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Use SEO to Fuel Your Brand’s Community Flywheel

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Use SEO to Fuel Your Brand's Community Flywheel

The author’s views are entirely his or her own (excluding the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect the views of Moz.

I don’t typically wear jewelry. However, when I heard a friend rave about the ring and necklace he bought from Automic Gold, it piqued my interest. As I scrolled through the site, I found myself very engaged by the approachable content, fun styles, and lifestyle photos showing inclusive genders. After several site visits, I made a purchase.

This experience is a prime example of how a brand can influence purchasing decisions through community marketing. No ad was seen. No ad was clicked. I not only became a customer, but I also became a fan of this brand—all driven by my friend’s recommendation alone.

We live in an era of community marketing, and community marketing is built through brand stories. Performance marketing efforts are still a fundamental component of marketing, but they become far more effective with a personal endorsement from a friend. After all, social proof is one of the most powerful marketing engines. In fact, according to a Nielsen Harris Poll study, 82% of Americans say they seek recommendations from friends and family when considering a purchase. Today’s most successful brands have built followings that not only return to purchase again, but also promote their products or services loyally — think of LEGO (85% loyalty rate), Apple (with 90% loyalty rates), and REI (50M+ lifetime members), to name a few. Airbnb just posted its stunning results after shifting focus to brand marketing rather than performance marketing.

Introducing the community flywheel

The community flywheel is an approach that easily marries brand and performance marketing efforts. You don’t have to be a big-name brand to see results from this strategy. No matter how niche your audience is, by leveraging your digital assets, you can cultivate an inviting community space. The key to success is building a community you own.

Brands typically think of social platforms like Instagram or Twitter as the gathering place for their community. While these platforms play an important role in amplification and social proof, your website should be a communal gathering place for your brand. It can and should be a place to educate, engage, and entertain your audience. Owning first-party data and the platform where engagement occurs is worth far more in the long run and eliminates risk outside of your brand’s control.

SEO has a pivotal role in the success of a website, and thus SEO also plays a pivotal role in the community flywheel’s success. In this article, I will explain the community flywheel and outline how SEO fits into each step of the community flywheel.

What is the community flywheel?

The community flywheel outline by McKinsey & Company succinctly explains how brands can build better communities, which in turn builds a better brand. It’s a five-step process underpinned by technology that enables scale and a test-and-learn approach that delivers consistent improvement. To align SEO initiatives for each of the 5 steps, I’ve created this graphic showing how initiatives apply to each step.

Let’s unpack each of the steps in the community flywheel. I’ll explain what each step is, how to implement it, and how SEO applies. I’ve provided common SEO deliverables that support each of these steps; however, this is by no means an exhaustive list. I hope this inspires you to integrate even more SEO initiatives—some possibly even more applicable to your brand—into your community marketing efforts.

1. Community Focus: Find the right audience

What it is

Identify communities of shared interest and, in marketing efforts, find ways to help them identify with and have an emotional response to the communities they belong to. Understanding the core target audiences beyond demographics is the key to knowing how the audience interacts. As noted in the McKinsey article, “This is an evolution from targeting consumer segments, which are anchored in demographics or individual need states, to targeting communities of people who share similar interests and values—communities of ‘shared relevance.’”

How to do it

Once you know the community(ies) you’re trying to target, build campaigns that speak to the group as opposed to the individual. Community marketing connects emotional marketing to a group that bonds together.

How SEO plugs in

Audience research is your key to understanding the cohort(s) that interact with the site. Using a tool like Sparktoro can lend insight into how your audience interacts with a particular topic. After audience research is complete, begin SEO initiatives that bolster community engagement so you can build a strategy that targets each community where they’re at in their search journey.

  1. Holistic Search Analysis: It’s vital to understand how the audience is interacting throughout the purchase journey within SERPs, your site, and even third-party sites like Amazon. Conducting a holistic search analysis to understand where searches happen across Google, Amazon, YouTube, and other sites is key to knowing where to prioritize your SEO efforts.

  2. Regional Strategy: If you have a site that covers multiple regions, creating transcreated content — content that speaks to the audience the way the audience would speak — is a must for ensuring you have a community focus.

  3. YouTube Strategy: If your brand has an active YouTube presence, it’s worthwhile to explore which keywords populate video results in the SERPs and which keywords are most commonly searched within YouTube so you can build this into your SEO strategy and conduct YouTube SEO.

