Moving Forward: The Digital Customer Experience of Today, Tomorrow and Beyond

It is no secret that the digital marketplace is expanding at what can only be called a breakneck pace. So, the expectations of the customer are rising dramatically. Meeting these needs can make all of the difference in the world between a failed business and one which is destined for success. Unfortunately, I have seen many enterprises that continue to struggle with adapting to such technologies. Not only are potential clients increasingly critical of how a product or service is presented, but the inclusion of mobile platforms such as smartphones and tablets also needs to be addressed. So, how can implementing the correct digital strategy enhance the user experience and what techniques need to be embraced? Let’s take a closer look at these two important questions.

The (Evolving) Internet of Things

The first point that we should realize is that as opposed to a handful of years ago, users are much more aware of what comprises a quality website and a sound presentation. A visitor will no longer wait for a website to load for an inordinate amount of time; he or she is likely to simply return to the search results page and look elsewhere. Users seek ease of navigation, proactive product content, social media contacts and the ability to interact directly with the business. Also, we should never forget that third-party review sites are now becoming critical in determining which business is preferred over another.

In turn, customer-oriented businesses are changing their strategies to present a multifaceted approach to enhance the user experience. Sites are more streamlined. The “curated approach” now goes a long way. Text is written for organic searches as opposed to Google algorithms. Additionally, platforms such as WordPress are now being employed in comparison to outsourcing web design to a professional. A final note centers around the undeniable fact that even the largest companies are now making full use of social media. Words such as “viral” and “blog” have now become industry standards. It is indeed a brave new world, but the advancement does not stop here.

The Rise of the Smartphone

It is estimated that no less than twenty-five percent of Internet access now occurs through mobile devices. In fact, this trend is only expected to pick up pace in the months and years ahead. As more users are now enjoying remote access, some sites are struggling to cope. In fact, I have seen many that still lack the ability to be displayed correctly on a smartphone or tablet screen. Mobile and wearable devices are here to stay. They are not a whim or a fad. As more enterprises realize this fact, it is inevitable that further integration will naturally occur (lest they suffer the consequences).

Businesses are taking this problem seriously. They are now evolving their platforms into versions that are just as compatible with mobile devices as they are with a static PC. Apps and widgets are now the craze; both providing quick access to products and services that are literally at one’s fingertips.

Still, we have to appreciate the undeniable fact that numerous sites will need to entirely streamline their current formats to accommodate for this paradigm shift. Naturally, some are better at doing this than others. The creation of the mobile application (while nearly unheard of only a few years ago) is now one of the biggest businesses across the Internet.

The Alphabet Soup of CRM

Customer relations management is now critical. The end user expects that his or her needs will be met in a real-time scenario. This is the primary reason why we now see live chat widgets embedded within many websites. While a static contact form or a telephone number are all well and good, many clients desire to speak with a representative in real time. This enables him or her to feel as if they have a personal relationship with the company in question. In turn, the company can address any issues as they arise. So, the business can ask “How are we doing?” as opposed to “How did we do?”.

More than the Customer Alone

Without the correct exposure, the dreams of any business will never take flight. So, proper SEO techniques are also becoming paramount from a marketing point of view. Gone are the days of the so-called “dark hat” techniques such as keyword stuffing. Now, text is written with the consumer and the latest Google updates (such as Penguin) in mind. This serves two main purposes. First, no one wants to feel as if a site is addressing robots as opposed to their desires. Secondly, Google absolutely LOVES text and web design that is appealing to their search engine. The end results are high rankings, more inbound traffic and of course, the greater chances of converting a visitor into a customer.

I believe that this is one of the greatest challenges in digital business today. Management needs to carefully balance SEO and exposure techniques with the ability to actively address the needs of the customer. In other words, in the new world of the “Internet of Things”, a robust digital strategy needs to be employed in synergy with the user’s experience and the needs of the business.

All Things Considered…

From my viewpoint, the concepts that we have described are not what we would call rocket science. It has been known for quite a long time that the success of any operation is gauged by how the customer is addressed and the level of exposure that a marketing campaign allows. Still, this is more often that not easier said than done.

We need to remember that the tactics which worked yesterday and today may very well be outdated tomorrow. Or, a completely new market may open up ( or your customers start using new devices such as smartphones and maybe even a smartwatch). Although technical knowledge is great to possess, management must strive to keep their finger on the pulse of the digital world and have a digital strategy for executing well. This will enable any business to keep pace with the rising expectations of the consumer while also ensuring that online efficacy will steadily grow.

Do you have a digital strategy that spans the people, processes, and tools of your organization? Sometimes we will see that there is great appetite to fund the development of a tangible initiative but less appetite to ensure the successful execution of the initiatives. While that has often been the case, we are now seeing clients that are feeling the pain of not having a digital strategy in place and are doing the work of optimizing their business.

