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Join author and speaker Shel Israel for this webinar as we discuss predictions for trends and changes to come in social marketing in 2016 and how to use these predictions to shape your social strategy. Secure your spot here!

Engaged Customer Communities: Your Digital Anchor

We are already wad­ing deep in the post­dig­i­tal waters; our rela­tion­ships to dig­i­tal have evolved from tech­no­log­i­cal obses­sion to an inter­est in enhanc­ing the human expe­ri­ence. Many of today’s dig­i­tal brands have caught the mobile cur­rent and are work­ing hard to nav­i­gate the streams car­ry­ing them into the mul­ti­chan­nel, post­dig­i­tal age. Brands that make cus­tomer expe­ri­ence their guide are in for a thrilling jour­ney that just might lead them to an ocean of dig­i­tal possibilities.

The word omnichan­nel has been thrown around so much its real mean­ing and pur­pose have been obscured. Pure dig­i­tal com­pa­nies are look­ing for a way to cre­ate per­sonal, local engage­ment with­out open­ing a store­front. Brick and mor­tars are seek­ing ways to be more use­ful and inte­grated with their cus­tomers’ lives out­side the store. Think of Ama­zon offer­ing same-day ship­ping, or West Elm part­ner­ing with Etsy to cre­ate a hyper­local online expe­ri­ence. The whole point of omnichan­nel mar­ket­ing is engage­ment. It’s the abil­ity to con­sider all points of engage­ment and art­fully use those that mat­ter to your cus­tomers to increase brand value.

Mul­ti­chan­nel cam­paign man­age­ment emerged as a top pri­or­ity for both B2B and B2C mar­keters in 2014. Dig­i­tal mar­keters who are inter­ested in grow­ing a loyal, deeply con­nected fan base and deliv­er­ing epic cus­tomer expe­ri­ences should strive for seam­less, omnichan­nel engage­ment. But many brands are strug­gling to unify their efforts across mul­ti­ple chan­nels, lead­ing to dis­jointed con­tent and messaging.

How can we enhance engage­ment across the pro­lif­er­a­tion of cus­tomer touch points with­out los­ing focus or spread­ing mar­ket­ing teams too thin? How can we use omnichan­nel mar­ket­ing to improve the qual­ity of brand inter­ac­tions and become mean­ing­fully inte­grated with cus­tomers’ lives?

Engag­ing the Indi­vid­ual from Dis­cov­ery to Loyalty

The anchor of mul­ti­chan­nel cus­tomer expe­ri­ence man­age­ment is the cus­tomer life cycle. Accord­ing to For­rester, the cus­tomer life cycle is a “customer’s rela­tion­ship with a brand as they con­tinue to dis­cover new options, explore their needs, make pur­chases, and engage with the prod­uct expe­ri­ence and their peers.”

To develop your brand’s unique cus­tomer life cycle, cre­ate a sin­gle view of the cus­tomer. Each indi­vid­ual inter­acts with you in var­i­ous ways, from social accounts and user forums to web­site nav­i­ga­tion and mobile app usage. Hav­ing a clear under­stand­ing of the behav­iors hap­pen­ing at each touch point, and their value to your brand, is crit­i­cal to build­ing your omnichan­nel strat­egy. It’s not box­ing cus­tomers into a pre­con­ceived path, it’s about bet­ter under­stand­ing and antic­i­pat­ing cus­tomer desires.

An effec­tive sin­gle cus­tomer view is derived from well-integrated and con­stantly refreshed data, and pow­er­ful, real-time ana­lyt­ics. Here are three ways to develop a use­ful and flex­i­ble cus­tomer life cycle that will enable epic omnichan­nel cus­tomer experiences.

Set Sail to Omnichan­nel Excellence

1. Pack a Good Compass

Forty per­cent of orga­ni­za­tions cite “com­plex­ity” as the great­est obsta­cle to deliv­er­ing omnichan­nel cus­tomer expe­ri­ence. Cus­tomer rela­tion­ships are becom­ing increas­ingly com­plex as peo­ple have more knowl­edge and infor­ma­tion at their fin­ger­tips, grow more mobile and inter­ac­tive, and expect brands to offer more value and con­ve­nience than ever before.

