- More than 30 years experience – including 20 years in digital – helping brands and businesses develop in both the analog and digital worlds.
- Senior market executive instrumental in e-commerce strategies at London-based ghd, Converse (a Nike company), Delivery Agent and QVC.
- Member of Nike’s Global Digital Commerce Leadership Team
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Having a strong digital presence is essential for doing business today. Consumers are not only channel-hopping, they are engaging in complex web-based journeys before buying.
The consumer transaction is highly research-oriented. The consumer may begin by conducting research on the web and then take a trip to the store, before returning to the web to compare prices. They might buy a product or service online, or they may buy it online and pick it up in the store. There’s a dexterity that consumers have today that is forcing companies to think about their business in an ever-increasing, holistic manner.
The new capabilities consumers have at their disposal demand that companies integrate their digital presence with traditional outlets and channels. And with that, one of the challenges companies face in creating an integrated brand identity, on and offline, is the confusion related to roles and responsibilities within an organization:
- The marketing group, the IT group and the digital team sometimes can stumble over each other.
- The digital and physical sales channels begin to compete.
- Chains of command and a company's organizational structure can become strained and their dependent lines can blur.
Remember that the company is not in competition with itself. A sale is a sale, whether it occurs on or offline. The goal remains steady, accretive growth, whatever the channel that produces it. Internal politics, where digital and traditional channels compete for sales and resources, can torpedo digital efforts if the larger business drivers are not known and articulated and jointly addressed.
Another issue companies face is creating a genuinely integrated brand which is projected through multiple channels. The domain we once knew as "advertising" is transforming itself into a multi-faceted ecosystem that strives to engage the customer in new ways. The online and offline presence must look as though they were created by a single hand.
Creating an integrated identity requires a nimble organization. It means more than a quarterly ad campaign. It requires engaging customers where and how they wish to be engaged. It requires that channel leaders coordinate their efforts to drive both brand efforts as well as marketing activation tactics. This means that channels such as social media sites are engaged through rich media, such as interactive pics and videos, that stimulate customers and transform them into advocates and that offline events meet online activity. Integrated retailing POS and a company's web presence with a content syndication program and consumer engagement is becoming more and more meaningful. When interesting content marries with brand activity, consumers feel a deeper kinship with a brand.
Many companies become hypnotized by the availability of customer data. Many talk about big data, but it is more important to create experiences online that engage customers and provide them with the information and experiences they want. Ongoing relationships with customers lead to repeat sales and advocacy online, especially in social media. Do not lose sight of the basic need to have relationships with customers that lead to sales. Ask yourself questions such as:
- What is it that we really want to understand about our customer?
- Is there a specific opportunity we'd like to create for our customer?
- What can we do to create a relationship?
- What can we do to create some kind of affinity, using data or patterns, to drive our aims?
- What can we do today without an enormous investment?
Once a company has a basic understanding of how it would like to leverage its digital capabilities to increase brand exposure and top-line growth, then it may proceed to take the following steps:
- Identify the five most important drivers for building your business and brand online and architect your digital and brand activities around them.
- Make sure that your online brand presence is consistent with your advertising, retail and packaging identities.
- Engage your customer in conversation and use data to create a relationship with your customers over the long haul.
- Level set your expectations; define KPIs and take a read of today’s results and also create a three-year plan to ensure a steady course.
- Establish rules of engagement between marketing, e-commerce and technology.
- Assume that any interaction or experience online is the same as walking into a company store, showroom or the head office: Exceed expectations on all aspects of the experience.
- Create a brand ecosystem that rewards the customer, and the business, regardless of revenue attribution.