Within two years, experts predict that more money will be spent advertising on social media than on the entire TV ad market combined. But while brands are busy pushing ads, audiences are trying desperately to interact with these brands online and let them know what it is they really want. Nowadays, consumers are:
- More connected
- Able to access more information
- Demanding personalisation and individualised services
- Seeking a more ‘holistic experience’
- Asking for more efficiency
To reach this new generation of consumers, we can no longer focus on the product alone. We need to ask ourselves – what does our brand stand for? How does this product or service benefit the consumer? How can we improve the purchasing process?
This is where a focus on the consumer experience can make a difference. In a recent report Walker Consulting predicted that by the year 2020 the consumer experience would be more important than the product itself or the price of the product. Consumers will not only be willing to pay for an improved experience, they’ll also expect it. In return consumers will act as brand ambassadors, ready and willing to defend and recommend your brand to others.
Understanding your audience
Knowing your audience is the first step to developing a successful consumer experience strategy. This knowledge can be obtained and expressed through various methods including big data, buyer personas, customer journey mapping, audience analysis, CRM, transaction data and digital listening. The more sources we rely on the collect this data and the more connected the data itself, the more knowledge we will gain about the consumer. Of course, not all brands will be able to afford knowledge acquisition at this level. In that case, an increased focus on the collection and analysis of customer feedback can, similarly, help brands to optimise the consumer experience. You could rely on feedback forms and post-purchase surveys, but many brands are now choosing to rely on digital listening instead.
The number of channels on which the consumer can communicate with your brand has increased exponentially. It’s impossible for a brand to be aware of, and actively monitor, each of these different networks. Monitoring tools can be used to extract real-time information published by users across multiple networks, through specific queries and keywords. That information is then analysed during the digital listening process. Digital listening is a consumer experience essential, and comes with numerous benefits.
6 benefits of Digital Listening
1. Digital listening allows us to gather insights
We can track a number of different types of mentions online including Direct Mentions (where the user names the brand or product directly), Indirect Mentions (where the brand is not named but alluded to), and those mentions that use the social handle of the brand being referenced (these mentions are the simplest to identify). Mentions gathered from social listening can result in valuable insights, which can then be used to improve the product or service on offer.
Example of a direct mention of an Amazon product which provides us with an insight into the opinions of the consumer.
Indirect mentions can be used to detect business opportunities and target users who might be best suited to receive adverts that showcase a particular product or service. Brands can anticipate the needs and wants of an individual, entering into a conversation with them about a product or service they might be interested in, and offering them a free trial, sample or further information.
Example of an indirect mention which could be relevant to an automotive brand
2. Brands can detect influencers and potential brand ambassadors
When multiple consumers express a preference for a brand following an interaction with a single peer, we can say that those consumers have been impacted by an influencer. When a consumer expresses a preference for a brand and defends it because the consumer experience has beaten their expectations, that consumer has become a brand ambassador.
A Twitter study conducted by Annalect found that 40% of Twitter users admit to having made a purchase as a direct result of an interaction with an influencer. Detecting these influencers and brand ambassadors is the key to increasing brand affinity. Adding keywords centred around appreciation and love for a brand to a digital listening query can help us identify them. It’s also important to analyse their account and sphere of influence so we can ensure we’re prioritising those who can create a real impact. Once detected, we can get in touch with them directly, collaborate with them, offer them personalised products, free trials, and product codes which they can pass on to their followers.
3. The ability to improve the social customer service
Over the last two years, customer service interactions on Twitter have increased by 250%. Consumers are increasingly demanding and more connected with one another. As a result, they expect more from the online consumer experience. Brands need a social customer service team with access to a social monitoring tool that will help them keep track of relevant mentions in real-time. Brands should be proactive, focusing on indirect mentions as well as those that reference their brand directly.
4. The opportunity to improve our reputation online
Digital listening and monitoring tools can also be used to alert brands to any potentials risks to their online reputation. These alerts are linked to particular keywords associated with negative sentiment. With digital listening, brands can prepare themselves in advance by defining a clear communications policy for crisis management.
5. Real-time feedback
Any action taken in order to increase awareness, engagement or to improve the customer experience will require a relatively high budget, so it’s important to measure performance to determine the impact of your investment and optimise any future activity. New releases, live events, webinars, on and off campaigns with hashtags, contests etc. All these actions can be monitored live to assess their impact and analyse sentiment.
6. Digital listening allows us to learn from our competitor’s mistakes
The online landscape is only becoming more competitive, and gaining that competitive edge is of great concern to any forward-thinking brand. By monitoring audience perception of competitors, brands can improve their understanding of their competitor’s offering, learn from their mistakes, examine where they’re lacking and try and improve on their consumer service strategy, in order to better appeal to consumers.
Digital listening is just one step to developing an excellent, human-centred consumer experience strategy. If you’re not listening to what your consumers have to say, you’re missing out on a wealth of opportunities. To gain that competitive edge and build brand affinity, we must keep one step ahead of our competitors, consistently anticipating the needs and wants of our audience.