It’s time for brands to be bold in their digital investments as they look to build meaningful connections with their customers.
When it comes to digital marketing spend, it’s very easy to get wrapped up in the zeroes and ones of cold data, and to become preoccupied with spreadsheets and reports and everything they tell us as marketers about hits, clicks, sales and conversions. While there is no doubt that this is a vital part of any digital conversation and investment, this should not be the whole conversation.
Making the sale and creating a click is key, but the ability of digital to engage, build and grow relationships is often not given enough focus. And it’s these relationships that can build considerable long-term wealth and longer term loyalty for a brand.
For us, what makes digital technology so empowering and exciting is the way that it enables brands to forge meaningful connections with consumers that live on beyond the initial click or the first sale. It’s a way of going beyond selling goods and services and wrapping consumers into a long-term relationship that adds value to their lives.
For example, I’m a big fan of British Airways – not a Gloo client by the way – and I make use of this airline whenever I can for my weekly flights between our offices, Gloostad and Glooburg. The reason I’m so fond of it has nothing to do with the relative seat size, ticket price or onboard catering, and everything to do with a simple smartphone app that allows me to check in and receive a digital boarding pass on my phone.
This is a great example of a brand thinking about its customers’ needs and then using a digital solution to simplify a process, saving them time and making their lives more convenient. By helping customers to potentially save 40 minutes on travel time, British Airways is creating relationships that last and making me as a customer, feel that they understand my needs. Internally, they are probably saving money too, as there is a need for fewer check-in desks and call centres to handle bookings.
This idea also has a positive effect on the environment as it reduces the amount of paper and ink the company uses, which in turn helps me see the brand as a responsible, environmentally conscious organisation, which aligns with my personal beliefs.
Another international example is Nike and its NikePlus ecosystem. This is a digitally based system that tracks your body movement and physical activity, allowing you to check your training regime, share it with friends, or compare your efforts with others across the world. Because other brands of training shoes don’t work with the same platform, customers who love the data and social sharing they get from NikePlus will be persuaded to keep buying Nike products. It’s a clever way to retain people within the brand family, not by cost, but by giving them something they enjoy and that enhances their lives.
Closer to home, one of our clients is First National Bank (FNB). From its focus on social media to deliver its ‘How can we help you?’ positioning, through to the work it does getting smart devices into its clients’ hands so that they are able to enjoy its world-class apps and internet platforms, FNB understands that digital is not just about transacting. This approach has created a serious competitive advantage for the brand in a sector where some banks still think the same way they did 30 years ago.
Furthermore, while we still see long queues and stiff customer service from tellers sitting behind terminals, FNB is changing that through a collaborative and pioneering project that we’re proud to be working on. dotFNB brings its customers a slick retail experience with rich self-service functionality, all brought to life with touch and interactive screens. It brings retail banking up to date with today’s tech-savvy customer who expects a bank branch to be as cool as an Apple iStore. Most importantly, it saves people time in the bank, and allows them to service their needs themselves. Statistics show that this in turn generates more sales for the bank than traditional banking environments.
What these projects from leading brands show is that digital isn’t just about the transaction, it’s also about using technology to engage and build a relationship with the customer at every point – from the first interaction to the retail point of sale and on to the after-sales experience.
It is about creating a meaningful connection that puts the customer at the centre of an ecosystem of experiences, a web of value that they will be reluctant to sever because it makes life better.
Building these long-term, sustainable relationships is key to long-term profitability in a market where commoditisation of services and products has lowered margins in most industries to a thin sliver. It allows brands to command a premium for products, reduce service costs, cut down on customer acquisition spending, and gain more share of their customers’ wallets.
From our experience, we believe that digital solutions like these are there to create personal relationships with customers and to add financial value to any business. Brands just need to start thinking and looking beyond the point of sale to make sure they’re getting the full value of digital.
Pete Case is the founder of Gloo.
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