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Creating a digital-first buying experience to emerge stronger post-pandemic

Social distancing isn’t just a challenge for consumer brands who rely on shoppers, diners and drinkers.  

 

Covid-19, Strategy

Charlie Boon

Strategist at Omobono with an interest in behavioural science and effectiveness.

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For B2B brands, not being able to meet people means no events, no face-to-face meetings, no experience days, roundtables or any number of other ways B2B brands use human contact to sell. 

In B2B, people often still buy people, so being unable to get close to customers is a serious threat to business success.  

But if our buying experience relies heavily on people being in the same room how do we find ways to make this happen virtually?  

This is where marketing can help. Marketers are the experts at changing minds and behaviour from afar. But first marketers need to reframe their role from simply providing covering fire for the sales team, to getting right in the trenches with them, driving sales. 

Of course, social distancing is merely accelerating buying behaviours that have been changing for a long time.  

We all know these stats – over 50% of the customer journey is complete by the time a sales person is involved in a buying process, and much of the decision has been made by the time a customer reaches out to you. Forward-thinking companies have been digitising their buying process for a long time, using website content, video or live chat to complement their sales teams. 

However, for those brands still hesitating and relying heavily on a human sales force, your time has come. Brands simply have to find ways to engage with customers in a digital, non-contact environment, or find themselves irrelevant.  

Of course, there is still a vital role for sales people as consultants and configurators, tailoring services to suit large, complex customers. But you simply can’t rely on force of personality to get deals done 

So where do you start?  

Always begin by mapping out the current buying experience. We use experience mapping workshops where we map out your current buying experience, phase by phase, touchpoint by touchpoint, for your key customer personas. We can run these workshops virtually (of course) and include a wide range of stakeholders, from sales and account management to R&D and marketing. 

Once we see what the current buying experience looks like, we get a sense for where pain points are, and where we’re over-reliant on human contact to move a sale along. For example:  

  • If our buying experience relies heavily on events, how do we find ways to run these virtually? 
  • If sales people spend time with customers understanding their needs and tailoring services, can we build this into a digital diagnostic? 
  • If our sector is confusing with lots of jargon, how do we simplify it for less experienced audiences? We will still have times when sales teams are getting on Zoom or Skype and building relationships with customers, but our aim is to reduce our reliance on this in a non-contact world.

 3 small moves to building a better brand 

  1. Do a ‘distinctive assets’ review – lay out all your creative alongside some key competitors. Do you stand out? What makes you different? How do your distinctive assets score on the chart earlier, are they likely to be remembered?
  2. Run a quick assessment of your brand using the Brand Equity Model. Could you change what your brand stands for, or how it is perceived, by helping customers or even society in new and different ways?
  3. Try upweighting really strong distinctive assets in your next campaign. Are there ways you could use imagery, characters, a brand world or music to build more equity? 

3 small moves to developing a digital first buying experience  

  1. Run a CX mapping workshop – identify where the digital gaps lie in your current buying experience. We can help you with that and feel free to download our CX mapping mural template. 
  2. Do a content audit – do you have the right content needed for all personas, at all stages of the buying journey? Where does your buying process get complex, and could content help?
  3. Use analytics software like Google Analytics – find critical paths in your website that you could improve. Set up some simple AB tests to start optimising this experience and gathering vital website performance data. 

3 small moves toward agile marketing  

  1. Adopting an agile marketing approach on one campaign (or even an aspect of one campaign) – shifts your mindset from planning everything to perfection, to creating hypotheses to be tested in the real world.
  2. Review your performance metrics – what does success really look like for each asset? Have you considered both long and short success horizons?
  3. Reflect on past campaigns – did everything go perfectly to plan or did things veer off course at some stage? Would the campaign have been better if new information had been included as you went along? Demonstrating that nothing really goes perfectly to plan is a good way of persuading internal stakeholders that an agile marketing approach is safe to try. 

5 small steps to check the health of your digital experience  

  • Are your websites, apps and intranets really serving you well?  
  • Have you tested critical paths to ensure they work across multiple devices, browsers and are intuitive and easy to follow?  
  • Does your navigation fit the mental models your customers hold of your product or service range?  
  • Are you gathering data on user behaviour to inform future marketing campaigns, or run optimisation tests?  
  • Is your digital experience reflecting your brand promise accurately? 

Now’s the time to innovate, test and learn. Those with a seamless digital buying experience will suddenly have a huge advantage, but that shouldn’t put others off. The sooner you get up to speed and invest time in your overall digital experience the better you’ll weather these uncertain times, the better you will serve customers and the more ready you will be to leap back to growth once the downturn is over. 

small changes you can make to be more agile in your marketing  

  1. Accept experimentation over planning. 
  2. Make small moves over bit bets. 
  3. Progress over perfection is better. 
  4. Go with real world learning over opinions and conjecture. 
  5. Collaborate and ditch the silos!  

 

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