It’s a pleasant November morning in 2021. I’m looking forward to meeting John and Sara. It’s been so long since our last coffee together.
John is already in the room and Sara comes in shortly after I enter. Yes, it feels a little strange to be free of our masks and greet with strong handshakes.
I thank them for holding on to my company during the crisis. It was a huge vote of confidence and, to be honest, it helped us stay afloat. They are kind enough to return the favor by recognizing our contributions – digital product launches, virtual meetings, and engaging customer experiences. We were all in suspense when we ventured into what was then a relatively new area. Looking back, we all agree that it was a great adventure that we enjoyed together and learned a lot in the process.
I’m getting ready for my presentation. My team worked a lot on it. I’m glad. “Digital Marketing 2022 and Beyond” appears the first slide. And John is stopping me.
“I have to tell you right away, Rahul,” said John. “We’re moving from digital.” I’m shocked, my hand froze over the keyboard.
Virtual or real marketing is about connection
Everyone is aware of the COVID-19 situation. There are enough experts working on how it will turn out and how best to combat its effects. For us it is now part of the reality that we have to accept and adjust.
Among other things, the situation helped us to understand the important role of digital in marketing and to offer an unforgettable customer experience. It’s time we went beyond the excitement of unboxing, so to speak. We need to get back to the important personal aspects of marketing. We cannot allow digital to overshadow this.
Let’s dust off the good old principles of marketing. It’s about delivering results for our organization and experiences for our customers. Digital marketing is not a different arm or entity. It is a tool that we will continue to use.
Data is big, and talk of how big data can be transformative never seems to stop. Technology has opened multiple channels for knowing the customer, their likes and dislikes. However, all of these numbers are a starting point at best.
How are you going to use this data to connect with the customer? How do you plan to deliver a great customer experience with you throughout the customer journey? Let a cold device do it for you? Or are you ready to share a human smile and (an even more human) sob with each other as we all go through a terrible time that doesn’t seem to end? Do you let technology be the excuse to stay away, or do you find out how it gives you new ways to touch a customer’s life when it matters most, and in a memorable way?
The revolution isn’t about making better use of video conferencing. It’s about using all of those connectivity devices to get closer to customers and deliver a better, more valuable experience. For example, it was not easy to arrange a meeting between the customer and the subject matter expert. Now the point is simply to get a common time slot and add the SME (or any relevant executives) to the call.
Scott Edinger recalls a time when his family ordered a takeaway dinner at a local Italian restaurant during the height of the pandemic lockdown:
Along with our dinner we were given a roll of toilet paper with the restaurant’s logo on it, which was an incredibly valuable and unexpected addition at the time. When everyone was struggling to find toilet paper in the stores, this restaurant, which had an excess of toilet paper because they couldn’t serve guests for dinner, took the opportunity to create an exceptional customer service experience.
The request for a takeaway dinner was a digitally activated transaction. What made it a memorable customer experience was the gift of the toilet roll.
Before the virus conquered the world, Stefan Thomke wrote about the importance of Customer Experience (CX) design:
Customers want their decisions to reflect their feelings and senses as well as their values and ethics. The rational approaches taught at most business schools – getting customers better value for money, adding features, making service more efficient – are not enough. Creating memorable experiences for customers also takes a little bit of emotional magic.
He cites a Gallup study as a reminder that:
Companies that optimize emotional connections outperform their competitors by 26% in terms of gross margin and 85% in terms of revenue growth. You maintain emotionally engaged customers who are less price sensitive, less likely to buy from competitors, and three times more likely to recommend and buy back.
The path between visiting a company’s website and making an actual purchase is an emotional, cognitive, and motivational process. It is the mixture of these forces that creates feelings, memories and stories about an organization, whether positive, negative or ambivalent. This variability gives companies the opportunity to offer unforgettable experiences.
By increasing the possibilities and improving the memorability of the experience at each touch point, digital can add an extra magical glow (and a pleasant surprise) to marketing. It’s not about technical wizardry for the sake of glare. It’s about keeping up to date with digital developments and using technology responsibly to strengthen that empathetic connection.
I always knew my friends Sara and John were compulsive jokes, but never at work. I get confused when they laugh at the look on my face in shock. Is that goodbye time? Doesn’t digital mean no more work for me? Are they just trying to soften the blow by joking around?
“What that means,” John finally stopped laughing and both were serious again, “is that digital is now part of our DNA. You know how we think, you know our products well. You are no longer just a digital designer for us. You are now our marketing partner. Together we will design customer experiences that may or may not have a digital component. Rahul, it’s time for you to come to the table. “You get up dramatically and offer me a chair more theatrically.
We all laugh and I close my laptop. We have some customer experiences to design. Digital can come after we have solidified our strategy.
Storyteller Rahul Deshpande is the CEO and co-founder of Ethosh Digital, which helps companies create people-based and visually inspiring customer experiences.