Having the best product in your market segment is not enough to keep a brand alive. Encouraging repeat purchases or, more coveted, customer loyalty requires more than tiered-purchase benefits, free shipping, or quality.
The differentiator consumers keep coming back for is personalized interactions with people representing the brand. A brand’s vitality depends on creating this sense of intimacy at scale. 56% of U.S. consumers do their research online before making an ecomm purchase or buying in store. Brands which facilitate conversations with consumers, ensure customers feel their impact on a brand’s narrative. In short, those which “make shopping experiential” will create profitable friendships.
Gen Z and Millennials rely on peer recommendations (word-of-mouth’s not dead), and often “prefer buying experiences to purchasing physical objects”. So how do brands make the most of their influencer engagement strategy, and still sell the things? Enter interactive video, socially impactful challenges, and campaigns hosted by relatable micro-influencers.
Communication Leads to Conversion.
First, look into what your consumer segments care about. Millennial Marketing tells us Gen Z cares most about educational access, racial & gender equality, and poverty. These consumers actively support and publicly align with brands taking a stand on issues of importance to them. Encourage fans to co-create branded content that will drive donations by the brand to their priority causes. This is made simple by FOTITION, who creates custom overlays or filters for easy social sharing, and tracks content.
Look for the micro-influencers with clear voices in your industry or even people on your brand’s team capable of managing community forums. If the person is multi-medium emerging personality, they’ll be comfortable creating interactions and content across platforms. These influencer relationships will be key to increasing your brand awareness and giving the brand heart. So play nice, nurture your influencer network, and ensure you are tracking earned content, traffic, and conversion.
Second, use social and digital channels to create dialogue. Now you’ve found your brand hosts (not to get too Westworld), welcome your guests into the conversation. Sure, you’ll uncover how to better cater to consumers’ needs by interacting with them – but, more importantly, you’ll empower them to express themselves and feel heard by the brand community.
How? Get comfortable with your brand on camera. Video is everything (82% of consumer internet traffic by 2021 according to Cisco). Beyond eye-catching, on-screen movement, brand fans want to respond in kind. 88% of marketers will deploy video campaigns that contain interactive elements such as links, buttons, quizzes and forms this year. According to studies, interactive video “can increase conversion rates from 2x to 10x almost immediately”.
If you’re not NIKE and can’t afford the HQ sponsor fee, how do you get consumers talking back? Create an online community with personalized benefits for consumers. Creating connections to peer advisors who will answer questions with personal experience and educate people through topical forums. Seminar-style subgroups encourage topical discussion around products and lifestyle. 93% said interactive content is somewhat or very effective at educating the buyer, versus just 70% for static content (Inc). A skin care brand may create an online forum which focuses on the subject of acne and consists of those who have experienced skin problems with scarring. Customers feel seen and heard by their peers, as well as the brand they now identify as understanding their experience.
This trust plays out by customer-produced brand content, recommendations to their network, and consumer direction on where to go next with the conversation. According to a study by AdWeek: “customers are willing to co-create [with brands] … 75% of consumers say they’d find it valuable to create and manage a “style profile” that brands could use to better curate experiences and make recommendations.” How easy is it to sell to a customer who is telling you how to evolve products in market? A McKinsey case study showed 57% shift in motivation when messaging is personalized and take into account the target group’s cultural interests. Consumers want customized products, and they understand contributing to brand-related dialogue ultimately adds value to them through tailored experiences.
Let’s Be Practical.
“Customers aren’t looking for brands to define their journeys, but to design experiences that help them create their own journeys” (ADWEEK). However, there is a fine line of extracting too much preference data without providing individualized incremental value. According to Edelman, consumers who are underwhelmed and “feel that brands are benefiting more than they are” won’t be back. This means virtual product testing with facial and object recognition enabled apps like L’Oréal’s MakeupGenius App. It also means displaying clothes on 3D avatars in motion to get a more accurate idea of how clothing will move and wrinkle on prospective buyers. More practical and less of an investment, is to talk to consumers through video interactions.
Just last week MAC Cosmetics did just that on The Call List. Senior Artists, John Stapleton, taught hundreds of MAC Pro subscribers a live masterclass on makeup artistry on aging skin. John applied makeup and gave light-hearted client anecdotes to his live video audience streamed to him on a tv monitor. Participants followed a link MAC sent them via email, opted-in to the Masterclass, and were video called (think FaceTime or Skype) when the event started. App users tapped buttons on the screen to virtually raised their hands and took screen shots to share via social media. John excitedly said he felt like “the Jetsons”, as he unmuted guests on his screen to ask questions the entire audience could hear.
The days of brands compelling customers through static lifestyle images are extinct. Brands who interweave the experiences, interests, challenges, and desires into brand story and evolution of products will survive.