Best Practices for Creating Unforgettable Digital Connections
By Lee Pittman
It’s certainly no secret that the global pandemic ignited a high-speed acceleration of digital adoption. And while many have welcomed the change and say they’ll never go back, some would argue that consumers’ enthusiasm for a mostly digital world is beginning to wane.
As the world recovers and we ease back into the “before times”, what does that mean for your company? Can you retain the customers who entered through your digital doorways?
This year’s Sitecore Symposium focused on creating Unforgettable Digital Connections and investigated “why brands need to deliver connected experiences to stave off digital ambivalence, encourage loyalty, and exceed expectations.”
Customer experience trends to be aware of
So, what are customers thinking about when it comes to digital as we head into 2022?
According to Forrester, 36% of customers say they don’t really see a need to return to in-store shopping after the pandemic is over.
That number doesn’t really surprise me, but what does surprise me is that these aren’t just millennials talking; the biggest shift in this kind of consumer behavior has been in older generations.
42% of the silent generation and 39% of baby boomers say they don’t plan to go back to in-person shopping. They’ve embraced digital and the conveniences it affords.
As we’ve seen before, when customers do visit physical stores, there’s often still a heavy digital influence and expectation.
A CMO Council survey found that nearly 3/4 of consumers say they want a blend of in-store and digital experiences and 70% say that positive in-store experiences make them a lot more likely to interact with a brand online.
So, we’re seeing a big uptick in the cross-pollination of omni-channel experiences – they may start in the physical world and end in the digital (or vice versa).
What makes an effective digital customer experience?
Let’s talk about the companies that acquired new customers who weren’t necessarily digitally-savvy prior to the pandemic. How confident should they be that they can retain those pandemic customers who entered through their digital channels?
What’s interesting here, is the data implies that the digital habits picked up during the pandemic are solidifying. As a result, those same companies that acquired new pandemic customers are sitting here thinking they’ve just won a loyal customer base and these customers are here to stay.
And yet, according to CMO Council, 65% of customers say they have not had a digital experience that exceeded their expectations during the pandemic. 65% … That’s a lot.
Now you could argue that many brands weren’t prepared to be as digital as the pandemic required and were merely struggling to tread water. Regardless, this is an opportunity.
A Sitecore survey found that digital differentiation was the top-of-mind consideration for marketers who were looking to gain a competitive advantage. And a majority said that gaining that competitive advantage was the main reason they were investing in digital experience for fear of falling behind their competitors.
However, despite the significance of differentiation, 72% said that it was increasingly difficult for them to differentiate on digital because everyone is fighting the same fight.
As Paige O’Neill would tell us, “Having that right contact or communication with the customer is exactly how brands can deliver that differentiated experience.”
So what kind of communications do customers value? CMO Council says 50% of customers surveyed said they want the ability to escalate to a live person, while 44% value personalized communications based on past interactions.
Customers will share their data but want and expect brands to use it intelligently by proving you know what kind of communication is going to work best depending on the scenario.
When is a text going to be welcome and when will it be intrusive?
When is it necessary to escalate to a live person and when is self-service the right answer?
Differentiation happens when you understand the situation, have the customer data, and the data, communications, and content strategy to apply it.
Intimacy inspires loyalty
One of the results of the pandemic’s abrupt, rapid digital changes is an unprecedented loyalty shake-up. Brand loyalty continues to quickly decline.
40% of consumers said that they switched brands or retailers during the pandemic.
25% said they now switch brands more often today than they ever have before.
What can we do to keep consumers loyal? A Sitecore holiday survey showed the top three priorities for this year’s shoppers are:
- Exclusive deals for loyal customers
- Personalized suggestions based on those past interactions
But in an environment when more and more people are willing to try new brands, it comes down to a combination of all three to really set the experience apart. And that combo can be tough to execute on at scale, but matching the right data with the right customer at the right moment is key.
61% want to get personalized exclusive offers from their favorite brands during the holidays and 56% are more than happy to share their browsing history to give brands the necessary insight to get these tailored offers.
On the other hand, it can be very frustrating if the consumer feels like they’re giving their information (sometimes multiple times), yet the experience doesn’t change.
How can you expect a customer to be loyal to you if they feel you continue to ignore them? You must differentiate in that digital experience to inspire customer loyalty.
Instant gratification is vital
We want what we want and we want it now.
Really, we can all blame Amazon for this. They started it all when they introduced 2-day delivery. It was unprecedented. I can get virtually anything I want and it’ll be here in two days?!
But we got too comfortable with that and now 2-day delivery somehow isn’t good enough. They continue to increase their velocity and speed up timeframes. And not just for deliveries, but refunds and returns too.
A recent Radiant survey found that 54% of consumers cited speed, convenience, and availability as the most important factors in the buying experience.
We’ve shifted from wanting instant gratification to expecting constant gratification and it’s arguably the most powerful motivator driving consumer behavior today.
This begs the question … how can brands possibly meet this expectation?
Paige says, “It really starts with anticipating customer needs. Sharing the right information with customers, setting expectations, and then delivering on the promises that we make. None of which is really possible without the right content delivered at the right time.”
The companies thriving right now are doing so by combining direct and contextual customer data with analytics and business intelligence.
Because of that, they’re able to gain a deep understanding of their customer that they can then use to anticipate expectations, respond with the right communications, and connect with personalized content.
Not sure where to start? Talk to our Sitecore team about how we can help you create unforgettable digital connections.
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