Leading brands know that running a successful business is more than selling and making a profit; long-term success is defined by a brand’s ability to form a lasting connection with its customers. In addition, customers are increasingly looking to humanize the brands they do business with.
While blogs, newsletters, and traditional social media have been reliable tools for connecting with customers in the past, the prevalence and popularity of these tactics mean that brand leaders need to think one step ahead if they want to continue creating unique and personal customer experiences.
Looking for some inspiration for creating meaningful connections online? Here are 5 innovative ways to connect with customers digitally:
1. Create a sense of community through shared experiences
Brands can deepen engagement by bringing customers together for shared experiences. One way to do this is through a well-built microsite. A microsite is an auxiliary website with an independent web address that is accessed through a larger, main website.
One brilliant example of a successful microsite is Spotify’s “Year in Music.” The company aggregates user listening habits, gathered on its main site, into consumable data points and uses the microsite to create an annual report on top music tracks, playlists, and more. Last year, the company complemented its digital strategy with a billboard campaign in the UK, highlighting the most interesting (and embarrassing) data. The result? Not only did the company get a huge digital boost at the end of the year, but customers were able to deepen connections with both the Spotify brand and fellow listeners, who bonded over shared interests.
While creating a microsite involves some additional web design and development, the sheer ability to create increased brand awareness and more focused content in a cost-efficient manner makes it a worthy investment.
2. Gamify tasks to create stickiness
In today’s digital landscape, gaining and keeping your customer’s attention can be challenging. Gamifying tasks not only increases retention and attention but it creates personalized experiences where consumers least expect it. Goal trackers, visual breakdowns, loyalty cards, and progress bars are just a few examples of tools that incorporate typical game elements and allow brands to personalize user experiences.
A successful example of gamification is Duolingo, an educational app where users learn new languages for free. The app helps students improve their knowledge by increasing basic vocabulary, grammar, phrases, verbs, and more through questions and answers. Learners can pre-set their daily goals and track their lesson completion in the form of a pictorial graph.
Gamification is already being used across industries; from bank apps that help users track their credit score, to the Domino’s pizza tracker that provides a step-by-step breakdown of the pizza making and delivery process. Gamification is a proven method to keep attention and build anticipation and brand loyalty with customers.
3. Use location to add context
With today’s mobile technology, it is possible to not only know who your customers are, but exactly where they are. “Location” settings on mobile phones are being used to deliver personalized and responsive experiences based on a customer’s physical context. The key to success is to aim for constructive engagement, not creepy insights.
Location can provide important information about customers, such as where they live and work. For example, this information would be useful to an insurance agency, which might want to launch a campaign promoting flood and hurricane coverage to a specific audience. In the food industry, Whole Foods recently launched a geolocation campaign that placed geofences around a number of store locations and delivered targeted ads and special offers to those within the specified boundaries.
Geolocation targeting can help brands successfully reach their target audiences when they are primed for interaction. By providing context in the form of timing and location, advertisers can personalize campaigns on a granular level.
4. Incorporate social listening
Digital conversation is happening all around us, all the time. However, many brands do not have an ear to the ground to plug into many of these conversations. Even if brands have a dedicated social media team, assigning one person, or even several people, to pull meaningful information from evolving digital conversations can be difficult. Digital listening needs to be personal and granular. The best way to do this is through a social listening tool.
Social listening tools pick out specific phrases, words, brands, and hashtags in social conversation. It’s more than watching @mentions and comments on a brands social profiles, since social listening expands beyond a brand’s known audience.
One example of successful social listening comes from fast food giant, Arby’s. Arby’s noticed comments through social media about meats other than roast beef. Feedback from their customers indicated interests in a variety of meats, meat preparation, and flavors. This valuable feedback was used to launch their “Meat Mountain” campaign poster showing roast beef paired with a variety of other meats. Thus, we saw the birth of Arby’s new $10 Meat Mountain sandwich; a true customer creation.
The key to social listening is to look for conversation trends and then incorporate relevant feedback into new brand strategies.
5. Embrace live video
Live video marketing is a rapidly growing trend in the online marketing community. Live video is particularly appealing because it allows viewers to experience something vicariously and immediately and opens the door for live feedback, such as user-contributed questions and comments. Live video can be used for Q&As, meet-and-greets, new product launches, “behind the scene” events, and much more.
One of the most notable live video events from the last year comes from Buzzfeed. Buzzfeed used live video to show two people putting rubber bands on a watermelon, one by one, to see how many bands it would take before the watermelon burst. The video unfolded over 45 minutes, and despite its ridiculous premise, it ended up attracting over 807,000 viewers at its peak in popularity. How? Buzzfeed created suspension and piqued viewers’ curiosities, and subsequently kept escalating the tension throughout the video.
While exploding fruit may not be the first video strategy that comes to mind, brands should keep in mind the appeal of live video and think of ways it can be used to expand their customer connections.
While each of these digital strategies provides a way to connect with customers online, the key to creating successful customer engagement is to match brands to the right digital channels. Live video and location-based advertising may not be right for every brand, and that’s perfectly fine.
Emerging digital technologies have provided brands with many effective ways to build trust and loyalty with their customers. Capitalizing on these resources allows brands to expand their reach beyond the initial customer contact to establish continuous engagement. If brands consistently aim to push beyond their existing strategies, they will not only elevate their digital marketing strategies but also form lasting connections with their most dedicated customers.
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