New Year, New You...ser Experience.

New Way Old Way

January is traditionally the time of year where we draw a line in the sand after a bruising 525,600 minutes and say, 'what's next?'

A time for resolutions and commitments to change. A time for better and glossing over the fact you could have made a change long before Sinitta brought in the new year aboard a cruise ship docked in Sunderland.

As January 1st hit, what was your resolution? Lose weight? Stop Drinking? Read 10000 books? Get through the month?

Strava has pinpointed January 12th as the day people fall off the wagon and start to waver. That was a couple of weeks ago. So you're probably back to normal. End of article. New Year done. You're welcome.

But… lets for a second consider that this imaginary line in the sand serves a purpose. What if it is a chance to say 'Look, we need to reset and do things differently and, no, I don't mean stop drinking or eat 800 calories a day and hate our lives'?

January 2021 may feel like month 13 of 2020, but it's a genuine chance for brands to take stock and think 'what could we do better?' Take the new year away, and that's a sensible discussion any day of any year. But it's too easy to get stuck in the day-to-day and keep on keeping on.

I'm not going to mention the c-word (not that one, the other one) but this past year has seen seismic shifts in consumer behaviour that aren't going to disappear when the vaccines have rolled out.

So what should you do? Where do you start? Keep it simple. Ask yourself these three questions.

New Customers, Same Experience?

new-customer2020 saw a massive shift toward digital - a shift of necessity, but one that was well mapped out but accelerated by circumstance. We've seen customers engage with brands digitally for the first time, digital experiences becoming the defacto brand touchpoint and existing customers having to utilise digital all the time.

If your experience seemed flawless before 2020, I could guarantee holes have appeared as your digital offering has been bent and probed in entirely unexpected ways. But it's been a tough year and getting by has been a challenge all in itself. Sites have added queuing systems to protect the experience's integrity, but the experience across sectors is mostly unchanged. Luckily though, the storm of 2020 is over, and things might slowly go back to normal, and your current experience is sufficient.

That’s a nice idea but...no.

Customer Experience is a much-misunderstood concept. You will often hear it discussed as the sum of a customer's experience with a particular brand's touchpoints. It's something the brand can control and, if done well, customers will seamlessly flow through a journey and buy many, many things. If your brand exists in a vacuum, that might be the case. But it doesn't. And an individual interacts with a marketplace of brands, each offering differing experiences.

When we consider how relevant and suitable your digital experience is, we can't do that in isolation. Have your competitors adapted their experiences for this age of digital-only? If the answer to that is yes, and you're still rocking the same experience you had in January 2020, you're immediately on the back foot.

Every year this is the case. But, there's a difference this year with new customers flocking to digital. The pandemic has decimated physical experiences. You have a segment of customers who are not familiar with e-commerce or rely on physical interaction to make a purchase decision. You've also got a large segment of customers who are consuming your digital content and using that to make a choice. Without any other input. No conversation with a roving salesperson. No physical product exploration. Just what you offer digitally.

So, question two...

Without physical interaction, would you still buy from you?

This one is a test of your honesty, but it's a valid question that could change your digital outlook for 2021 and beyond.

If you couldn't walk into a store, would you buy your product? How essential is the tactile nature of your offering to the purchase funnel? Are your salespeople the physical manifestation of the brand and now entirely phone-based? If you could only use your digital assets, would you?

We've seen entirely virtual property viewings, removing that gut feeling you get when you first walk through the door of a house. Car sales are now happening online, but does that replicate sitting in a showroom and picturing yourself driving the car, or even the smell of that pristine vehicle? No. It doesn't.

physical-interactionThere is a saving grace here, though, and that is that ‘physical’ will return. People will buy cars in person again. House viewings will take place. And you'll be able to go to John Lewis and see and touch a product before purchasing that new OLED TV. Digital doesn't exist to replicate that experience; it supplements it. And when physical interactions return, it will scratch that itch - for some. But there will still be an expectation that, short of physical sensation, your digital experience can deliver everything a customer needs.

So what can you do?

Use this (last ever) lockdown time well. Spend time understanding what physical interaction means to your purchase funnel, and where digital is offering a pale imitation of that critical step in the journey. You can't replace a physical conversation with an email - but you can substitute a 48hr ticket response system with a video call. You can't replace the physical sensation of a product. However, you can use genuine in-situ shots and augmented reality to help customers understand how the product can physically enhance their life.

Instead of thinking about what digital can't do, think about what the lack of physical interaction can do. Look at your various paths to purchase - what is going to happen if physical interactions only return to 60% of their previous levels? Where will digital pick up the slack?

And if nothing else, rest safe in the knowledge that Gary Barlow is selling tickets for an o2 show this December. Just when you thought things couldn't get any worse…

g-barlow

 

Does your DXP know your customers in the way that you do?

Merchandising in stores is an age-old game of jostling for position, with stores manipulating product placement to drive sales and brands dispatching their ‘collateral warriors’ to offer an engaging shop floor experience and funnel undecided customers to their product.

It relies heavily on an innate understanding of footfall, dwell times and consumer psychology. There's a vast data operation behind it - there has been for years, all the way from understanding physical customer flow through a store to which staff members sell which products. It was even the case back when I worked for an electrical retailer some twenty years ago. None of this is new.

