Four Consumer-Inspired Ideas to Impel Digital Switchover in 2014

This article originally appeared in an issue of be: inspired/, an online magazine co-created for and with marketing experts.

‘Digital switchover’ probably feels like old news. And there’s no doubt that it has already fundamentally changed the way brands behave: the way they develop and deploy marketing efforts. It’s widely accepted among early adopters that digital can create bigger, more interesting spaces for brands to play in. And that this, in turn, can deepen and create more profitable relationships with consumers. But digital switchover is not a point in time. It’s a journey— possibly an endless one—that many of our clients are constantly reviewing and evolving on.

Here at Promise Communispace in the UK we spent an afternoon with some of our consultancy team to uncover the consumers’ experience of the digital switchover and identify some key drivers for consumers. We call these sessions ‘Bubbling Up’ and we tackle a different subject each time. Our group’s expertise spans a range of sectors, work and consumer experiences: including TMT, Travel, Financial Services, Insurance, FMCG and Retail. This time around we laid out various questions around Digital Switchover, including: who’s doing it well, consumer hopes and fears, when is digital okay and what’s around the corner? We unearthed four main drivers for change in the digital switchover.

1. Make it feel good (for us and me) 

Consumers are cynical and in charge, using digital platforms to deliver lengthy lessons in humility to brands. On twitter, they denounce products not fit for purpose or services lacking in transparency. They curate, self-service, comparison-shop, share experiences and prescribe. Simultaneously brands want to be the antidote to this cynicism. Kit Kat for example, introduced QR codes on some of their packets earlier this year after brushes with campaigners over palm oil and rainforest destruction in Indonesia. Scanning the code gives key environmental info and reassures consumers that coca is harmlessly sourced.

Consumers also want their digital experience with a brand to evoke positivity about them—a self-esteem booster in this age of achievement. Digital has the potential to organise, support, encourage, entertain and make us more efficient. So done right, brands can help kill our guilt. The Skyscanner app (valued at $800 million earlier this year) has a free flight search facility offering proficiency to all by showing the best value flights for any journey. There’s the Fly Delta app, which tracks passengers’ baggage and gives them a virtual glass bottom to the ground below their flight—phase 1 of a $140 million investment in digital improvements for customers. And we’re seeing a rise in the adoption of cleaning apps among Mums as the opportunity to share tips, preferred products and even compete with one another becomes more immediate!

2. Bring the outsiders in

Arguably, we are all marketers. And in any organisation, engaging customers digitally means that different teams need to line up around a brand’s digital presence. But there is still an obvious gap to bridge. As a minimum, consumers expect an airline to remember the details they used previously in an app when they next visit the bookings website.

At the other end of the spectrum, companies like Burberry have gone so far as to build editorial teams around their brand online. Back in November 2009 they launched ‘a living document’ The Art of Trench to deepen relationships with customers around their products. The expert’s touch is integral to the quality, as is the facility for people to share their relationship with the brand’s flagship product.

3. Develop the right trategic partnerships

With new digital tools, marketers can reach customers in a variety of ways. Partnerships between brands—however unlikely—are fuelling that more. It’s deemed by some as the golden age of brand building where you can stretch beyond synergy and shared worlds. Last summer Wall’s ice cream and O2 teamed up to send advertisements to Londoners’ smartphones as temperatures soared and thirst hit hard. Kit Kat reappears again here, this
time to lend its name to brand the new Android operating system. Both sides claim that no money exchanged hands and Android wanted to continue its tradition of naming software releases after treats— recognizable, every day treats. Regardless, this is a lesson in how unexpected, playful partnerships can make more consumers sit up and take notice of a tech release.

4. Robots are better

Digitally speaking, consumers love systems which keep order—that track our interactions, move things along, and remember crucial details. As brands make the switch to more automated processes, the inevitable question gets raised—are robots better than humans? In 2011 while promoting their HomePlus app, Tesco took the bold step of removing their staff (and store) as they created a virtual supermarket on a South Korean subway billboard. ‘Time poor’ commuters had only to scan QR codes to have their shopping delivered within 24 hours. The idea has since been rolled out to universities. Robots may have been built to compliment us, but consumers’ note their value more amid exhaustion at being let down by other people. As technology develops; as empathy becomes coded for analytics and as robots like MIVOR learn to respond to your mood (turn on your mic and try it!), there are more opportunities to make robots more of the solution digitally. It doesn’t need to be big or brash. It can be simple, small ‘better business as usual’ steps like easing customer’s minds by emailing a receipt after their bank card is registered as lost or
stolen.

For more information on our ‘Bubbling Up’ sessions or to request a bespoke one for you and your team, please contact Michelle.

A special thank you to Clare Fuller, Bill Alberti, Amy Concannon, Benjamin Moncrieff, Anna Tomkowicz, John Gunn, Isabel Mondorf, Fred Gifford and Maya Foley.

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