Digital Journeys

Digital journeys: a means to what end?

Rachel Williams, David Shaw

Connecting the dots of the customer experience on and offline

‘Digital’ and all it entails has assumed huge significance in a post pandemic world, yet while this has delivered greater efficiency, convenience and connection in many areas of our lives, focusing purely on digital journeys comes at a cost for your business. Not all customers can, or want, to engage with your brand purely on a digital basis. Neither can their every need be met online alone, despite ‘digital’ being woven into every aspect of every day. What can brands do to find the balance?

Yes, brands can absolutely benefit from an enhanced online offering – not least in terms of increased capacity to capture customer data, which is proving invaluable as the cost of living crisis deepens – but it doesn’t pay for this to be the primary focus of your business strategy. Take those life-defining purchases, like buying a house, as an example. Covid-19 rendered virtual viewings a necessity, but nothing can replace the gut feel you get when you walk into your new home. The same applies to buying a car or any other big ticket item.

Digital is a window, not the whole house

When we talk about digital journeys, it’s easy to assume we’re referring to the customer purchase journey, however it doesn’t always encapsulate the purchasing of a product – nor is it always a ‘journey’. If we take a 360 view of the way customers interact with your brand, we see more complex relationships and experiences take shape. Understanding these everyday realities is paramount to identifying your opportunities to make a real impact.

What is it that motivates customers to use your products and services, for example, what needs are they hoping to meet, how do they want to feel, what problems are they trying to solve? Think about your touchpoints. Maybe they engage with your social media to gain inspiration or learn about a specific topic, perhaps they chat with your customer service team online when they need help using your products. Some may prefer to pick up the phone or visit a store.

As we explore the customer experience, we see how there isn’t always a clear path from A to B. Often there’s a ‘messy middle’ between the two; a collection of moments that are interrelated and often chaotic – and your digital offering is only one part of the whole picture. You can, however, connect the dots between these customer interactions. Deep data analysis – explored in tandem with strategic and creative insight – allows you to navigate the complexity and deliver the right messaging in the right way at the right time, both on and offline.

Customer first, not digital first

Becoming what we call a ‘digital first’ brand works well for some. Take Giffgaff, which excels at meeting the particular needs of a specific audience with its low-cost, community-led offering. Giffgaff’s success, however, stems from the customer-driven nature of its product. It may be digital first, but it’s also ‘customer first’ – which is where all brands in all sectors should focus, and not just from the outset, but continually as an evolving process.

What does ‘customer-first’ really mean? What we mean by this is not simply putting the customer at the heart of everything your business does. It goes much further than that. It’s about putting your business at the heart of your customer. It’s about viewing customers as people, understanding why they need your product or service, and seeking their input in shaping a business strategy that paves the way for long-term success.

As the pandemic pushed more businesses online, and we now see the cost of living crisis supposedly ‘killing off’ the high street, it is ever more important for brands to maintain a level of ‘humanness’ in all customer interactions. If we look at Amazon, which is essentially a digital brand, it doesn’t sell itself as such. Instead, we see Amazon content, marketplace, drivers, groceries – all of which speaks to the tangible, the everyday. This may largely be a response to reputational damage, but it’s a solution that’s working well.

Ultimately, it makes little difference whether you’re selling groceries, mobile phones or cars, people are people no matter what product or service they’re seeking. Use deep data analysis to find out what they need now, first and foremost, then explore how well you’re placed to serve them, now and in the future, in whichever way suits them best.

Confidently predict how audiences will respond to your business initiatives.