I'M LUCKY TO BE BASED IN RURAL DORSET. i'm probably best described as A DIGITAL STRATEGIST. I EXPLORe DIGITAL AND SUPPORT BUSINESSES all over the uk IN USING IT TO THEIR AND THEIR CUSTOMERS ADVANTAGE.

Digital Marketing and the Customer Experience – a contradiction?

I am not in any way, shape or form - a marketer – my focus (if that is what it is...) is on ensuring that digital solutions (whatever they are) are completely beneficial and enhancing to a customer’s experience and their interactions with a client. But, obviously whilst working on these strategies – marketing plays a huge and influential role and digital marketing by the very nature of today’s digital economy is at the centre.

The effect (positive and negative) on the ‘experience’ a customer receives when receiving or hopefully (as marketers would want)  – interacting – with such digital marketing methods is hugely debatable (and is a future article in the making), but certainly there is no doubt that digital marketing methods are now important ‘touchpoints’ in a customer’s overall experience with a brand and are here to stay. 

So, I thought I’d outline those that I have had most recent exposure and involvement in and braindump some personal thoughts on each and how they can play subtly into the digital aspects of a customer experience without frankly being hugely annoying.. 
 

Influencer Marketing

We’ve all read various headlines in this regard - but Social Influencer marketing is continuing to grow very rapidly. One of my clients is really ingrained in the model of identifying and working with evolving social influencers and connecting them with like-minded brands. Money doesn't change hands between brand and influencer, it is much more a mutually beneficial relationship- both parties increase profile and value. 

As I mention - this is nothing new but some of the techniques are interesting and how the influencer market is changing across hitherto unknown platforms is fascinating. So, for example, there is a trend to create specialist platform for specific interest groups - bit of an echo chamber approach - and we know where that has got us with President Trump.... but in sensible hands - offers opportunities. 

Social selling

Linked very closely to the above is Social selling. This principle has obviously been around for a while, but where previously it was seen as getting famous people to comment about how wonderful a product was and then add (for example) a hashtag #ad it is needing to become more subtle. It is becoming a little less palatable for customers to go onto social media and be confronted by what they instinctively know as ad's from those they follow. 

What is becoming smarter is bringing Social selling into a user journey at the right time. So, for example an organisation may start a debate on social - 'What do you think of....?', 'We're thinking of doing x what do you think....?' this will link through to say a website or video from where they can monitor interaction. 

By monitoring this and also the responses to their initial debate they are able to identify either - micro influencers (which does suggest they are tiny people), or a sub-set group of like-minded individuals and behaviour that they didn't envisage. From there they use social media to connect and reinforce previous messaging and drive them through to conversions - be this Social transactions (i.e. buying through Facebook) for B2C or face to face meetings for B2B.

Machine Learning

So, this is stripping, enhancing, focusing a single piece of content to meet the needs of a specific audience or target market. This will become more and more relevant for organisations that have loads of data on customers, loads of content and not a lot of marketing resource. It is an area that many agencies and brands are looking into - to minimise effort and maximise creative time.

For example, we already see Digital Marketers taking a long article - selecting the fact that they want this article to be presented via mobile and some existing apps (including in Adobe AEM - a enterprise scale Content Management System used by one of my clients) automatically create the mobile version of the article, removing huge chunks of content to keep it brief but still ensuring that it is relevant and will hit engagement targets. 

AI 

Whilst Machine Learning is a subset of AI and is focused on processing of data and the presentation of results, AI is wider than that and includes natural language processing and facial recognition etc. So here we'll see (I think) a lead towards applications being able to recognise the language a customer uses in email, searches or even chat bots and apply versions of specific ad's or content to them.

Obviously, facial recognition is available within apps and laptops now and there is a clear movement towards looking to personalise ads and content (and therefore increase engagement and likelihood to purchase) based on being able to recognise the person looking at a website, advert or product and then align different content (including types of content - video etc.) to them - whatever the data says they like.. 

The above two specific areas sit more generally within the wider 'Big Data' and 'Marketing Automation' for obvious reasons. 

Real time streaming

For example, Facebook Live is not just an innocent channel for likeminded people connecting, its obviously a marketing channel, led by content marketing strategies. I'm seeing a number of clients that are looking not just toward video as a key part of their content marketing (and therefore digital marketing) plans, but also live streaming of content.

For example, one client streamed some events toward the back end of last year. This had a high uptake of real time views and included within the live stream was a simple link to a follow-up/contact form which received good levels of initial uptake. Then of course, they used the recorded live stream to create subsequent content to send out via different channels. Using one content type to create other content for longer tail engagement. Again, I'm sure your guys know this - but it is an interesting and sustainable approach, offers value for money and seems to work very well in B2B. 

AR and VR 

AR is at the moment slightly more relevant for Digital Marketing but its still in the early stages. For example - some companies are providing users who own headsets with the ability to see products, such as kitchen white goods in place in their home kitchens - the same for furniture and furnishings. Obviously widespread adoption relies on better quality headsets, lower price points and increased uptake.

I have also had an experience from Estee Lauder who provide a lipstick and make-up AR app that allows you to apply virtual make up to your face. Its quite accurate, can be run off your phone, but is slow and takes some time to put in place. I hasten to add the lipstick was not on my face...

Anyway, VR is already in place within a number of retail stores - 'to add to the experience', I've also seen car manufacturers and spoken with one Hyundai - that are offering VR to provide in car views and experiences from dealerships and online. Again, the tech and uptake needs to catch up with that to be more widely adopted. 

I personally currently see AR and VR as opportunities further down the Digital Marketing path to conversions - simply because of its availability and uptake in the B2C space (just my view). In the B2B space it is a little more advanced (because companies buy the equipment earlier than consumers) and I know that one client has plans at some of their educational events to create VR (for those who can't attend) and AR (for those who can) experiences.  

Summary

Developing a digital marketing strategy and a customer experience strategy are not in any way exclusive they should be completely intertwined – companies today cannot afford to have their marketing plans and solutions developed completely separately from (what should be) their total focus on excellent customer experiences. 

The six initial methods above obviously all intertwine with each other and can be used together as various engagement and touchpoints - blended in with smart and considered customer focused content, services and platforms. 

This does not mean that at the moment I think that marketers should be responsible for customer experience nor CX professionals manage marketing – although I have seen this in place – rather, like the methods themselves they should blend and complement each other’s skills in creating an effective engagement plan that meets customers’ needs and wants – at the right time, in the right channel and in the right form. 
 

Losing my wings

Blending Brand and real Customer Experience.