Digital Trends: Brands Triumph When Virtual And Physical Pull Together

This year’s Econsultancy 2017 Digital Trends Briefing, published in association with Adobe (CMO.com’s parent company), found that customer experience continues to be top of mind for marketers across industries. Some 22% of client-side respondents ranked “optimising the customer experience” as the most exciting opportunity for the year ahead. And they are viewing this customer experience through the lens of their digital channels.

Although many still feel the friction of digital transformation, the majority no longer see it as a mysterious new medium—they see it as homebase. Sixty-one percent of marketers said that digital permeated all or most of their marketing activities, and 11% said they were digital-first companies.

This transformation has become so ubiquitous that the important questions being asked by marketers have moved on from how to engage through digital to how digital can lead to new forms of engagement. CMOs are looking to transcend digital to that next, more technologically advanced, medium.

In reality, however, the majority should be using it to come back to earth. Stop worrying about the tech frontier, and start worrying about the real customer experience and accept it’s on mobile first.

Enhance Our Human Reality
This year’s report found that over 25% of marketers were excited about the possibilities of going beyond mobile and into IR, VR, and AR. With new technologies that allow for a hyper-interactional experience, it’s easy to see the attraction. But I would argue that most CMOs will create a vanity project to prove their digital credentials instead of truly understanding how this fits with the human interaction and experience their brands provide. Does your customer really need to look at your product with goggles on?

Only 6% of agency marketers, and 4% of company marketers see “joining up online/offline experiences—ensuring consistency across virtual and physical worlds” as a primary differentiator for their company over the next five years. This should be 90%, if you ask me.

For the majority of CMOs, however, that offline experience heeds to the digital one. The true focus should be on the real-life experience the digital one produces. Through intense research, we understood early on that our customer isn’t looking for an amazing booking experience—they are looking for an amazing social travel experience. We shifted our product focus to the app and the in-trip experience because this is where we needed to support our customer journey. Breaking through our transactional layer, we are more of a trip companion today. Some 45% of our customers have interacted with the My Trips area of our app during their trip.

Think about a company such as Uber. How much time do Uber customers spend in the app versus in the actual vehicle or waiting for the vehicle? Yes, the in-app experience is hugely important, but only inasmuch as it leads to the best possible real-life experience with the car and trip. It takes away physical barriers such as cash receipts and adds to the physical experience through, for example, playing your music in the car.

The best digital experiences should be simple and intuitive, and produce a great in-person experience. They should provoke great experiences beyond the screen. We moved on from the early days of digital transformation, where the brief in-app experience was the main focus. Today, the advances in UX and app development have made a sound digital experience table stakes. Now there needs to be a cohesive and coherent approach to the entire customer experience. That goes for personalisation too.

Balance Personalisation With Value
Marketers everywhere need to think about what they are willing to give in return for the information they ask from customers. Too often customers are prompted to create accounts or log-ins, provide emails, phone numbers, or zip codes to simply access an app. And too often they are then harassed with continuous emails offering little in terms of relevant content.

More than half, 51%, of company respondents said they were looking to increase budgeting for personalisation in the coming year. And this is a good thing—it’s widely accepted that personalisation helps build customer trust and familiarity. Econsultancy found that the vast majority (96%) of organisations say personalisation is a “highly” or “quite” valuable method for improving conversion rates.

However, CMOs across every industry need to take a hard look at what they are giving customers in return for their information. If the former does not match, or exceed, the latter, it’s spam. Taking advantage of personalised mobile engagements does not mean taking advantage of customers. This give and take should be authentic and central to all marketing initiatives in 2017.

A True Customer Experience
The digital transformation is well under way, and companies everywhere are gaining a sure footing in the digital realm to ensure they stay competitive. While many are looking towards the next big thing, many of us would benefit from looking at enhancing what came before.

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