Nuances of experiential marketing on virtual platforms

Tags: Knowledge
Customers today are much in control than ever before with the digital world at their finger tips. Providing great experience at every touch point is indeed a challenge for the marketeers. Interestingly, this challenge is compounded when marketeers are thinking whether customers are indeed in the digital space and, if so, how to reach them right.

In a recent research we have done with a few of our clients, we found that more than 80 per cent of them are still formulating the right ways to reach the customers in the e-space. So the question — how best to deliver a great customer experience in the e-space — still remains at large. As this space is evolving every day with social media, and mobility, speed, too, is of essence if a brand has to lead in this space.

Here are a few ideas for you to ponder about experiential marketing in the new age: when it comes to creating experiences for customers, it does not matter whether it is in a regular or digital world. As in any marketing situation, the core needs of the customers should be met first. And this does not change with a digital medium. Many companies think that customer experience in the digital space is just that — that it’s digital customer experience. But without having a cohesive customer experience strategy, one cannot deliver an experiential marketing strategy that’s consistent with other channels. One has to look at the overall customer experience before designing the digital experience plans.

As in any plan, one should clearly define objectives before embarking on the journey. One of the critical pointers in improving customer experience is to clearly define what customers expect from our brand and in what ways our customers are going to use a particular channel. All organisations today build websites for smartphones because everyone is building that. However, only a few think about how customers are using that channel. It is therefore important for us to know how to really define what our customers expect out of our website and so how to give it to them.

Knowing the service expectations of our customers will be helpful. In order to provide a better experience, we need to make sure that it meets and exceed our customers’ expectations. In order to do this right, start with a proper understanding of what they are expecting from the experience. Experience as a discipline, whether it is from an individual, store or internet, is driven by the fact that every consumer comes into any given situation with an expectation of what is going to happen. If you have an expectation going into an interaction, and that expectation is unmet, then the experience is going to be lousy. If the experience aligns with your expectations or exceeds your expectations, then the experience is going to be delightful. So, when deciding or planning on a digital experience, we have to do it with an alignment of customer expectations and our own business objectives.

The other element of driving experiential marketing is bringing in design thinking and stepping inside the customers’ actual usage situations. One of the things that most marketers overlook while strategising experiential marketing is research. Therefore, many brands do not have a deep understanding of what their customers really want and need. We all do consumer surveys as advocated by commercial research agencies. We all analyse operational data, online usage data, or whatever similar things which are considered “norm”. Such “norms” cannot give us any indications on how to design a really good experience. Although Apple is known for their insights into delivering great customer experiences, recently with the launch of IOS Maverick operating system they too seem to be going the Windows way. Without a proper testing their OS upgrade has caused many users heartburns with dysfunctional mail application.

Traditional research can tell us some things that customers need, but there are often the undiscovered needs that make a difference in delivering great experience that we cannot get from normal surveys. Stanford’s Design School and our own Medici Institute provide some insights into design thinking leading to solutions with a human touch. It looks at problems from a consumer’s actual usage issues and with a pinch of empathy. We encourage people to go to consumers’ homes or their businesses or to the shopping mall, or wherever it is they are doing business or product use. We encourage marketeers to observe them, talk with them one-on-one to get to a deeper level of insight than is possible with a survey or even a focus group. You may wonder how expensive this might be to do all these research but as non profit orgnisations, Medici Institute does not cost much and whatever investment you make in it will give you manifold return from desired results. You will also be much more confident that you are actually developing an experience or a new service or product based on design thinking with the customer at the centre. And that is actually going to generate real results. zz

(The writer is CEO and MD

of CustomerLab)

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