Your goal is not to shy away from the com­plex­ity, but make sure it doesn’t dis­tract and dis­si­pate your focus. Clar­ify what’s most impor­tant to the cus­tomer and what’s most impor­tant to your busi­ness, and iden­tify where in the cus­tomer life cycle the two inter­sect. Then focus the great­est part of your efforts on those key touch points. Clar­ity of vision will help you make the right busi­ness and tech­nol­ogy invest­ments to sup­port the cus­tomer life cycle, and help your brand shine where it counts.

2. Chart the Dig­i­tal Waters

Seam­less and mem­o­rable cus­tomer expe­ri­ences don’t hap­pen by acci­dent. They are the result of bold and well-considered strate­gies. Your strat­egy will be your own, and should be led by your cus­tomers needs, prob­lems, desires, and aspirations.

Ford demon­strated some suc­cess­ful customer-first strate­giz­ing with the release of its new Fiesta model:

Ford fig­ured out some­thing very important—customers of its new mod­els like the Fiesta are engaged in other media besides TV.… Rather than plan based on old media approaches, Ford jumped the shark dur­ing the reces­sion and anchored the roll­out of its brand-new Fiesta in social and dig­i­tal media to appeal to new buy­ers in the chan­nels they already use for infor­ma­tion and exploration.”

Post­dig­i­tal omnichan­nel mar­ket­ing strate­gies are deeply in tune with the cus­tomer life cycle and able to antic­i­pate where indi­vid­u­als will best engage the brand.

3. Invest in Your Crew

An excel­lent omnichan­nel cus­tomer expe­ri­ence takes a vil­lage. You need company-wide com­mit­ment, with ded­i­cated sup­port from exec­u­tives and lead­er­ship. Your orga­ni­za­tion may need to com­mit with its dol­lars, skills train­ing, hir­ing pri­or­i­ties, tech­nolo­gies, or all of the above. Employee engage­ment is the foun­da­tion; you can’t real­ize your plans with­out it.

Beyond your own offices, you need the commitment—or engagement—of a thriv­ing com­mu­nity of cus­tomers, users, and brand ambassadors.

Before dig­i­tal, com­pa­nies used the Tup­per­ware model: recruit cus­tomers to become your on-the-ground brand evan­ge­lists, and in turn recruit more cus­tomers. Tup­per­ware made its way into everyone’s cup­boards with­out ever open­ing a store­front. Sim­i­larly, Amway pio­neered a mul­ti­level mar­ket­ing strat­egy founded on its inde­pen­dent busi­ness owners—individuals who mar­ket the prod­ucts directly to their per­sonal net­works. Today’s online busi­nesses are essen­tially fol­low­ing this same model of engage­ment, using dig­i­tal chan­nels to take it fur­ther than Tup­per­ware ever could.

Build­ing your cus­tomer com­mu­nity is essen­tial. It’s a key ingre­di­ent in com­pet­i­tive omnichan­nel busi­nesses, and inte­gral to build­ing pos­i­tive brand rela­tion­ships on an indi­vid­ual level.

Omnichan­nel Engage­ment Leads to Epic Cus­tomer Experiences

Deliv­er­ing epic cus­tomer expe­ri­ences is the man­date of all dig­i­tal mar­keters who are inter­ested in grow­ing a loyal, deeply con­nected fan base. And epic cus­tomer expe­ri­ences are built on seam­less, omnichan­nel engage­ment. Clar­ify your busi­ness objec­tives and deepen cus­tomer insights to form a bold, customer-first strat­egy. Then fos­ter an active, com­mit­ted com­mu­nity around your brand. Your com­mu­nity is the glue that holds your omnichan­nel cam­paign together, and will help you pop­u­late and form con­nec­tions between touch points, attract­ing new cus­tomers with an enthu­si­asm that’s recognizable—and undeniable—across all channels.

This post originally appeared on Adobe's Digital Marketing Blog.

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