Opinion: Three ways to build a digital-first brand
There’s a Chinese proverb I loved as a child that was taped on our refrigerator: “A smooth sea never created a skilled mariner.” Never has this rung more true.
The transition to staying home has triggered a paradigm shift in how we interact and work. Very quickly we realized the digital retail world is stronger and more prepared than we knew. Now we have the opportunity to create even stronger capabilities in digital retail.
With brick-and-mortar shopping greatly reduced, brands should create or enhance their online presence. Here’s why: Kantar reports that web browsing has increased 70 percent during the COVID-19 outbreak, and that 34 percent of consumers plan to try a new retailer in the weeks ahead.
As digital window shopping continues to increase, smart and trustworthy brands have the potential to form meaningful relationships with customers as they create new purchasing habits. Here are three ways brands can establish or enhance their digital presence:
Make a good first impression
Meeting a brand is like meeting a person for the first time: Context is key. For brands, this context can be a retail site such as Target or Net-a-Porter. It can also be a social channel such as Instagram and Pinterest, where consumers go to find trends and inspiration. A positive context can create a halo, which is why brands must curate and guide the experience.
In the digital environment, the stakes at introduction are high. Consumers can form negative impressions, especially in the absence of positive brand moments—and can leave without the brand ever knowing. From easy transaction processes to assurances about pricing and ease of returns, every touchpoint matters. Zara’s decision to extend to 30 days the period during which it will accept online returns once stores reopen is a great example of a positive brand moment.
Engage your brand fans
Our reliance on one another has increased tenfold. So when a trustworthy source recommends a brand, it becomes easier for a consumer to engage and interact.
An example of this engagement effort is happening in the home hair care industry in the U.S.—the world’s largest market for hair dye and hair color products in the world, valued at $2.1 billion, according to Mintel.
With salons and grooming establishments closed, even consumers who don’t admit to coloring their hair are openly seeking advice and solutions. But who can they trust? One brand that is building an online community is dpHUE. For years the mother-and-daughter co-founders have shared videos across social media to demonstrate how to apply their products at home. Recently dpHUE announced it would give a 50 percent commission to colorists whose clients place orders directly. This taps into the emotional desire of consumers to support established relationships with their colorists. This is an example of a brand firing on all cylinders and reaching customers at multiple relational levels to deliver a fully networked brand relationship.
Apply a digital mindset to the store experience
Brands that are beginning to explore digital have huge potential to create a helpful and empowering digital retail experience.
Take the example of sending a child off to college. When shopping in a store, consumers need to keep track of their budget and guess whether their purchases will fit in a dorm room. Why shouldn’t retailers, using A.I. and 3D tools, create 3D models of rooms so customers can visualize design and fit? How about a budget tracker, continuously offering product alternatives that ensure the shopper stays within budget?
Such brand interactions can happen only in the digital space. Brands that anticipate consumers’ needs, deliver positive brand moments and apply a digital mindset to the shopping experience will prosper from their meaningful relationships with customers.