Why You Need to Create Human Connections in a Digital World

By Lee Pittman

This year’s #SitecoreSYM was centered around making “Human Connections in a Digital World.” With so much of our lives existing in the digital space, it’s easy to forget about the business value in creating human connections.

The difference between a one-time buyer and a loyal, recurring customer? The customer experience (CX). It’s vital to create positive, human connections and allow people to feel seen and heard in their interactions with your brand. Sitecore gets that.

“The experience economy is here,” Paige O’Neill, Sitecore CMO, stated in her opening remarks. And the numbers don’t lie. 78% of millennials choose to spend their money on experiences over products. In a world with 4.5 billion digitally-connected people and unlimited access to endless options, the key to differentiating yourself is CX.

There’s a new term in CX that refers to the point when customers become so frustrated with a poor experience that they’re on the brink of taking their business elsewhere. Why gamble with this “breakpoint” when the customer will tell you everything you need to know about pleasing them? Sadly, only 12% of customers believe a company when they say they put the customer first. What a lost opportunity. 

The emotional, human connection a customer feels when purchasing is twice as important to them during their buying decision, with 75% of buying decisions being based on trust and emotion.

Let’s focus on trust for a moment. We live in a world where social media influence (a $10B industry that seems to have come from thin air) is a huge force. We put a lot of trust in these influencers. By Medium’s numbers:

Why? They’re accessible. Consumers follow these influencers online, interact with them, enjoy their experience with them. They feel connected to them.

Perhaps you know CX is crucial but your company isn’t capitalizing on it and you’re just not sure how human connections can drive your CX. The American Heart Association, General Mills, and Cirque de Soleil sat down with Paige during her remarks and discussed how they made these connections during their own digital transformations.

Listen to your customers

Jason Dyer, SVP Digital Marketing and Content Syndication for the American Heart Association, said, “For us it’s all about engagement. We’re one of the largest science funders in the country, so we don’t suffer for content. Our problem was that we were publishing all of this stuff and then not paying much attention to it. Was it engaging? Was it drawing people in? Was the storytelling human? So it was really a switch for us to move from get it published and our job is done to how do we use this content to do more?”

Jacque Sebany, the Association’s VP Digital Content, says they’re still relatively new to personalizing their strategy but are making strides in the right direction. “We had a lot of work to do. We needed to understand what our end-users are looking for. Just look at blood pressure, for example. We really don’t know what stage you’re in with your blood pressure, so we ask you that. That’s some of our most trafficked content, so we developed an experience around where you are in your journey.”

With Sitecore’s experience platform (XP) you have access to some amazing personalization and data features. Harvest that information and listen to it. The American Heart Asssociation listened to their customers, asked what they didn’t know, and built a custom user experience around it.

Cultivate trust with authenticity. 

In talking about the role emotion plays in making connections with customers, General Mills’ Senior Solution Manager Jeff Austin said, “[General Mills] has been making emotional connections around food for over 150 years.” Their digital strategy is based around delivering on their mission to serve the world by making food people love.

Currently, they’re working on making it easier to make all that food we love. Jeff talked about an exciting (and much needed) upcoming feature. “When people are cooking with their mobile phones, their phones turn off and they’re left unlocking it with their noses because their hands are covered in stuff. We took that feedback, saw that frustration and needstate, and we’re implementing a simple button that you can hit to keep your phone awake.”

Dale Ksionzyk, Digital Strategy Lead for General Mills, pictures it like a shopping cart. “Our users don’t buy one product at a time. They take their shopping cart and fill it with all the food they need for the week and, if we’re very fortunate, there’s a whole bunch of General Mills brands in there. But it probably speaks to their needstate. If you have young kids, maybe you’re buying Cheerios for their first food. If you’re trying to be healthy, maybe you’re trying some of our heart-healthy conscious stuff. Maybe you’re gluten free.”

“We needed to understand the larger picture of what the consumer is looking for and find a way to connect with them. What we’re really excited about is that the data we’re learning from can feed back into our product evolution, allowing us to identify missing links in our consumers lives and try to be the ones that fill them.”

General Mills is a huge umbrella with more than 100 of America’s most beloved brands under it. Their dedication to finding ways to connect with their consumers helps to cultivate that authentic trust.

Inspire the physical with the digital.

In looking to “level-up” their CX, the Cirque de Soleil team had to make some changes to the way they were marketing the show.

Pierre-Paul Larivière, Director of Digital Experience, said, “Terms like ‘cirque,’ ‘show,’ and ‘Vegas’ went down in traditional search engines, so we had to rethink how people were finding us.”

When they shifted away from bland search terms and toward experience phrases like “what to do with my family in Vegas,” numbers began to rise. Remember, experience is the new economy and changing searches to accommodate that made a huge difference.

Additionally, the customer experience was only taking place at the show, not online. Fans would purchase tickets, hear nothing from Cirque, attend the show, then go back to hearing nothing.

“We were doing marketing against the show — leveraging the key elements such as costumes, music, and acrobatic acts, which are generally the ingredients of a show. When we shifted to be more customer-centric, we were using the lense of the customer to look at the emotion that our show generates. And that’s the shift that we needed. We’re now leveraging [these emotions] in the decision making process to make the perfect digital customer experience. After all, the best CX is the one you don’t even feel is being orchestrated around you.

Online, customers are now being immersed in Cirque de Soleil before the show even begins. Their digital journey is just as important as their physical experience.

Are you creating human connections and the customer experience necessary to thrive in today’s digital world? If not, reach out and let’s talk about how Content Bloom’s Sitecore team can help.

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