Customer Experience in the Age of the Aggregator
It’s 2016, and I’m sad to say that I regularly encounter brands on social media who live and die by their boilerplates, or simply just don’t respond and use their channels as content distribution networks.
In the age of the aggregator, the power of the consumer has never been greater, and brands simply can’t afford to enter the social realm and try to “play the game” by their own rules — whatever those are. There are reasons why I start my product searches on Amazon and not Google, reasons why I order take-out through JustEat and don’t call the restaurant directly. In the past year, I’ve even stopped going to content creators’ individual websites — I instead go to their Twitter feeds.
Whatever your product or service is, unless you’re totally unique (like something only the Government can issue), users will be able to find a multitude of options and alternatives with one search. Because of this never-ending spectrum of choice, the digital consumer is loyal to those who help them navigate and make sense of infinity.
Aggregators like Amazon make the initial search process a lot easier and shorter; plus, they’ve built up a brand that can be trusted and they know they can expect a certain level of customer service. But how important is customer experience in the digital age? According to the American Express Survey (2011), 3 in 5 Americans would switch to a new brand or company in pursuit of a better service experience. The same survey also revealed that 7 in 10 Americans would be prepared to spend more with companies and brands that they felt provided “excellent” customer service.
Although your customers won’t love you if you give bad service, your competitors will.
It’s more important than ever to take a human and flexible approach to online customer service. By making the choice to be present on a social media platform, you must also accept that it is now a new touchpoint for customers (and potential customers) to contact you on. And you have to be prepared to deal with all eventualities.
Ignoring legitimate complaints, concerns, or someone pointing out that something is broken on your site won’t go away, no matter how hard you wish them to. Blocking them won’t help, either. Not only could this make that individual situation worse, but other people searching for your brand can find them and see no response from you.
Dealing with comments (both negative and positive) in the public realm, when possible, and without a boilerplate, can make a real difference to how people perceive your brand.
I’ve both seen and experienced a brand purely using Twitter to pump out content piece after content piece, on the hour, every hour, ignoring all the notifications and reports based on the number of mentions they receive.
They don’t stop to take into account that a great majority of those mentions are, in fact, complaints and dissatisfied customers.
So, how can you create customer loyalty in an online world full of sites battling it out with aggregators like Facebook, who want to be the home of everything?
The Customer Experience Comes Down to Data
In 2015, Digital Marketing Magazine revealed that 60% of customers interact with the brands they buy from via social, while 74% research a company’s social media presence before making a purchase.
If a potential customer goes to your social media channel–let’s say Facebook–right now, what will they see? Will they see user comments responded to with a very similar copy-and-paste boilerplate? Will they see the same pieces of content posted repeatedly? Or, even worse, will they see that you haven’t posted anything in over two months?
It takes seconds for consumers to gain a first impression of your brand, and this first impression can either contribute to building trust, or raise further questions.
This is why developing a realistic social media strategy is important: you need to understand the value that social plays, not only in product awareness and sales, but also in managing relationships between the brand and your customers.
Loyalty for Your Brand Is Loyalty to Your Content
The days of talking about linear customer journeys and sales funnels are gone. Direct attribution to a specific channel is a myth. This doesn’t mean, however, that we can’t try to influence it.
By monitoring your data and registering which pieces of content and topics are performing best amongst your audience (not just which ones are ranking highest for certain queries, but which ones are getting the most engagement), you can start to build a journey, and guide your content to tailor each prospective point of contact.
While it’s important to have compelling, authoritative content based on specific topics on your website, many brands limit these to a single channel or social network. While cross-posting the same content to each network isn’t the way to go, you should reflect the content you post to Twitter on your other social presences and in your email campaigns.
By building and implementing a content campaign that can be adapted and broken up into segments and spread across all these different channels, brands can ensure that they don’t get drowned out by the aggregator.
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You need to keep your content consistent and regular, and make sure it always adds value. Promoting ways by which your audience can be notified of fresh content is also necessary, whether it is by automated emails when you publish or to your regular email newsletter.
A great example of this immersive content experience is Harry’s. As a men’s shaving brand, as you can imagine, there probably aren’t a lot of scintillating happenings on a regular basis, but to create their content experience, they created a digital magazine containing men’s fashion and advice for dads – their primary audience.
In the Age of the Aggregator, customer experience isn’t defined by products and services — it’s defined by the intimate interactions between brands and customers. It’s up to brands to make these interactions personal and mean something to the customer, no matter what point in the “buying process” they’re at, and they certainly can’t be automated or scripted.
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Dan is a Technical SEO Account Manager at SALT.agency, based in Leeds (England). He as passionate about all things digital, especially how we communicate online as brands and as people.