2. Hero Products: Simplify the brand & boost average order value (AOV)

What it is

Shopping online can require much more thought than shopping in a store. You’re faced with many more options, including figuring out the shipping costs, timelines, etc. It’s cumbersome. Leveraging your brand’s best hero products to define your brand simplifies the brand message to your community.

How to do it

This doesn’t mean leaving hero products on the back burner to evaporate — it means reinvesting in new and interesting campaigns to bring them to light again. This can be done through collaboration campaigns, reinvigorated marketing campaigns, or even repositioning to new communities.

How SEO plugs in

While UX and site hierarchy certainly play an important role in hero product advancement, SEO can support hero product advancement by taking that type of analysis one step further: how are people interacting with hero products off-site, in the SERP, and on the site?

  1. SERP mapping: Identifying which hero product keywords trigger competitors, resellers, SERP features, etc., is a great way to ensure that hero products are shown as you desire within the SERP.

  2. Site journey analysis: Understanding how folks navigate the site allows you to boost average order value by highlighting hero products or boosting less well-known products by leveraging hero product traffic.

  3. Internal linking: Using hero products to acquire backlinks and then creating internal links to less-linked pages can boost keyword ranking for other pages/products.

  4. Content strategy: Understanding how to incorporate hero products into the entire content funnel—from awareness tactics like user guides to post-conversion tactics like return policies or help center content—can boost conversion rates and customer sentiment.

3. Brand Story: Give people something to relate to & be proud of

What it is

Few want to buy from a brand that doesn’t align with their values. In fact, we see that the majority of shoppers under the age of 56 have favorable attitudes toward brands that have clear involvement in social and political issues.

Make it an easy decision for your community to purchase from you by outwardly communicating your brand values in a way that your audience would understand. This is especially true for brands with an international presence—after all, what may be sneakers in the US are trainers in the UK.

Here is an example from Automic Gold of communicating clear brand values:

1671026104 455 Use SEO to Fuel Your Brands Community Flywheel

How to do it

Communicating clear brand values on the site, in brand messaging, and amplifying those tactics through media pushes is a fantastic way to communicate the brand values across the community(ies).

How SEO plugs in

Most brand stories are typically left to the PR and/or brand teams to own, but SEO can play a pivotal role in amplifying those efforts and even fueling their expansion.

  1. Listing Analysis – Understanding what is showing up in the SERPs for various search terms allows us to know what efforts to focus on—e.g., if we know publishers appear in top positions, then we should relay that information to the PR team to focus on getting placement in those publications.

  2. Schema – Schema impacts how the listing appears in the SERPs, which leaves plenty of room for a brand to utilize schema to own more real estate in the SERP.
    1. FAQ schema – FAQ pages and schema are an easy way to answer questions related to the brand—e.g., “Who is the CEO of [brand]” etc.?

    2. Help Center schema – Usually, help centers are the last thing to be optimized for SEO, but building a community means ensuring a great experience from start to finish. Optimizing the help center—inclusive of schema—is an easy way to help people get easy access to information related to their search queries directly within the SERP.

  3. E-A-T efforts – The more the brand story is consistent and amplified across channels, the better the expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (E-A-T) will be because Google will be able to understand the brand entity better.

4. Fuel Community: Build a gathering place

What it is

The end goal is to build a community space where your community(ies) can interact and create user-generated content that can then be used to amplify your brand message. Nevertheless, a car won’t move forward without fuel. Building a consistent content strategy that communities can latch onto and use as their own provides the fuel to generate community engagement.

How to do it

Investing in tactics that can enable brand marketing teams and bring the community together on your site is the best way to fuel community. We typically think of “community engagement” happening on social media platforms, but who says that your website can’t create its own community with regularly engaged and recurring community members? Some excellent examples include LEGO IDEAS, Sphero Edu, Sephora’s Beauty Insider, and F5’s DevCentral community. No matter the industry, you can find unique ways to create a community space on your website.

How SEO plugs in

SEO alone can’t fuel community. Much of this has to be done across channels, including email campaigns, packaging, etc., but SEO supports these efforts in some key ways:

  1. Blog strategy – One of the best ways to engage with your audience and build community is through a compelling and consistent blog strategy that educates, entertains, and/or engages the community in a unique way. I’d encourage easy share buttons, simple call-to-actions, and an engaged comments section.

