When technology, society, and consumer behavior evolve faster than your company's ability to adapt, you run the risk of going the way of the dinosaur.
Does that sound too dramatic? I don't think it is. In the last decade we've seen giants like Borders and Kodak topple because they couldn't keep up with today's rapidly changing digital landscape. Venerable retailers like Sears and JCPenney are stumbling even as the economy overall is strengthening.
These days, companies built to last are not the strongest, the most reputable, or even the best funded. The survivors will be the companies that adapt quickly and understand that digital is no longer just a separate marketing channel. Digital is the new medium of human communication.
The marketing landscape has changed dramatically in the past few years, and it’s poised to continue to trend. So what can you do today to ensure your company isn’t exiled from the product gene pool tomorrow?
1) Get digital marketing out of the silo.
Companies need to stop treating digital marketing as a separate channel from their “regular” marketing. It’s not enough to allocate a percentage of your budget to the newest, hottest platform -- that’s like a T. Rex slapping on a pair of wings because it heard birds were the next big thing.
Surviving digital Darwinism will require dramatic changes to your business’s philosophy, models, and systems. Why? Because your customers aren’t thinking in terms of channels. Their lives are seamlessly integrated as they scan billboards on their commutes to work, check social media on their smartphones at the grocery store, and surf the web while watching television.
Adaptive companies focus on developing a cohesive communication strategy that engages customers, no matter where they’re experiencing the brand.
Do this today: Tear down platform borders, and build your marketing campaigns around great content, imagery, and experiences that translate effectively to any channel. Develop creative multi-channel campaigns that use the combined strengths of each platform. For example: use Twitter or Instagram to facilitate engagement around an in-store event, or create stunning coffee table books to inspire online orders and drive brand affinity.
2) Pay attention to what your customers want.
One big mistake companies make is jumping into digital with the assumption that if they simply pump out content with their brand name on it, people will buy their products. That approach to social media completely fails because people aren’t on social media to be sold to -- they’re there for the experience and to be a part of community.
In other words, digital marketing isn’t about technology; it’s about people.
Fashion and luxury brands get this. Many do a fantastic job capitalizing on sites like Instagram and Pinterest to give customers the exclusive personalized shopping experiences they want. Burberry now allows customers to purchase made-to-order coats, bags, and accessories straight off the catwalk -- directly from their mobile devices. These items are available before collections hit retail stores and come with personalized engraved tags.
On the other hand, the quick-service food category has room for improvement. Although the industry is all about convenience, many brands have been slow to move to mobile even though that’s where their customers go to order everything from cabs to haute couture. Starbucks has been one of the few to take the leap with Mobile Order & Pay, an app that allows customers to order in advance and pick up without waiting in line.
This ability to tap into exactly what your customers are after and deliver what they want is what will give you the edge over your competition.
Do this today: Listen to what your customers are asking for. Use digital analytics and robust social listening to track your customers preferences and habits. Then, act on what you learn to create the experience your customers want -- before they get it from someone else.
3) Forget ROI: Return on Experience is the metric that matters most.
Vanity metrics are given the name because they are just that. Vanity. Facebook "likes" or YouTube views might look great in that fancy report from your agency, but are they truly driving the customer lifetime value (CLV) or brand loyalty you are after? Tracking return on investment -- whether or not those views translate to sales -- is smarter, but focusing on return on experience (ROE) is what will set you apart.
ROE puts the spotlight on what actually matters: are customers enjoying their experience with your brand? Are they enjoying the content you’re creating? Are you giving them a consistent experience, regardless of how they’re encountering your brand?
When two brands are competing for survival, the one that gives the consumer the experience they want will be the winner.
Do this today: Shift your focus from vanity metrics to the real wants and needs of your customers. At Digital Surgeons, we take the best metrics we can find from the agency and startup worlds, and we approach new projects by starting with an experience map that tracks customer experience from the first marketing touchpoint to sale. We’re looking for where customers don’t enjoy the experience and at what point their needs are not met. Finding the friction in a user’s journey immediately reveals a hypothesis for testing and an opportunity to improve the ROE.
Don’t Just “Check the Box” on Digital
Digital is here, and it is constantly changing the face of marketing. The specific strategy I may have given a client six months ago is different today, and it will be different six months from now. One could argue the strategy remains the same, and the tactics are the only things that are changing, but with new platforms and consumer behaviors comes a need to shift and adapt.
That’s what brands miss when they simply “check the box” in their marketing efforts. Twitter? Check. Facebook? Check. Snapchat? Check. The problem is that “me too” brands often aren’t investing the time and expertise necessary to get it right. Cutting corners diminishes consumer experience, and that’s a good way to go extinct.
Trends rise and fall, and consumer behaviors shift, but brands that simply chase after the latest digital platform fail to think about who their audience is today. And, more importantly, who their audience will be tomorrow.
Is your company ready to adapt?
Originally published Mar 23, 2015 9:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017