It’s time for marketers, and all communicators, to accept the digital future is here and deal with it. That was the main lesson from experts speaking at a recent digital summit.
We all now have digital footprints made up of of all the things we post online, but we also have a digital shadow built on that other people post about us, said author Erik Qualman. Together these two form our digital stamp, a personal brand that is increasingly defining everyone’s personal brand, explained Qualman, the author of books like Socialnomics and What Happens in Vegas Stays on YouTube.
Children now have a footprint at a younger age, sometimes before birth, when expectant parents post sonograms and potential names for their babies, Qualman told the audience at the recent WP Engine Summit.
“Word of mouth is on digital steroids,” he said. “Word of mouth is now world of mouth.”
Each generation has a changing dynamic and expectation about digital performance, said Mary Ellen Dugan, CMO of WP Engine. Marketers need to think about how that digital stamp forms, she said.
“How is each generation joining your brand… do you have to think differently?” she asked. “We have to change our mindset and our performance is that product.”
Join a brand, don’t buy it
Marketers need to adapt to new media habits and rising expectations among consumers, said Steven Moy, chief technology officer of agency R/GA. “Amazon has captured most of the first mile of customer journeys,” so brands need to orchestrate touchpoints across the journey to insert themselves into the user’s world, he explained. They will have to rethink loyalty and the marketing ecosystem, he said.
“Consumers don’t buy a brand anymore, they join a brand” said Moy. Marketing needs to turn customers into members by shifting from offering brand messages to building brand experiences, he said.
People today are “tied to their technology” and expect brands to keep up, said Melanie Mitchell, director of acquisition marketing and head of SEO at online retailer Chewy. She cited research that shows 67% of consumers say their standards for a good experience are higher than ever.
Websites need a solid foundation of technical structures then build the experience on it, said Mitchell. The marketers need to invest in an experience platform, even if those features, such as accelerated mobile pages or predictive analytics, aren’t visible to the consumer
“It’s almost like the plumbing work that happens… but you don’t see it,” said Mitchell.
“You have to create a superior customer experience that moves culture and moves business,” said Moy. And all these developments need to be made at speed and scale, he explained.
“Speed is the most important thing. I’ve seen many digital transformation programs fail… because they lost momentum,” said Moy, reminding viewers of the drive to launch Google Glass and adopt drones in recent years.
“On the Fringe of Experimentation”
Marketers have to learn to react in an unpredictable world, said Jason Cohen, founder of WP Engine. Marketing departments need a toolkit that can deal “on the fringe of experimentation,” with tools that let developers deliver quickly on efforts from building websites to virtual reality apps or the next emerging technology yet to be discovered, he said.
CMOs need to take the lead in building consensus and teams around the organization to build those next-level experiences, explained Mitchell. Communication is key, especially to the c-suite, to help define the business objectives of the digital experiences, set metrics to show progress and break down the silos that can interfere with a smooth operation, said Mitchell. Aligning goals and teams is a key step in the digital development, she explained.
Having a point of view on innovation is important, she said: “You don’t just want to throw things out there.”
Think about the customer, she advised marketers.
“Sometimes, if I’m honest, I have to remind myself to take my ego or passion out of it,” she said. “Do the right thing and make sure you think about the consumer.”