The business landscape is ever changing around various factors - changes in law, changes in popular culture, changes in society and also changes in technology. Technology is now such a major part of our lives, more so than ever in business. When things like email, faxing and computers came onto the scene, the efficiency of businesses improved to no end. And now we have the Internet, although many businesses have been slow to adapt to use the Internet to its full potential or have had concerns about trends such as blogging, social media, email marketing and search engine optimisation.
The Internet is no longer a place for geeks in their bedroom. It is a place for innovation and growth, so why wouldn’t you let your business take advantage of this? A large proportion of your audience are probably already interacting with blogs and social media (and having an older audience is no longer much of an excuse as the ‘boomers’ are increasing their activity on Facebook by the year). Yes, people still watch television and they still read newspapers so there is still leverage in traditional forms of marketing, but as a country and as a global community, we are spending a lot more time online. On average, we now spend 36 hours and 49 minutes a month browsing online with PCs and laptops and this statistic doesn’t seem to cover browsing on mobiles or tablets!
The truth is that digital innovations are constantly shaping our daily lives and as business owners, they are also shaping how we market to our consumers and how sell our products or services.
What can digital do for your business?
If you like to keep updated with digital innovations, you will probably hear a lot of talk about what you should be doing with regards to these updates. Whilst it’s true that you probably should be active on social media, and you should be sending out email marketing campaigns - it’s important to consider what all of these strategies can actually do your for business. What can digital do for you?
The first huge benefit of digital marketing is that it can enable you to reach new customers. The online world is, for the most part, global. You can reach customers in the US or in Asia simply by having a website, a blog or a targeted advertising campaign. People share websites with each other online and with the huge rise in social media, a website can go viral very quickly.
Whilst strategies such as newspaper or television ads are effective, there is a limit to their reach. But there is arguably no limit to the reach of a tweet or a blog post because almost anybody can read it, no matter whether they are a few metres from you or a few thousand miles away.
But even local businesses who work in just one region can benefit from digital. When you browse online, websites receive lots of data about your online behaviour and none more so than Google and Facebook. Strategies like social advertising can help target your business to a specific group of people with minimal investment. You can do this very broadly, e.g. targeting people who live in Wakefield but you can also go further and target your business messages to women in Wakefield aged 18-25 who enjoy the show Doctor Who (there are only a handful businesses who would want to target those people, but you get the idea!). There are dozens of targeting options available to take advantage of, such as ‘people who have come back from a holiday in the last two weeks’, ‘people who have uploaded less than 50 photos in the past month’ or ‘people who only use Google Chrome or Firefox’.
Whilst a television ad can reach millions of people of varying ages, gender, interests and backgrounds, only a fraction of those people will be affected by your ad. By using highly targeted messages online, you might reach fewer people but the chances of them buying your product are much higher because they match your target demographic.
Another great benefit of digital is that, as a business, you have more control over the customer’s journey, by being able to carefully craft digital brand touch points that resonate with them as individuals. You can guide their journey by:
- Engaging with them on social platforms.
- Directing them to your blog posts.
- Encourage them to leave their email addresses.
- Remarket with regular email newsletters.
- Direct these users to your products.
There is usually really insightful data to be gleaned from each of these touch points depending on the tools you use and so you can constantly analyse what is working and what needs improving. By doing this, you can ensure that your customer’s digital relationship with you is as positive and engaging as possible - which you can’t really do with more traditional marketing materials.
What can digital do for your relationship with customers?
A huge benefit of digital is the way in which you market your business and how you build a relationship with your customers. After all, businesses and people are usually on a level playing ground online. Customers like to think they are equal with businesses in this arena.
This is generally because of the ability to have direct communication with businesses - whether this is a query, a complaint or a compliment. This instant communication, when managed effectively, can do a lot to build brand trust and more importantly, brand loyalty. Consumers are usually loyal to those who engage with them online. A relationship is harder to build with offline marketing such as newspapers because the message can be so broad and there is no option to respond, but with tools such as social media, the relationship can be one-on-one and therefore feels more intimate.
What is expected of businesses in today’s landscape?
Whilst it’s important to focus on what digital can do for you and the benefits, it’s also important to understand that consumers have certain expectations of their favourite businesses online.
First of all, they generally expect to be able to find a business online, and in various places. The first port of call is usually Google - if you’re not apparent on any search engines then how can they begin to build that relationship? They also want to find you on social media. I know from personal experience than I sometimes go on sites such as Twitter to compliment a brand and then get a little disheartened when they don’t have an account. I am practically volunteering to market their business for them so if you’re a business, take advantage of this expectation.
Another expectation is that consumers expect to be able to get in touch with a business online if it’s ever needed. If there is a problem they need fixing, they want to get the help online if possible (we all know how frustrating service centres can be at times). Whether they can get the information from a help section on their website or from an interaction on Twitter, they expect customer service online.
Finally, I will end on one of the most important expectations. You need a responsive, mobile / tablet friendly website. The increase in mobile usage for visiting business websites is increasing at an incredibly rapid rate. In some industries, mobile usage is actually over the 50% mark and has become the prominent way to interact with a business. Consumers expect a business website to cater for this behaviour so it’s important to keep this in mind.
Taking advantage of digital is about interacting with your customers and building a relationship with them. New innovations in digital technology are evolving every day with new advertising platforms and new social media sites appearing almost overnight. It’s not necessary to implement each and every one of these updates but it is important to keep yourself updated with the latest trends and ask yourself what benefits they can bring to your business and your relationship with customers.