If that happens in physical stores, it's 100% happening on every digital property across the country. Every brand offering a digital storefront or lead generation knows who is buying, what content they consume, their thoughts and feelings, what device journey they take and where the friction points are in the journey. Every brand, right? Let's stick with some, or even just a handful.

What I can promise you is that your market has a mix of laggards and trailblazers. At least one of your competitors has their digital audience mapped and is actively interrogating that data to find a competitive advantage. Hand on heart, can you say that's you?

Every brand can measure and improve their digital experience. Internal legacy issues may make this difficult, whether logistical or tech, but there is a solution to each problem. And it can't be overstated just how critical this is in 2021 and beyond.

Without rock-solid measurement and an accurate view of the digital path to purchase, you're at the mercy of opinion and imitating the competition, in the hopes that they have got the right approach.

This last bit is where I'm technically supposed to sell you something. Still, I'd prefer you took these three questions to heart and thought 'actually, it's not a case of being sold something, it's a case of us needing some external support to understand where we are and where we can improve'.

We've delivered success for e-commerce titans like YPO by doing just this - and we can do the same for you. Just get in touch, and we can work with you to make a positive change for 2021. One that doesn't stop you from drinking.

Whatever your business, be it a regional or global brand, the content you produce plays a vital role in your success. You know that… hence you’re reading this.

A well formulated and executed content strategy not only drives more traffic, at the core, it defines what your business is and helps build a strong connection between you and your audiences.

So let's quickly look at why developing a coherent content strategy is important and how setting clear goals and understanding your audience will elevate your online performance. 

What is a Content Strategy?

It's basic right? Content is at the core of how you define the way your business presents itself and an effective strategy should look to ensure that tone of voice, messaging and the core values are surfaced across all channels, from service or product pages on your website, to blog posts, through social media updates blah blah blah.

But let's keep it simple - your content strategy should be a clear roadmap that connects your marketing activities to your business goals. Align to your customer’s wants and needs and engage them at every interaction point and boom, you're in business. 

Who are my Audience?

You likely start all your projects with this chalked on the wall because your business knows “exactly” who its customers are right? Sounds obvious but we often find its not been done forensically enough (not based on data), is too old (more than 12 months ago - forget it) or its a spin off from some brand work that was legitimately aspirational but doesn’t face the reality of who you your business is actually engaging today.

So start (or circle back) with audience research, building out those personas to understand their ambitions, their lifestyle, their pain points or concerns, and crucially their wants and needs - in your context. 

Do I need to tailor content?

As part of your research find out where your audiences spend their time online and how they interact with content: Some may spend time thoroughly researching a product or service, whereas other audiences may want their content to be quick, snappy or easily digestible in the form of a video, infographic or short blog posts.

 

Ultimately, the key is to produce a strategy that creates the type of content your customers want to see:

  • What are the problems that your product or service will help them solve?

  • Who are they most influenced by?

  • What voices influence their behaviour?

  • What type of content do they consume?

  • Where do they consume content and engage with brands?

Different Content, Different Objectives

 All content is not born equal: When producing your strategy, it is important that the objectives for each individual piece are defined, that these fulfil your marketing objectives and tie to the overarching goals for your business.

There are various content frameworks that exist to aid content development in this way, but one that is popular and effective is Google’s hero, hub and hygiene method: It provides a framework on developing content to achieve different goals and gives guidance on the effort needed to create each type of content.

Hero Content

Hero content is essentially campaign content, it is big splash ideas designed to appeal to a large audience with the aim of telling your brand’s story at scale. 

Ways of measuring hero include the amount of PR mentions or links from authoritative domains plus social interactions and mentions of your brand across all channels. 

Considering the scale of hero campaigns, this content is not regularly produced and is reserved for peak promotional times where it’s important for a business to stand out from their competitors.

Hub Content

Hub content is the stuff that keeps your audience engaged, it expands on the themes of product or service level content, educates users and helps create a connection between themselves and your brand.

Hygiene Content

Hygiene content is the bread and butter of any website, it is the BAU content for products and services, it is SEO focused and targets important keywords at a product, service or guide level.

How do I manage all this?

Content development is only one part of the ongoing work needed when working with an effective content strategy. We call it “feeding the beast” because it really is the fuel in your brand vehicle and once you start you really can’t stop (if it’s delivering results) but that’s where performance measurement comes in.

Your greatest gift in managing the outputs from your hero/hub/hygiene style efforts is to understand If your content is working. To truly deliver results your business must first understand the objectives and goals of each piece of content to effectively measure its success. That as a guiding light from day 1 will let you slow down, speed up, stop or start new content briefs and projects.

Remember - content strategies are not set in stone. They are living breathing things and should adapt and pivot as insights become available and your brand naturally evolves.

If ever you want to chat content and explore new initiatives we’re always here to help.

want to speak to one of our experts?

 
Kier Humphreys
Kier Humphreys
Head of Customer Experience
Kier has worked both agency and client-side, with 13 years experience taking in the full marketing mix and a passion for insight-led business optimisation. His career has seen him working with national and international brands across a variety of sectors, from multinational professional services to tech start-ups.
Kier Humphreys

Kier Humphreys

21 Jan 2021 - 5 minute read
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