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How Can Brands Deliver Authentic Customer Experiences in the Digital Future?

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Digital commerce has long since gone from a “nice to have” to a “must”. For brands to survive and thrive, striking the balance between technically advantageous and  authentic in its online customer experience is essential. THG Ingenuity has partnered with StoryStream – the User Generated Content platform for eCommerce – to help brands make the most of the opportunity presented by human-to-human marketing.  


Here we take a look at the best ways to create a personal connection with your customers through your digital channels.  


Creating personal connection online  


With eCommerce retail sales growing by almost 20% in 2021, brands have found themselves competing for customer attention online in a space that has become more crowded than ever.  


For brands, this digital environment brings both opportunity and complexity, as they look to recreate intimate personal relationships that humans used to share with their local shopkeeper. These interactions gave customers the feeling of being seen and heard by the shopkeeper, acknowledged, and appreciated for the business they brought.  


Whilst digital technologies have been through a rapid evolution in the past few decades, our brains haven’t fundamentally changed. Customers are still looking for the same feelings – the feeling of being understood, and having their needs met readily – when interacting with brands, especially when considering a purchase.  


The search for authenticity 


Digital technologies offer new and valuable opportunities for brands. Being able to gather real-time insight into the customer experience enables a whole spectrum of options to communicate with individuals in a precise and personalised manner.  


Those same technologies have also brought complexity – amongst them the necessity for enhanced data management and protection, the need to have accurate systems in place to capture customer insight (such as search terms and product preferences), and the assurance that personalised communications are delivered in an authentic, complementary manner.   


86% of consumers say that authenticity is a key factor when deciding what brands they like and support. 


For businesses and brand owners navigating a strong online presence, these new technologies offer the opportunity to connect with and develop relationships with customers more directly than before.  


So how can brands define which technologies are the most useful for this purpose? And most importantly, how can they ensure customers feel these bonds are being built and maintained as authentically as the traditional shopkeeper relationships?  


Emotional connection 


The first lesson to learn: while digital technologies can provide businesses with unparalleled levels of insight on user behaviours, brands must recognise that their audiences are so much more than just data points.  


They’re human beings. Diverse, complex, multi-faceted, changeable, evolving. 


Brands looking to grow in this digital age shouldn’t focus on broadly marketing products and services to a wide audience, but instead on crafting campaigns and strategies that will reach specific audiences where emotional connections can be made.  


Research shows that 86% of highly emotionally engaged customers say they always think of the brands they are loyal to when they need something, and 82% always buy from the brand when they need something.


Campaigns that deliver emotional impact will foremost be true representations of the world in which the customer exists. They will celebrate equality, diversity and sustainability – values central to the daily lives of their customers.  


Customers are going to connect with brands who lead the charge on the world’s most important conversations, not those who adopt these principles only superficially. For that reason, it’s important that the commitment goes beyond marketing communications – these values need to touch or transform every part of a brand’s business.  


How can brands emotionally enhance their customer’s experience?  


Successful brands feel symbiotic to the individual. And if a brand fails to align their values with those of their audience, those individuals will quickly move on to find another brand that better fits. 


Developments in digital technologies have enhanced the customer experience of interacting with a brand at every touch point, be it via product innovation, customer service, delivery solutions, try-before-you-buy, or a range of payment options.    


As brands embrace the fact that they’re trying to connect with human beings, they can use fundamental human truths to build authentic relationships which will emotionally convert audiences. 


Fundamental human truths 


Our instincts around what feels safe, comfortable and nurturing couple with a natural inclination to want to feel seen and heard and to belong to and feel a part of something bigger. And with the continuous exposure to information (and advertising) we each experience everyday, our busy brains also have the very basic need to default to simplicity in sorting through the incredible volume of external stimuli.  


Brands can use the evolution of digital technologies to support each of these fundamental human truths and needs.  


Research shows that 80% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase from a brand that provides personalised experiences. 


Consumers want to feel acknowledged by the brands they interact with. They want to feel represented by that brand’s investment in diversity, respected, and to feel accepted and recognised through personalised experiences. Brands can deliver these experiences using the data customers have shared in a way that creates a familiar connection between the person and the brand.      


Stop, Collaborate, and Listen 


It’s a fundamental instinct of human beings to feel that they are valued when asked for an opinion – even more so when that opinion is listened to, or even celebrated. On-site customer reviews and email feedback surveys immediately enhance your customers’ sense of feeling seen and heard. Elevating their User Generated Content (UGC) takes that relationship to the next level.  


By elevating and celebrating the UGC that a brand’s followers, fans, and advocates are producing, that brand is effectively offering its audience the opportunity to input directly into the visual identity of the brand. Alongside the positive community-building aspect of an inclusive approach, there are tangible benefits repaid to the brand’s marketing team too: the Nielsen Consumer Trust Index revealed that 92% of consumers would trust organic user-generated content more than they would trust traditional advertising. 


The benefits of hearing and appreciating the voice of your customer go further still: eCommerce brands can utilise digital data signals (such as search volumes, social media mentions, site traffic details) to empower customers to advocate for new product development (NPD), co-creating new products with their audiences. The future will see consumers becoming ever more influential in the building of a brand, bringing a deeper level of fulfilment to the relationship between a brand and its customers.  


Enhancing customer experience, by embracing human truths  


Achieving simplicity is key to retaining customers’ attention and engagement. Brands that offer customers seamless experiences and conveniently placed services on the channels customers most want to interact on, like instant messaging and subscriptions, position themselves as the go-to for our overwhelmed brains, which by design will always take the simplest route to fulfilling its needs.    


Consumers are, above all, human beings and as such they crave connection not only in their personal lives but also in their relationship with brands. These connections are intrinsically linked to their own basic human needs such as being heard and seen, wanting to feel as though they belong within community and that they want to feel fulfilled in their relationships  


Brands that cater to these needs will be able to offer the same personalised, intimate connection of the shopkeeper days – and those who do it best will use digital technologies that empower them create and nurture that bond. 


StoryStream connects content to commerce, supercharging your UGC and delivering real ROI. 


Get in touch here for a quick demo, they’re really very nice.   


Sources

emarketer

Oberlo

GapGemini

Epsilon

Nielsen