How companies are building engagement strategies that drive human-first experiences in digital era

February 20, 2021 2:18 PM

While there is a popular belief that this would be relevant only for the younger cohort, Deloitte’s state of consumer survey indicates no major difference in the intended shopping channel preference across online vs offline across age groups.

The digital advertising industry has witnessed growth in market size from Rs 13,683 crore by 2019 to Rs 15,782 crore by 2020, growing by 15.3%Digital plays a key role in delivering against this expectation – either as a channel for sales and service engagements or as a nucleus of data for experience building insights or as a tool to deliver moments that influence loyalty.

By Deepti Sagar, Aditya Sudhindranath

Engagement, Experience and Loyalty are tightly linked today. Many brands are grappling to have a holistic view across these three attributes integral to customer behaviour, leading to an impact on profitability. Today’s customers might be digital native but demand for more ‘human-first experiences’ – i.e. intuitive, empathetic and of course anytime, anywhere. Digital plays a key role in delivering against this expectation – either as a channel for sales and service engagements or as a nucleus of data for experience building insights or as a tool to deliver moments that influence loyalty. While there is a popular belief that this would be relevant only for the younger cohort, Deloitte’s state of consumer survey indicates no major difference in the intended shopping channel preference across online vs offline across age groups (18-34, 35–54 and 55+): 60% – 40% (clothing), 75%-25% (household goods) and 55%-45% (Electronics), to quote few key insights.

Hence, for brands to travel from customer’s fingertips to heart; traditional, linear path to purchase has made way for a predictive and personalised omnichannel experience – right from when a customer learns about a brand (“awareness” and “consideration”), to the actual purchase (“purchasing” and “fulfilment”), use and service thereafter (“advocacy”). Brands are leveraging ‘digital mediums’ to converge physical and virtual worlds, which is generating unprecedented amounts of data at touchpoints. Organisations that have utilised this trail of data successfully have significantly improved engagement and conversion. Digital and marketing executives are working together to design smarter engagement strategies that drive human-first experiences:

  1. Building a brand connect on a humane level across digital platforms: Brands should focus on connecting with customers digitally with content driven by trust, empathy and values. Given the pandemic, retail brands are now engaging customers across online platforms through videos focused on safety, touchless buying experiences etc., to spark a positive sentiment. Brands should also stimulate conversations by digitally engaging customers who are socially conscious – Deloitte’s consumer state survey indicated 34% of shoppers are inclined to buying locally produced goods even if they are costlier and from brands that connect with them.
  2. Developing a two-way digital street to make customers participate as brand ambassadors, influencers and collaborators: Brands should constantly work with customers on social media platforms across the spectrum of segments to promote content and influence other buyers online, they should gamify engagement through active in-app conversations (chat and video) and online survey’s – Deloitte’s Global marketing trends² indicated 56% of people engaged in at least 1 digital engagement activity with a brand.
  3. Bringing experiences to life: Deloitte’s human experience in uncertainty survey³ indicated that 53% of people wanted virtual experiences to feel more human. During the pandemic, brands are innovating and using Virtual Reality to bring a stadium-like real-life experience to customer’s home to enrich viewing experience, Augmented Reality is being used by brands for on-demand emergency road-side troubleshooting and Smart Watches are monitoring parameters of patients real-time and saving lives by automatically connecting them to doctors for SOS.
  4. Hyper personalisation for decision making, driving augmented support and loyalty across journeys: Conversational AI BOTs are providing human-like support to online shoppers by recommending products using next-best-action engines and responding to requests through multilingual support. Brands are personalising voice conversations based on sentiments – banks are using conversational AI BOTs to drive collections and restructure debtors on a real-time basis to prevent default.
  5. Build transparency with customer to optimise engagement – Brands should strive to build relevancy with customers by giving them control of how they engage with technology to share their data, as customers are willing to ‘Opt-in’ if they receive relevant and safe engagement in return. Deloitte’s Global Marketing Trends Consumer Pulse Survey indicates 30% of those most concerned about data privacy are also most willing to share their data.

To enable human-first experiences, use of Cloud computing and machine learning can determine how, when and which content to deliver to best engage with each customer, improve decision making across the lifecycle, optimize to specific outcomes (example, conversions, clicks views, upsells), connect marketing and ad technologies with consumer engagement platforms and deliver personalized, real-time content. 

What is imperative is that due to the ever-increasing number of touchpoints, brands should appreciate the unique characteristics of online/offline channels and optimize them digitally. In the end, it is important to view customers as ‘people who are ever-evolving and think for themselves, hence delivering on the promise of ‘human experience’ is critical to the betterment of engagement – the concept that people are more than just figures in a data column.

(Deepti Sagar is a Partner, and Aditya Sudhindranath is Director at Deloitte India. The views expressed by the authors are their own.)

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