Delivering seamless, consistent, and engaging experiences starts with your digital strategy. Explore the characteristics that make up a great digital strategy, and learn how to deliver powerful brand moments that solidify customer loyalty and drive differentiation for your organization.
Great digital ideas possess the power to establish or redefine a brand. Companies like Uber, Venmo, and Airbnb wouldn’t exist without exceptional digital experiences.
Great brands have one thing in common: a unique, ownable idea. It’s an idea that defines your brand, using the digital space to articulate and share the experience only your brand can offer. It expresses your vision, mission, and purpose, showing consumers who you are and the role your brand plays in their lives.
We sat down with David Stallsmith, Perficient Digital’s Director of Strategy and Innovation, and Gregg Sampson, Perficient Digital’s Director of Digital Experience, to understand the role this idea plays for transforming your digital experience.
Why is a unique, ownable idea critical for a great digital strategy?
David Stallsmith: The ultimate goal of digital transformation, or any kind of strategic, digital initiative, is to efficiently provide differentiation. Your company wants to deliver it well and in a way that doesn’t require a significant investment.
Having a unique, ownable idea is more than half the battle. When you have a compelling value proposition, your reliance on paid (or owned) marketing and advertising decreases because your earned media and word of mouth do the selling for you.
Defining a clear value proposition and building a brand around it is not easy, but it’s at the heart of every successful business.
Gregg Sampson: I believe in this statement: “The most brilliant brand positioning and advertising can be destroyed quickly by a poor customer experience.” The innovators we know so well – Uber, Delta, Rocket Mortgage, Venmo – are drastically changing their industries because they set the bar for higher expectations.
As customers start to use that tool, product, or service, it then becomes the new expectation for all the companies with which the customers do business.
If your organization is a “fast-follower,” then you have to keep this in mind when developing ideas to differentiate your customer experience.
What if you haven’t established a value proposition?
DS: There’s definitely work involved to get there. Right now so many people and companies are chasing trends and ideas. With the venture capital available today, it’s pretty easy to get funding if you have a unique, ownable idea.
On the other hand, it’s still challenging in that you have to stand out among all of those competing messages, find a niche, and execute a simple idea extremely well.
Being all things to all people is a killer when it comes to marketing. If you’re launching a brand or a company, you have to be able to simplify your purpose and distill it down to its essence.
I recently heard someone say, “There are riches in the niches.” The ability to work at the margins, find a niche, and do something that will cater to a very specific set of people will likely have a bigger payoff. The challenge is being able to find that focus and execute flawlessly.
How do you find a unique, ownable idea?
DS: Understanding your customer is a must. It allows you to develop empathy and respond to it with a simple, valuable product and message.
How you get there takes work through a process of refinement. We use a design-thinking methodology to help brands empathize with their customers and develop solutions based on that empathy, using a combination of optimism and finely-tuned craft. Then, you test your hypothesis with prototypes, refine those prototypes, and try again. And you repeat that process until you find something of real value and differentiation.
It becomes challenging when you’re working within an organization that’s complex with silos and politics, which most have. Being able to stay true to that approach and helping our clients surface a unique, ownable idea under these circumstances isn’t always easy. We try to be advocates for the approach and process. And we serve our clients as an outside perspective that helps coach and guide them through this process.
Which specific trends are driving the need for establishing your value proposition?
DS: There are always new channels, new apps, and new opportunities. Social media isn’t necessarily a trend, but it plays a significantly important role in generating word of mouth. If you’re not equipping your customers with the words to share your brand or idea, then you’re doing yourself a disservice.
You have to approach any marketing engagement or challenge from the perspective of helping your customers tell their friends about your brand. This is a great filter because if you can’t do that, then your message likely needs refining. It’s either too complex, doesn’t make sense, or doesn’t apply.
Which tools does a CMO need to implement strategies around a unique, ownable idea?
DS: Let’s say you came up with this great unique, ownable idea. You have to make sure it continues to be unique and ownable in the future. You need a pretty good antenna for sensing what your competition might be able to replicate, monitor what’s going on, and then respond based on what you’ve learned.
It all comes back to knowing your customer and being able to understand their changing needs. You must have good ways to monitor the world around you through digital channels and a mix of other channels.
How mature are organizations or industries in terms of delivering unique digital experiences?
GS: I recently read Forrester’s Customer Experience Index (CXI) for 2018, which reveals rankings of 287 brands across 19 industries in the U.S. What caught my attention is that, over a one-year period, Forrester’s benchmark shows a lot of companies are still struggling:
Between 2017 and 2018, the overall quality of U.S. customer experience is stagnating and differentiation on the basis of CX is evaporating as more brands become mediocre. – Forrester
The report indicates that customer satisfaction slightly improved for a handful of industries, including auto and home insurers, luxury auto manufacturers, and mass-market auto manufacturers. Over the same period, average scores dipped for direct brokerage, multichannel brokerage, internet service providers, and digital retail.
This points to some trends we’ve observed in our work – the top five reasons digital strategies fail. The biggest reason tends to be lack of alignment across the C-suite. Many organizations don’t have one person responsible for owning the customer experience. It’s a shared responsibility across several departments.
What’s the best advice you can give a CMO?
DS: Know your customer and their biggest challenges and goals. Your unique, ownable idea can’t be incrementally better than what’s popular now. It needs to be ten times better. Think beyond sales — aim for a higher goal where you can influence behavior.
That’s the litmus test for any brand or CMO: “Is your idea strong enough that it’s going to change consumer behavior?”
GS: It’s important to understand how your customers behave and what their journey looks like, and then make sure your digital touch points are best of class. In fact, eMarketer recently reported that 46.7% of U.S. internet users started product searches on Amazon compared to 34.6% who used Google first.
You have to understand the full customer journey – from research and consideration all the way through to purchase and after the sale. This understanding lets you make the most of your digital channels, reaching the right people with the right information at the right time.
What’s the one key takeaway for a CMO when finding a unique, ownable idea?
DS: Simplify the value proposition, and figure out the best way to express it simply and clearly. Don’t assume that your audience will understand your value.
GS: Your customers’ experience is shaped by the part that falls short of their expectations. Your organization can do so many things right, but the one thing that goes wrong – particularly if it’s important to the customer – that’s what they remember.
Know every nuance of the customer experience. Then, be able to measure it, and understand the sequence of how it all works together.
Creating a stand-out digital customer experience that attracts, engages, and retains customers is a tall order. Perhaps you’ve already done some of the foundational work, and you need help with the next step.
When working with clients, we take on the responsibility to make sure your unique, ownable digital ideas provide a solid foundation for your digital strategy. Through design-thinking methodology, defining customer journeys, and preparing road maps on which you can execute, you will have what it takes to deliver a CX that surprises and delights your customers.
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Stephanie has more than 10 years’ experience in marketing communications, leading and executing marketing strategies for corporate and non-profit organizations. She elevates the awareness and creativity of content marketing campaigns for Perficient.