4 "customer obsessed" digital messaging trends of 2016

This post is contributed by Lauren Gentile, VP, Executive Creative Director, Digital Solutions and Kara Trivunovic, VP, Digital Solutions

2016 is wrapping up, but the trends we’ve seen throughout the year will continue to make an impact as digital transformation forces brands to take a “customer obsessed” approach. A personalized customer experience has the power to truly set a brand apart.

But it’s important that marketers don’t get distracted by shiny new technological advancements. Tried and true mediums like email and social media continue to effectively reach consumers. With additional elements of connectivity, commerce, and augmented and virtual reality in full swing, it’s time to take a hard look at what works and why. From there, marketers can determine if these new approaches can take their digital messaging strategy to the next level and drive business growth for their brand.

Let’s take a look at four key trends in detail:

Trend #1 Creating convenience for the customer

Time is a precious commodity for the multi-tasking consumer, and convenience from the brands they interact with is both desired and appreciated. With the average 120+ emails consumers receive on a daily basis and 40% of the workday allocated for meetings and administrative tasks—not to mention personal commitments—consumers are constantly on the go and looking for time-saving opportunities. In 2016, the over programmed landscape of this on-the-go reality opened the door for marketers to focus on finding ways to create convenience for their customers.

  • You might have seen the Buick commercial featuring their RemoteLink® app and door locking capability. In addition to locking/unlocking doors, the app can start the vehicle, manage Wi-Fi settings, check fuel levels, monitor tire pressure and more. This provides seamless connectivity for on-the-go consumers that makes their day-to-day lives easier to manage. Apps are meant to drive convenience (no pun intended) so expect mobile apps to be an integral part of digital messaging strategies in the coming year.
  • Hilton understands the importance of easing the hassle of travel. Leveraging modern technology, Hilton developed the Digital Key. With the Digital Key, guests are able to pre-select their room (based on availability), check-in, lock and unlock their room door and more. Bill Murphy, Hilton’s CIO shared his vision to position Hilton as the leader in providing convenient, easy to use technology for their guests where, historically, technology in the hospitality industry had been reserved for delivering solutions to employees.

Trend #2 Enhancing the customer experience

Consumers look for experiences first, not things. 2016 saw marketers get creative with their campaign planning to generate immersive experiences that leverage technology to bridge the digital and physical divide.

Augmented and virtual reality disrupted major digital markets this year, and it’s forecasted that this will become an $80 billion market by 2025, which is roughly the size of the desktop PC market today.

  • Remember the Pokémon GO craze early this year? This is an example of augmented reality. The technology interacts directly with real world surroundings by adding content to the game. This craze has exposed the public to the capabilities of augmented reality and has left them wanting more. Keep an eye on brands like Microsoft and Apple next year as developments are in the works to take augmented reality to the next level.
  • Digital enabled experiences have been a focus for many brands this year. In fact, brands have begun adopting the “Digical” model, bringing digital and physical attributes together to create compelling and frictionless experiences for consumers. For example, retailers Rebecca Minkoff and Bloomingdales have integrated smart fitting room technology to serve today’s modern consumer. The smart fitting room includes mirrors that leverage motion sensor technology to detect the consumer’s features. This sensor technology can use augmented reality to “dress” the consumer over his/her current outfit. Additionally, consumers can change the lighting settings, which allows the shopper to see how the clothing item might look in the evening or a different time of day. Eventually, consumers will be able to make purchases directly from dressing rooms.

These innovations go a long way toward improving the customer experience, but they don’t require brands to transform in order to make the most of them. Stay true to your objectives and brand purpose, but consider how you can leverage technology and strategic ideas in ways that make sense for your business to enhance your customers’ experience.

Trend #3 Emotional connections are getting deeper for the customer

A study of the new science of customer emotions published by Harvard Business Review shows evidence that the most effective way to maximize customer value is to move beyond customer satisfaction and connect with customers on an emotional level by tapping into their deep, often unspoken emotional needs.  In 2016, we observed several brands leveraging this strategy to connect with consumers on a deeper level.

  • Dell’s “Future Ready” campaign showed the consumer the softer side of technology with the goal of “advancing the human process” by showcasing their technology helping with a life-saving procedure – a heart transplant—showing how technology and the human emotional component unite. This campaign enabled Dell’s customers to see the human component of their brand and highlight that they are much more than a technology powerhouse.
  • Procter & Gamble’s “Thank You, Mom” campaign for the summer Olympics showed that there’s nothing like the emotional bond between a mother and child. It’s a tribute to moms for the role they play in raising strong children. The campaign went viral, showcasing the impact that well-timed, emotionally provocative content can have by taking the focus off of your brand and placing it on the most admirable characteristics of your customers.

Trend #4 Speaking the customer’s language

With 6 billion emojis sent daily, they’ve become a universal language by giving people a way to channel their emotions, which are often hard to convey through text message. Throughout the year, more brands have incorporated emojis into their marketing efforts to be more expressive and speak the language of their customers. There are many benefits to incorporating these icons into your marketing programs. They are a bridge between digital and physical, and while playful and fun, they can enhance communication and drive response.

  • The “Say it with a Pepsi” campaign not only went viral, it created a fun and interactive way for fans to express their emotions. 600+ emojis, which included the brand’s iconic shape and colors, were designed by PepsiCo’s Design and Innovation Center, creating a universal language that allowed consumers to connect with the brand—and each other—while empowering them to express themselves.
  • Dominos has made it possible to order an “oven hot pizza to your door” with just one emoji. Once a customer has a Dominos account set-up with their favorite order and it’s linked to Domino’s Twitter feed, all they have to do is tweet the pizza emoji and the pizza is delivered to their door. By speaking the customer’s language Dominio’s is not only connecting with their most loyal customers but they’re creating convenience and making it easier for customers to interact with their brand.

Customer-centric digital messaging approaches will continue at full speed throughout the journey of digital transformation next year. It will advance with the developments of new data-fueled technologies and ideas focused on creating immersive experiences and will enable many impressionable moments for consumers. As marketers finalize their 2017 plans, they must consider how to build on the existing relationship and obtain a single customer view to market to each customer in the most impactful and meaningful moments. Over time, these approaches will engender deeper loyalty and your customers will become “obsessed” with your brand.