethink your expensive Facebook advertising campaign.
Also, consider asking customers to provide feedback through a short survey. Offering a prize or discount to those who participate can be motivating, and will pay for itself many times over if it reveals an important issue that you weren’t aware of.
Action: Adopt a rolling cycle of measurement and refinement, and encourage feedback at all times
In summary: aim for a seamless experience
Remember that customers’ impressions of your brand are shaped by the experience they receive after they’ve clicked the ‘buy’ button. So fulfillment and after-sales customer management is a vital part of your digital strategy. Overall, your strategy should prioritize a smooth transition for the customer along the digital purchasing journey. This means ensuring the back-end of your website is bug-free, to avoid losing the customer between their decision to buy and their payment, and organizing your website to make it easy to navigate and check out. Also, by clearly signposting avenues for complaint or enquiry, marketers can make the customer feel they are at the center of your entire operation.