I am just going to say it: We’re doing digital wrong.
Today, dialogues about digital inevitably turn to the clicks, swipes, and taps we make across our screens and devices — and how they translate into sales. But they’re only part of the conversation. We need to consider that digital now transcends technology: Digital is behavior.
Digital fundamentally changes the way we respond to and interact with our world — the definition of a behavior. Proof? We don’t make calls; we iMessage and Gchat. We don’t hail cabs; we Uber or Lyft. We don’t write checks or bring cash; we Square Cash or Venmo.
We must start thinking about how brands pull people beyond their devices and back out into the world: smarter, better equipped, and more deeply connected.
But why, when confronted with new opportunities for digital interaction, do we alter our behaviors — do the interactions actually become our behaviors? Through the “logging on” process across multiple digital platforms each morning, we go through our devices to connect to and position ourselves in the world.
What does this mean for brands?
This behavioral paradigm shift is a call for brands to innovate their digital strategy in new and surprising ways from experience optimization to experience innovation. To successfully do so, brands must move beyond considering digital as a sales or conversion channel and rethink the behaviors they enable more broadly. They must understand their customers wants, needs and frustrations and foster solutions to problems that make them necessary to everyday life. In return, we given them our loyalty.
This is difficult in digital, but not without precedent. Brands such as Google, Amazon, YouTube, Zappos, Netflix, Apple and Samsung continue to top the Brand Keys loyalty survey year over year. These brands have a soul. They are active listeners and generous storytellers. They give themselves permission to be vulnerable and connect with their consumers at eye level (Google’s Dear Sophie).
They are a best friend in extraordinary times (the world’s most responsive Twitter brand @Xboxsupport Elite Tweet Fleet). They make amends when they screw up (Zappos’ apology letter and DiGiorno’s hashtag debacle). They reveal a personal side (Tim Cook’s coming out).
What can our brand do to become more relevant, necessary and human?
For brands to deliver digital experiences that transform how people interact with their world, they must do three things:
1. Become essential — identify the brand assets that make you necessary.
Do you empower consumers with digestible but expert advice that’s useful beyond your brand-specific transaction? Are you a good listener that provides effective solutions to any problem? Do you offer a toolset that keep consumers connected with their circles? Do you provide your consumers with springboards to discover new things that make life better? Identify what makes you a utility and present it with friendly transparency.
2. Be a good listener — adapt to existing behavior and expand it.
Many brands fail catastrophically trying to make themselves relevant where consumers clearly feel they don’t have the right. To do this effectively, employ an ongoing consumer insights engine to identify and understand current and shifting behaviors. Map the consumer experience, and identify unmet needs and opportunities, from solving simple tensions to introducing game-changing disruptions. Offer what’s asked for, as it’s asked for, then introduce innovative ways to expand your offerings in increasingly personalized ways.
3. Become accessible — make no separation between digital and physical so consumers only have to show up to play.
We still tend to think of our digital and physical channels in silo. But our consumers don’t – and shouldn’t have to. This is not about replacing physical environments with digital, but enhancing physical experiences with a “get more” approach to digital activation. Consumers should be able to use digital to dive deeper into their in-store experiences, making them far more confident in their purchase decisions. If your brand responds to their moment-to-moment needs across digital and physical situations with a human touch, they are likely to rely on you the next time a similar need arises.
When brands take these three steps, they become more meaningful, relevant and important. They must not think of digital as a channel, but as an enabler of behavior.
Article originally published on MediaPost on January 5, 2015.