  2. Forum strategy – Forums are a great way to engage with your community and allow the community to bond with others.

  3. Review strategy – Reviews help bolster social proof and support the community flywheel by allowing folks an outlet to share their experience with your brand.

  4. Keyword listening – When new products are launched, or a brand evolves, related search trends may also change. Using keyword listening is your way to stay ahead of trends and use user-generated search queries to inform new site content generation.

  5. User-generated content – While we typically think of UGC as social media content, we can absolutely use UGC on the site by fueling content strategy, or even by allowing noteworthy guest contributors on your site.

5. Effortless Transactions: Make it easy to engage

What it is

Transactions look different throughout the entire marketing funnel. At the top of the funnel, it might be a cookie drop for retargeting. In the middle of the funnel, it might be email or phone data capture. At the bottom of the funnel, it might be purchase or lead form submission. Regardless, it should be seamless for customers to transact at any place in the funnel. This allows the community to have a pleasant experience throughout.

How to do it

Investing in conversion rate optimization efforts to smooth the path to site conversion, technical SEO to ensure the site experience is seamless, and on-site SEO to ensure that the right pages for the right search query are your way to make transactions easy.

How SEO plugs in:

Effortless transactions also include things like digital wallets and using pay-later tools, but SEO efforts—inclusive of technical site performance—can certainly impact transactions more than most other efforts.

  1. Technical SEO – Focusing on things that allow for better page indexation and page experience (like site speed) boosts the likelihood of a user landing on the right page and not bouncing from poor UX.

  2. On-site SEO – Content and internal links on the page can help the user navigate from discovery to purchase without confusing them.

  3. YouTube CTA optimizations – For search results that have video results, including CTAs in the videos and ensuring the links are up to date is an easy way to smooth the path to conversion.

  4. YouTube video chapters – Including video chapters—or even auto-enabling them—allows Google to highlight the correct section in a video for a user, which gets them their answer even faster.

Make the wheel spin faster with technology

Finding the right tech stack to get data faster and validate strategy more quickly is the difference between doing good SEO and great SEO. Data capture and measurement have to be a priority in SEO efforts so you can perform analysis faster than ever before. Using your CRM database to analyze existing customer information and pairing that with a purchase journey analysis can inform how your existing community interacts with your site.

Additionally, SEO A/B testing tools like SearchPilot are a great way to understand the impact of SEO and CRO tests on net new traffic and conversions without bogging down development teams.

Validate the community flywheel with a test-and-learn approach

1671026105 406 Use SEO to Fuel Your Brands Community Flywheel

At Brainlabs, we use a test, learn, and earn approach to guide our initiatives. This model fits nicely into community marketing because we’re constantly testing new methods to engage with a brand’s community. We know that a customer interacts with various digital channels as their needs evolve over time. While SEO can be utilized to enable the community flywheel, it’s imperative to use a test-and-learn strategy so you can continue to find the right media mix to reach your goals.

Leverage SEO to make the community flywheel spin

Community marketing is here to stay. It’s been the most effective marketing tactic since the beginning of marketing. Building a community doesn’t happen overnight, but integrating these SEO strategies within each step of the community flywheel is a great way to improve your CPAs, increase your AOVs and LTVs, and build a brand that stands the test of time.

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The marketing lifecycle: An overview

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The marketing lifecycle: An overview

Remember when digital marketing was simple? Create content, throw it over the wall, hope for the best.

Note that we said “simple,” not effective.

To be effective is more complicated, and this keeps accelerating. There are so many options, so many channels, and so many audiences, that effective digital marketing requires a term to which people often react strongly—

Process.

Very few people inherently like the idea of “process.” It brings forth visions of rigidity and inertia.

But there simply has to be a framework in which to produce and publish effective marketing assets. Without this, you have nothing but chaos from which productive work gets done accidentally, at best.

How did it get this way for the enterprise? How did things become so interconnected?

  • Marketing isn’t a point in time, it’s an activity stream. It’s a line of dominoes you need to knock over, roughly in order. Lots of organizations do well at some, but fail on others, and thus break the chain of what could be an effective process.
  • Marketing activities overlap. It’d be great if we could do one thing at a time, but the marketing pipeline is never empty. Campaigns target different audiences at the same time, and new campaigns are being prepared as existing campaigns are closing.
  • Marketing involves a lot of actors at vastly different levels. There’s your content team, of course, reviewers, external agencies and contractors, designers, developers, and—of course—stakeholders and executives. Each group has different needs for collaboration, input, and reporting.

