One very rainy Friday in July, we spent much of the afternoon glued to our Uber app – but it wasn’t taxis we were ordering but free ice creams. The #UberIceCream campaign was launched globally across 58 countries where users of their app were able to request free ice cream and, if successful, Walls ice cream was delivered to their door by their taxi fleet, or in some cases, drones. 

This sparked peaks in positive sentiment online even though many people missed out on the opportunity due to overwhelming demand and lack of availability (including the very sad authors of this blog). Despite some backlash, this very simple idea prompted worldwide conversations and copycat marketing schemes – rival taxi firm Gett now provides delivery of champagne for a reasonable fee. 

As customers connecting with brands, we yearn for interactions and experiences that resonate with us emotionally, acknowledge our needs or provide a sense of novelty. In a digital age it becomes harder for marketers to cut through the distraction and make any kind of lasting impact but this campaign shows how a simple idea can go viral and create huge interest for a brand. But how does this impact the day jobs for marketers?

Future of Digital Marketing

At Econsultancy’s Future of Digital Marketing event back in June, Ashley Friedlein, their CEO, opened his keynote with a theme that was echoed through the rest of the presentations – Customer experience is the new battleground of competitive advantage.

A recent study by Havas into the UK’s most meaningful brands revealed that organisations that created ‘meaning’ for their customers were rewarded with increased loyalty and significantly outperformed the market. 

“Meaningful brands outperform the stock market by 133%, but 74% of brands could disappear without being missed” – Meaningful Brands Survey

Creating long lasting relationships with customers has always been at the heart of marketing and is nothing new. However, the battle has intensified. Here’s 5 ways organisations can go back to basics and deliver a great customer experience in a digital age. 

1. Set the baseline – human centred strategy and design: digital has provided new channels to communicate messages. Some marketers have fallen into the trap of using digital mediums, namely screens, as a means of transforming an analogue experience into one which is digital. But at the heart of any customer experience, there is a human. Bring customers into the heart of business and marketing strategies and offer a consistent experience across channel – John Lewis is a “feel good” brand and well known for this

2. Back to the future – giving customers the content they crave: From attraction, to purchase conversion to retention and advocacy – it is important to provide customers with good marketing to maintain their interest. Relevancy matters as well as good copy and creative. In short, abide by the principles of ‘real life’. We talk to people where there is a meaningful conversation to be had and where there is an exchange of knowledge. Despite print magazines dwindling in popularity, Net-a-porter’s high quality print fashion magazine has a circulation that isn’t far behind established fashion prints such as Vogue. Good content is a valued extension to a brand

3. Embrace your flaws and share your desire to improve: Transparency breeds trust which is the basis of any meaningful relationship. Be willing to launch products earlier than expected and invite feedback from your customers. Create two way conversations and communities to encourage participation and let them know when things have gone wrong. When Asos had a fire in their warehouse last year, they were quick to respond and apologise profusely on social media

4. Unify capabilities to maximise impact: “The role of marketers is evolving and they will need to become multi-disciplined – creativity should be balanced with an appreciation of analytics and new digital skills balanced with a strong marketing background to execute true integrated campaigns.”  Organisations should incentivise their marketers to take risks and provide them with the skills they need. Speaking at a conference earlier this year, Keith Weed, Global Marketing & Communications Director for Unilever, emphasised how important creative was in bringing “magic” to marketing communications and fundamental when helping brands to get noticed

5. Never stand still. Don’t be afraid to try new things: Agile is the only way to work in the fast paced world of today. With ever increasing choice and competition, it has never been more important to deliver continuously evolving offers to match ever changing customer needs and wants. Agility requires the right operating model to allow change to happen quickly in response to market disruptors and customer demands. Start-ups have the luxury of building the optimum flexible business model from the outset – Hassle (listed on Wired’s 100 Hottest European Startups) is scaling slowly offering a flat fee of £10 for pre-vetted cleaners but plans to expand into providing services such as carers, tutors and personal trainers once it reaches scale

It’s not an option to ignore these new ways of working and we are all too familiar with organisations that don’t adapt. Of course, none of this happens overnight, but steps in the right direction using some of the principles of traditional marketing, adjusting organisational structures and incentivising marketers with the right skills, tools and KPIs will lead to holistic, more captivating customer experiences.

Humanising your engagements with customers is critical when thriving in a digital age and will be rewarded with increased brand engagement and loyalty when done well.