Until brands stop selling and start conversing
By Karan Gupta
Even before we went digital everything, customer engagement was always about finding out who the audience is, where this audience comes from and what could be of interest to them. Brands have poured in fortunes to have their ears to the ground to understand what the customer is like, and take their products and services to them.
In the early days, television, radio and print enabled a brand to reach out to its target consumers and engage them for who they are. However, this was always more of a monologue rather than a conversation between the brand and its consumers. Digital was supposed to break this monotony by bringing the brand and consumer closer, making communication easier and, at some point in the future, interactive too.
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Stuck in the metrics
As everything moved to digital, consumers’ lives went digital too. It started with reading, watching and talking to each other online. Soon a lot of the consumer’s daily life became about banking online, buying online and booking a flight online.
As this was happening, the digital marketing ecosystem started measuring its interactions with consumers in traffic rate, page clicks, page views and time spent. Advertising particularly focussed on aspects such as reach, impressions, click-through rates and cost per click, to name a few.
Audience targeting increasingly focussed on attributes such as age, gender, location and segmenting audiences based on interests, collectively described as demographics. In a bid to filter its audience into segments based on who they are, the digital ecosystem ended up masking the emotion behind why they do what they do online.
The digital ecosystem’s obsession with treating everything as a metric has left the consumer with a feeling of being reduced to a number. In doing so, brands engaging with consumers in the digital realm have alienated themselves from consumers and increasingly given them a feeling of being sold to, each time these consumers engage with the brand’s digital marketing campaigns.
The human quotient
Behind the number is a consumer who is a human, fundamentally driven by life experiences that define their personality, their biases and their choices. These human experiences define their mindset which, in turn, has an impact on how they interact in the digital world. These also have a bearing on how they evaluate and choose products and services, and engage with brands through their journey as customers.
Instead of merely treating consumers as a number, the digital ecosystem needs to address their unique personality traits and mindsets. It needs to go from ‘who is the consumer’ to ‘why does the consumer do what he/she does’ in the digital realm.
It needs to analyse consumers’ personality traits, beliefs, biases, interests and lifestyle choices. This would offer a deeper understanding of how their unique personalities impact the way they view things in the digital realm and what triggers their interactions. With such an insight, digital can humanise itself in its engagements with the consumers, and especially enable brands to stop selling and start conversing with them.
We humans may have gone digital with our lives, but it’s time digital went human with its interactions with us. With its content, services and marketing, digital has made efforts to address this problem by trying to personalise its interactions with consumers; however, until they stop treating them as just a demographic, there is nothing new about digital today.
— The author is MD, Zirca Digital Solutions