We know there's a significant difference between incremental innovation and substantial innovation, and that the difference between the two drives choice in nearly everything we do. By necessity, communicators and marketers must focus on:
- Delivering experiences that allow brands to be more thoughtful about the audiences with which they're engaging.
- Seamless channel integration is due to the importance of omnichannel activity in the world in which we live.
- The ability to move audiences through various forms of the funnel with the intent of creating frictionless conversions led by value-rich content.
- Understanding the role and effectiveness of each channel in driving the desired result and maximizing spend allocation.
|This article is featured in O'Dwyer's Nov. '21 Technology PR Magazine
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Building a better user experience
We've witnessed the mass adoption of a digital-first mindset across the world. As a result, the many channels we come in contact with every day, including social media newsfeeds, email inboxes, SMS marketing, advertising, mobile apps, search engine result pages and other digital channels, are as competitive as ever. We've heard the cliché of "experience is the new brand," and, in many ways, it's true. However, let's be clear, you can't have a brand experience without a user experience. User experience must drive a point of differentiation as it speaks specifically to a person's takeaway from a brand's product. User experiences are meant to be relevant, drive recall and resonance. If you are not delivering on those key points, you fall victim to limiting your brand's ability to elevate your reputation and serve as a solution for a particular pain point they may be experiencing or a problem they are facing.
Planning is critical, and omnichannel marketing must represent the intent to educate your audience first and often across several devices, channels, and, most importantly, different content forms. Remember, the importance of video still exists, and if nothing else, has been amplified over the last 18 months. Social audio has become a staple in attempts to build diversified content mixes and communities. The dependency on solid writing remains while data and analytics are now normal in performance-driven cultures. However, one of the most important aspects of performance-driven cultures is the level of curiosity on display. Our digital team spends quite a bit of time discussing the importance of being intellectually curious and being "allergic" to the dreaded plateau. Ensuring that we're asking the right questions instead of providing the right solution to the wrong question has become a must to our strategic planning approach. With an oversaturation of activity and content across digital channels, audiences are craving seamless interactions with brands, and brands must be in information acquisition mode to build personal and customized experiences.
Sometimes, users don't know exactly what their needs are, and personalization seeks to humanize a brand by providing content and functionality that anticipates a consumer's needs, interests and wants with no effort from the user, and methods like AI and machine learning largely drive this. Personalization is controlled by the company and relies on a broad set of demographic data. It's generally managed through an experience platform that follows the interactions of a user along a journey. Personalization is a very effective marketing tactic despite the dependency on technology, which can become outdated because of technological advancements. According to a 2020 Salesforce survey, 66 percent of customers expect companies to understand their needs and expectations. This expectation also focuses on reducing silos between departments and channels as frictionless conversions are table stakes these days.
Customizing your brand experience
While personalization and customization are often interchangeably used, they are different. Customization is driven by human preference as it works well under the idea that users know their needs. Customization allows companies to further target and segment audiences through touchpoints that will enable them to select what they need or want as an exchange for profile-based information. By doing so, companies can earn the rewards of this information.
Relevance. By allowing a user to customize their experience, brands deliver a more relevant brand experience that's suited specifically to their stated needs and, when memorable, contributes to their ability to recall what they've experienced.
Engagement. Customized content provides a shortcut for users in terms of getting to their needs. As a result, engagement skews higher because their needs are being met. A great example of this is Buzzer, the new sports experience technology that curates the best live moments in sports to each fan's preferences while simplifying the discovery and viewing experience of live sports on mobile in a short form live format.
Understanding. Customized content applications allow brands to better understand the needs and preferences of individual users and apply those learnings to enhance future efforts.
Preference. We operate in a world full of preferences. By leveraging gathered intelligence, converting users into customers—and, ultimately, into loyal customers—is where your time should be spent and maximized as opposed to wondering what will resonate with your audience and guessing.
Creating your omnichannel experience
At its core, personalization and customization represent the necessity of providing solution-based experiences as brands must emphasize the needs of their target audiences. Modern marketing recognizes that customers are in charge. If your companies' data, technology, and content aren't operating in an integrated fashion, you aren't delivering valuable experiences during a time in which brands must continuously create and win with user experience. Remember, your brand image is not what you say, but it's the thoughts, feelings and behaviors that users encounter when interacting with your brand. It's imperative that each touchpoint provides you and your team with additional user intelligence to continuously influence how your brand is received by its target audience. If not, you run the risk of being known as a brand that is out of touch with the preferences that users are essentially demanding. In the end, this leads to a brand's digital transformation; there's no quick fix, but it's a journey that never stops.
Nicholas Love is VP of Digital Marketing at G&S.