How To Hire An Online Marketing Consultant

Working with a digital marketing consultant for the first time can be a challenge due to the various factors that you need to consider. Will they understand your business or products? How will they work with you and your team? Will they deliver on what they promise and will they be affordable?

These are all important questions that you will be seeking answers for and by doing some due diligence, you are sure to find the right person for your business.

Here are 9 points you should consider as you look to hire a digital marketing consultant:

1. What is their experience?

There are different types of online marketing consultants working in different sectors and you need to be sure the person you hire has experience within your industry. For example, a B2B marketer will have different skills and experience from one that is in the consumer retail sector.

So, this is an important point to consider and you should ensure that they understand the nature of your business, industry trends and what your goals are.

2. Who have they worked with in the past?

Ask for references from past clients and check out the full list of clients they’ve worked for. This should give you a clue of their experience because if they have worked with similar businesses then you are at an advantage.

3. Which sectors have they worked in?

Some sectors overlap and an online marketing consultant that has worked within the B2B services sector will likely bring valuable skills to the consumer services sector. That’s because many of the issues around the nature of services like their being intangible and being consumed at the time they are produced are very similar.

4. Are they a freelancer or agency marketer?

With the growth in Internet access around the world and fast connection speeds, it has become much easier to work with clients and partners who are across the world. So an SEO freelancer in India for example is able to offer the same or an even better service than a local marketer.

This has also been helped by freelance websites such as People Per Hour and Elance that have thousands of registered marketers who offer a great service. Also, the rating and review systems on these sites make it easier to choose a freelancer that has the skills you require.

The other two options include employing a digital marketer or hiring an agency that has a wide range of skills and a team of experts that can help in creating online campaigns, digital copywriting, email marketing, social media and more.

5. Where are they based?

If you decide to work with a freelancer, it’s a benefit if you can meet up face-to-face to discuss strategy. That way you will build a stronger relationship and it will ensure that you are both on the same page as regarding plans for your business.

6. What qualifications do they hold?

A degree or diploma in marketing is a good start, however it is not essential especially in the online world where experience and technical skills are more important. However, it’s important to have the fundamental marketing skills of market research, customer and competitor analysis strategy and other skills which are taught at colleges and universities.

7. Do they have online reviews?

If you plan to work with a freelancer or agency, then it’s likely that they have reviews for work they’ve carried out in the past. Check out these reviews to see what other clients have to say about their skills, work ethic, experience, response times and so on. Also, if you can get references from past clients that would be extra helpful to you as you make your decision.

8. What do they charge for their services?

Hiring a consultant should be affordable for your business and no matter how excellent they are, if you cannot meet their costs then it’s better to look elsewhere. Freelancers are available at affordable rates on sites like Elance, however these sites are more suited for one-off projects and tasks.

9. Are they published or an author?

This one is not as important as the other points because there are many marketing experts that have not published articles or a book. Of course a marketing practitioner that is recognised as an expert and is published is a bonus over one that is not, because they will have demonstrated deep knowledge in their field and be respected too.

Why Business Owners Prefer Outsourcing Digital Marketing Consulting Services

Most of the time business owners are making use of numerous opportunities to make their business reputable and profitable. And, one of the best options is to go online. By having a solid online presence, business owners can accomplish numerous tasks from enticing, communicating and transacting with clients. But, to attain these benefits, it is important to opt for digital marketing consulting services. Below are some of the reasons why business owners prefer outsourcing such service.

To cut down potential expenses

One of the main reasons business owners prefer outsourcing digital marketing consulting services is to cut down potential expenses. Of course, there are business owners who wish to have easy access on their employees. That is why they most likely create their own digital marketing department. Unfortunately, this option can be quite expensive since you need to pay them regularly. Thus, when outsourcing consulting services, you can easily cut down overhead expenses since you will be paying such services only when you need it.

To gain more services in one fee

The next reason why business owners are outsourcing digital marketing consulting services is to gain more solutions in one fee. Since you are working with experts in digital marketing, they have sufficient knowledge and skills in other related solutions that can benefit your business. Because of this, you can opt for such solutions to ensure that you marketing ventures will be better and more successful.

To maintain employee performance

Another good reason why business owners prefer opting for consulting services for digital marketing is to maintain their employee performance. Surely, there are instances when you have employees who have knowledge in digital marketing. However, giving them the task in planning and implementing marketing strategies can stress them out. As a result, some of the tasks may be insufficient or even cause serious problems in your business.

To harness the latest marketing strategies

Finally, outsourcing marketing consulting services will also allow owners to harness the latest marketing strategies. Like other ventures, marketing strategies continue to evolve. Therefore, working with experts that offer marketing consulting services can provide you with the latest and most effective strategies for your business. Not to mention, there are also now better tools that can monitor and determine if your strategies give the results you are looking for.

Knowing all these will allow owners to determine how to improve their digital marketing strategies properly and more efficiently.