Over the last 5 years there has been an explosion of innovation in communication technology. New platforms and products have emerged that improve the way brands and consumers interact. The problem is, brands haven’t been able to figure out the best way to communicate effectively using these platforms. Why? Because most brands have little to no experience communicating directly with consumers, certainly not on a 1-to-1 level.
Look at how the majority of brands use email, apps, call centers and social media. A lack of understanding of these platforms has left consumers turning off notification settings, ignoring messages or deleting email to limit their contact with brands as much as possible.
When most brands are presented with all the tools but don’t know what to do with them, the result is an unsatisfactory communication experience for the consumer.
Unsurprisingly, the few brands that understand how to communicate in a way that’s both native to the platform, and relevant and timely to the consumer, are the brands that are successful.
A stellar example of a business communicating to consumers in a contextually relevant and entertaining way was a Tinder campaign last year. One of Milan’s most exclusive speakeasy bars, 1930, wanted to replicate its strict door policy in the digital world. Setting up a Tinder profile for a woman from the era, 1930 asked potential entrants to, “Court me like they used to in the old days.” In the first week the profile received 4000 matches of people who openly engaged with the brand to gain access into the notoriously strict venue.
1930’s campaign was clever and fun, but more importantly, they understood how to interact with people on Tinder’s platform, making the brand seem cool and accessible. For that reason, it was successful and 1930 was able to build relationships with new customers. When new communication platforms and technologies emerge, it’s important for brands to pay attention to the rules of engagement and adjust their tactics accordingly.
A new era of communication
Mobile/text messaging now has the attention of brands as they seek to interact with consumers on a more personal level. It’s imperative that brands shore-up their skills and become familiar with how consumers are using messaging platforms so they can use them in a way that feels natural and tied to how people use the technology. Otherwise, mobile messaging will go the way of previous technologies and become just another brand communication for consumers to avoid.
The opportunity is there for brands to use mobile messaging effectively. However, it’s up to the brands to ensure they’re ready for this communication shift. These 3 principles will help drive brands closer to the point where they can connect with consumers on a meaningful level:
1. Service above all else.
Every brand should consider themselves in the service business, no matter what industry they operate in. This works in conjunction with being a truly customer-centric brand. Building a business around the needs of the consumer means means asking, “How am I providing a service that will enhance my customer’s experience,” before every brand communication. This will help brands maintain authenticity when using a new customer communication channel, such as mobile messaging, because it grounds communication in the value it brings to the customer first, and the business second.
2. Consumer needs (& wants) drive success.
Understanding consumer needs and wants is paramount for any successful communication. And this only possible if a service mindset is adopted, as explained above. The fact is, some brands truly understand their customers, but many don’t. When brands pay attention to consumer pain and passion points, it indicates a sense of empathy, makes the brand relatable, and enables them to be proactive with their service. An example of a company that excels in this area is ride sharing service Uber. When NJ Trains were on the verge of a strike in March 2016, Uber was there to assure commuters that they would get them where they needed to go amidst the uncertainty.
A sense of empathy and consumer understanding plays a huge role in adopting new communication channels, too. Observing how people are interacting on new and existing channels, and using this information to mirror consumer behavior is a way for brands to enter the conversation. For mobile messaging, this means maintaining a conversational approach to content. Interacting with consumers via byte-sized chunks of information that incite a response, instead of pushing a promotional content feed on platforms like Facebook or Instagram, will play a significant role in developing stronger consumer relationships.
3. Don’t just act human, be human.
Despite the successes of modern companies like Zappos, many brands maintain their corporate “filtered” approach to customer communication. This generally stems from a fear of losing control if they empower employees with the flexibility to do what they think is right. Corporations love to control everything when in reality they can influence only people’s perceptions. Recognizing that consumers dominate conversations about brands, it is important for brands to participate in these conversations like real people.
People want to talk to people, not brands. The reason Zappos rose to fame and found success so quickly is because they recognized that people need human responses, not filtered lines of corporate dialogue. As such, customer service reps stay on the phone with consumers for as long as required and develop human connections through the conversations they are having.
Mobile messaging represents an equally significant opportunity for brands to be conversational and human in their interactions. It would be a shame to see this wasted by brands using the same rehearsed dialogue outlined in employee handbooks. The more freedom brands give their communication teams, the more human they become, and the stronger the relationships they can develop with customers.
Mobile messaging: a balancing act.
In the midst of a communications shift, there’s both opportunity and risk for brands. By adopting a consumer-centric mindset that’s less self-serving and more value-focused, brands can use new and emerging media to develop loyal relationships with customers. However, ignoring consumer trends and sticking with tired communication tactics will only see new technologies go the way of email and call centers, with consumers reaching for the spam filter or hanging up the phone. For the brand-consumer relationship to progress beyond its current prickly state, it’s up to brands to adopt new technology with tact, maintain a consumer-first mindset, and be as human as possible.
Originally published in Business2Community.