There has been much discussion in the marketing community around the need and drive to push offline prospects and customers online. I have come across the term ‘Phygital’ for the concept i.e. the combination of physical and digital. Clearly, online can reduce costs, speed up access to information, enhance productivity and offers many other benefits.
However, I sometimes wonder whether companies have given serious consideration to two aspects
1) how they will engage with customers online as opposed to a self service relationship and
2) how they will therefore engender loyalty and advocacy.
The answer may lay in what the company serves the customer in terms of 4 things namely information, education, communication and entertainment. That’s not to say that the company needs to tell jokes online or provide access to an online degree. Simply, that understanding customers and what they want from a company like yours helps guide decisions about online content. It also doesn’t mean that going online means we are going to lose all human interaction. There are affordable tools available to allow for live chat by text or access to a live agent. Prominent ‘call us’ on the website or click to call on a mobile site ensure that the customer has a choice. Customers can and will of course still choose to visit your shop if they want to d so. That’s the key here. It’s a combination that’s required.
It is fair to say that online doesn’t only mean your website these days. Customers interact with companies all over the web. That could be a tweet, Facebook post, LinkedIn comment, YouTube or Vimeo video, a directory listing or any number of other access points. The old days have long gone where we leave it to the website to do the job.
Smaller businesses may have a real challenge here. Manpower is not a commodity they have in plentiful supply. But, by generating good online content (see our previous blog on this topic), they can perhaps find a competitive advantage and maybe even encourage prospects and customers to do more with them at arms length online (and thus at lower resource and cost) if they provide credible content that customers will be drawn to and that adds value to their experience.
For example, we write an increasing amount of content from blogs to tips to tweets, LinkedIn posts and so on. From this, we have actually done the reverse of offline to online I.e. we have had enquiries as a result of this activity that has turned into a face to face meeting and ultimately new business. What is interesting to note is that the quality of enquiry has certainly risen since we adopted this strategy. We believe that it is because prospective customers search the web for our kind of business, find GSA and the credibility is increased early in the relationship that increases in turn the likelihood of a meeting. We also use this in reverse. Whilst we don’t yet have products per se to sell at arms length, we do use links on our emails to our online content as part of our sales strategy to enhance our credibility and the chance of converting more business.
Moving customers from the physical world online is an important factor in today’s business success. But focusing on the customer needs first is essential to make it work. Why would they want to deal with you online and with you as opposed to another similar company? Your move online needs to answer that question. Otherwise, you will suffer increasing buyer promiscuity lower retention and less relationships.