The ultimate strategy for building customer loyalty

With the multitude of screens available to marketers today, they are constantly faced with the challenge of perfecting their digital strategy to connect with -- or effectively share their brand story with -- consumers in order to build brand engagement and loyalty.

What most marketers are missing, however, is the bigger picture. It's not just about a brand's digital strategy -- it's about emphasis on the consumer.

Design a seamless consumer experience

To build engagement and loyalty, marketers must design a seamless experience holistically around what the brand means in the mind of the consumer. To truly understand the target market, marketers first need shift from psychographic and demographic data collection to an ethnographic-research approach -- viewing consumers in their natural environment to understand their needs and values. Ethnographic research -- or first-hand observation -- is the best approach for marketers because they can gain extensive insight about consumer behavior and humanize this data in order to design the best experience.

During this process, marketers should look across all digital and physical experience points upfront and identify the various phases of a consumer's journey and correlated friction points to ensure consistency throughout the experience they design. This is a critical component because an experience for one consumer may not be the best experience for another.

A recent NPR story about pedestrian crosswalks caught my attention, and I think it's a great example of identifying all critical points for designing the right consumer experience. There are two viewpoints when a traffic light is red, and the crosswalk timer is flashing. The pedestrian knows how long he/she has to cross the street, ensuring he/she makes it across safely. However, the drivers stopped at the light are also able to view the timer, letting them know just how many seconds until their traffic light changes. Based on the initial research for developing these crosswalk countdowns, these safety features were installed in cities and towns across the country -- and because of this installation, the number of accidents involving pedestrians had decreased. However, the number of collisions between cars actually increased because the crosswalk timer countdown actually caused many drivers to speed up. So, the innovation actually proved to be less safe for the driver.

Just as more on-site research is needed to effectively reduce the safety risk to drivers and pedestrians at these intersections with timers, more first-hand research is needed to identify tangent points in order to effectively design an experience to reach consumers today and drive brand loyalty.

JetBlue's recent announcement about streamlining a consumer's automatic check-in experience is a perfect example of how a brand has designed an experience that moves consumers through everyday interactions. JetBlue realized there was friction between the experience points of its customers as they were burdened with the extra hurdle of the check-in process. So, the airline found a way to make it a seamless, convenient process.

Soon, an initial segment of JetBlue customers began receiving emailed boarding passes 24 hours before their flights. JetBlue notes, "This initial technological innovation removes the need for customers to ever have to check-in for their flights. Beginning today, eligible customers will receive an email 24 hours before their scheduled flight with a ready-to-print boarding pass, as well as the option to download a Mobile Boarding Pass via JetBlue iOS or Android mobile apps. With the printed boarding pass or mobile app, customers are ready to head to the airport, and on to their flight."

Measure and evolve

Once marketers have replaced outdated processes with seamless journeys for the consumer, it's important to continue measuring and evolving. Implementation is not the final step for marketers -- diving deeper into behavioral research as it pertains to the consumer to evolve the solution means the process is never over. New screens and new influencers are constantly on the horizon, so it's critical to continue to measure and evolve with the next digital and physical trends.

Marketers who continually shift resources to perfect their digital strategy to better understand and engage consumers need to take a step back and look at the holistic picture. Whether it's digital or physical, ensuring the consumer gets the right message and level of engagement at the right time ensures consistent brand experiences that will drive brand loyalty.

Chuck Job is the experience design director at MaxMedia.

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