In a World Full of Complications, Let Get Back to the Basics
This piece was originally published in EXP Magazine. Read the full issue here.
Customer expectations have reached an all-time high, especially when it comes to digital interactions. What once may have been touted as a differentiator or emerging trend has quickly become the expectation. Regardless of whether I’m in the jungles of South America or traversing the polar icecaps, on a mountaintop in Colorado or on an airplane flying over the Atlantic, the expectation is that I, as a customer, am going to have digital access to complete whatever action I desire at that very moment. Further, I expect that the digital experience knows who I am and anticipates what I’m hoping to do. I also expect that the digital experience will capture everything that I’ve done to date, so that in the future when I’m interacting with an employee of the brand in a physical experience, that individual has full visibility into all of my previous interactions…all without me realizing or recognizing that this data is being captured and retained.
If that sounds like a ridiculously high bar, it is. However, it’s the realty of today. The stakes are high, and the expectations are even higher. So, what do brands today need to do to succeed in a world full of unreasonable customers, each of which have continuously evolving demands and expectations? This article outlines several steps that you and your organization can take to stay current with the expectations of your market.
First, always start with objectives.
This may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many brands we work with that dive right into a solution, before clearly articulating what the objectives are and should be. It’s like going straight to the HOW without really thinking through the WHY. It’s human nature to want to go fast and get things done, but in a world where experiences define and drive the customer’s perception and relationship, this can be make or break for your brand.
Given that, the questions you should ask are simple: What are you ultimately trying to accomplish? What challenge are you trying to overcome? Is the goal to acquire new customers or increase the number of customers that are currently engaging with your brand? Are you looking to enter a new market? Are you looking to capture the attention of a new demographic or socio-economic group or even geographic group in that regard? What is it that you’re trying to accomplish and what does success look like?
Once you’ve defined your desired outcome, you can then start to work backwards from that end state to create a roadmap and plan to realize that objective.
Next, it’s important that you don’t build to a solution.
Once you build an understanding of where the gaps are and what the whitespace is, providing clarity on the unique need and differentiation, you will ultimately be able to bring solutions to market quicker. But one key issue I see time and time again are organizations that try and build TO a solution and lose sight of the objectives and goals that were originally set forth. We must remember that a product or solution is likely never going to solve a business problem. It is nothing more than an enabler for whatever IS the solve.
The rigor here is to keep the original intent, or the challenge at hand, the most important thing and build to that. It’s not about just having an app or a website or the most amazing in-store experience you’ve ever seen. If it doesn’t help your customers do WHAT they want, WHEN they want it, in a WAY that is most convenient to their exact moment, then what was the point?
Finally, evolve to the market you are in.
There are three traditional dimensions that brands need to consider when they look at markets outside of their core: culture, technology, logistics.
The first thing that you need to understand is the culture of the environment or market that you are going to target. Oftentimes, we view the world as a single global culture or as a set of stereotypes. We say there’s the American culture or there’s the Asian culture, almost at a continent level. But, the reality is, within the specific countries, sometimes as far as within the specific cities, you will discover that there are very unique and different worldviews and individual views. This will ultimately tie back to emotional needs that you need to activate in order to capture the attention of that market. At no time will you come anywhere near a “one size fits all” idea. Communication must begin with an understanding of what’s important to a specific worldview and a recognition of individual needs. This will create the emotional triggers for customers that brands so dearly desire.
The second, and somewhat obvious dimension, is that you must build a strategy that’s aligned to the realities of the technology and the infrastructure of any given geography. And that has, in and of itself, a couple of different dimensions. Let’s take for example a CPG brand that is looking to expand into Central and South American countries. The challenge is, depending on where you are, there are different levels of infrastructure. Some places have a cellular infrastructure that is ubiquitous and fast, but in certain geographies, it may be limited to 2G and 3G generations of cellular connectivity. With varying levels of broadband availability, customers will have different expectations and brands must accommodate.
Lastly, there are logistical considerations within specific geographies that must be considered. For example, some countries and some cultures are very restrictive in terms of privacy, and in terms of how much they want to share and how much they want you to share in return. This goes way beyond GDPR. Some cultures are more open and some cultures are more closed. Some cultures connect more with humor while if the same thing is said in another culture, it will be seen as offensive. I’m referring to this as logistics, but it also includes all the other things that go into building effective communications. You could even call it personalization at the cultural or even subculture level.
While these three principals certainly aren’t everything to keep in mind when building an effective digital strategy, I truly believe that success lies in the ruthless execution of the basics.