One of the most transformative impacts of the digital era can be seen in the brand-customer relationship. While brands have found diverse platforms to reach their target audiences, customers have also found innovative and effective ways to share their brand experiences with the world. Today, the customer is not alone. Any instance of unsatisfactory customer service can turn into a viral wave of disapproval. In recent times, we have seen countless instances of unsatisfactory encounters between brands and customers leading to global outcry against the brands involved. In the digital era, brands are under scrutiny like never before.
With online retail and easily accessible information, customers have access to brands and products from around the world. The days when customers would swear by a brand of jeans or toothpaste are long gone. A recent study has shown that 51 per cent of surveyed millennials have no interest in brand loyalty. Today, brands are only as good as the last product and the customer experience they offer. It’s only fair for customers to choose products and services that better fit their needs. So, how can marketing professionals inspire loyalty in customers who simply do not care about loyalty? Fortunately, all is not lost in this battle. In fact, one could argue that the digital era presents more opportunities to create loyalty than it does challenges.
Content is no longer just king; it’s the kingdom. As marketers we need to turn our products and services into stories that seem relevant and interesting to consumers. The first step towards creating the right content is finding out more about your customers’ lives. For instance, Xpress Money regularly creates stories about extraordinary expats in the UAE in a web video format to encourage expats, our target audience, to explore their passions. The property ‘Expat Stories’ was based on a simple insight that most expats working in the UAE find no time to do what they are passionate about. We also created a property called Studio Xpress, which was an Arabic online football talk show that featured a football expert analysing the UEFA Euro 2016 matches. Although these properties are not directly linked to our core business of money transfers, the idea is to create content around what our audience is talking or thinking about. Remember, it’s all about creating content that transforms your brand into a feeling, a fond association.
Cause marketing goes a long way
Customers are not just basing their choice of brands on their individual relationship with the brand, but also on how the brand responds to the rest of the world. Whether or not a brand is fulfilling its corporate social responsibility is a big factor in the minds of today’s conscientious customers. Young people, in particular, admire brands that work towards bringing about positive change in the world. For instance, Xpress Money’s Mother’s Day initiative for abandoned children in the Philippines, where a part of the transaction fees on money transfers to the Philippines was contributed towards the betterment of street children, prompted customers to react positively and transact with Xpress Money.
Don’t just sell. Talk… Listen
The digital age has done away with arbitrary notions of distance and geographical boundaries. Now, like-minded people from the world over can assemble in virtual spaces and create meaningful conversations. For brands, grabbing a seat by these virtual campfires is becoming increasingly important. The only way to effectively do that is by being relevant and authentic. The idea is to start a conversation without overtly selling something — because digital-era consumers are very good at recognising a brand’s intentions.
Transforming customer service
The beauty of the digital age is that customers are sharing information about themselves, and opinions about brands they patronise, free of charge. Brands that have decided to play an active role in social spaces are reaping the benefits of this. But to reap the loyalty benefits that the social era has to offer, brands must be ready to re-examine their customer-service model. It’s worth remembering that customers are now used to interacting with smart technologies. This always-on culture needs to be reflected in a brand’s customer service as well. Brands are increasingly relying on online and social chat platforms that are always accessible. Xpress Money, too, has invested in 24/7 call centres to ensure that customers always have someone to talk to. While some may say that building brand loyalty in today’s scenario is a tall order, the challenges can be overcome with the right tools and a new approach. As marketers, we need to constantly keep rethinking our brand loyalty strategy and evolve from traditional tactics to adaptive and innovative solutions. The online age has unlocked a surfeit of choice, and one bad experience will see customers fly to greener pastures.
Written by – Ashwin Gedam, Vice President – Global Marketing, Xpress Money (The article was originally published on Campaign Middle East)