Some of the best business advice boils down to this: “Always understand the big picture.” You might be asked to do one specific thing in a process, but make sure you understand the context of that specific thing—where does it fit in the larger framework? Where does it get input from? How are its outputs used?

In this article, we’re going to zoom out for an overhead view of how Optimizely One helps you juggle the complete marketing lifecycle, from start to finish, without letting anything drop.

1. Intake 

Ideas are born everywhere—maybe with you, maybe with your staff, maybe with someone who has no connection with marketing at all, and maybe from an external source, like an ad agency or PR firm. Leading organizations have found a way to widen the top end of their pipeline—the start of their content marketing funnel—and take in more ideas from more sources.

Good ideas combine. Someone has one half of an idea, and someone else has the other half. The goal of effective collaboration is to get those two pieces together. One plus one can sometimes equal three, and more ideas mean better ideas overall. Creativity is about getting more puzzle pieces on the table so you can figure out which ones fit your strategy.

How do you manage the flow of ideas? How do you make sure good ideas don’t get dropped, but rather become great content? The only way to publish great content is to get ideas into the top end of the pipe. 

 

Optimizely One can streamline and accelerate your content intake using templated intake forms mapped to intelligent routing rules and shared queues. Everyone in your organization can know where content is developed and how to contribute to ideas, content, and campaigns currently in-process. Your content team can easily manage and collaborate on requests, meaning content development can become focused, rather than spread out across the organization. 

2. Plan

Campaigns don’t exist in a vacuum. They share the stage with other campaigns—both in terms of audience attention and employee workload. Leading organizations ensure that their campaigns are coordinated, for maximum audience effect and efficiency of workload.

Pick a time scale and plan it from overhead. What campaigns will you execute during this period? In what order? How do they overlap? Then, break each campaign down—what tasks are required to complete and launch? Who owns them? In what stage of completion are they in? What resources are required to complete them? 

Good marketing campaigns aren’t run in isolation. They’re a closely aligned part of an evolving body of work, carefully planned and executed.

 

Optimizely One provides comprehensive editorial calendaring and scheduling. Every marketing activity can have an easily accessible strategic brief and dedicated workspaces in which to collaborate. Your content team and your stakeholders can know, at a glance, what marketing activities are in-process, when they’re scheduled to launch, who is assigned to what, and what’s remaining on the calendar.  

3. Create 

Good content takes fingers on keyboards, but that’s not all. 

Content creators need frameworks in which to generate effective content. They need the tools to share, collaborate, structure, stage, and approve their work. Good content comes in part from tooling designed to empower content creators. 

Your content team needs a home base—the digital equivalent of an artist’s studio. They need a platform which is authoritative for all their marketing assets; a place that everyone on the team knows is going to have the latest schedules, the latest drafts, the official assets, and every task on the road to publication. 

Content creation isn’t magic—it doesn’t just appear out of the ether. It comes from intentional teams working in structured frameworks. 

 

Optimizely One gives your editors the tools they need for the content creation process, AI-enabled editing environments for fingers-on-keyboards, all the way through intelligent workflows for collaboration and approvals. Authors can write, designers can upload and organize, project managers can combine and coordinate, stakeholders can review, and external teams can collaborate. All within a framework centered around moving your campaigns forward. 

4. Store 

Leading organizations look at content beyond its immediate utility. Everything your content teams do becomes an incremental part of an evolving body of work. Content doesn’t appear and disappear; rather, it continually enlarges and refines a body of work that represents your organization over time. 

Good creative teams remix and transform old ideas into new ones. They can locate content assets quickly and easily to evolve them into new campaigns quickly. They don’t reinvent the wheel every time, because they lean on a deep reservoir of prior art and existing creative components. 

Digital asset and content management should store content in a structured, atomic format, allowing your organization to store, retrieve, organize, and re-use marketing assets quickly and easily. 

 

Optimizely One gives your content team a place to store their content assets, from text and rich media. Content can be archived and organized, either manually, or by using AI to automatically extract tags. Content can be stored as pure data, free from presentation, which makes it easy to re-use. Your content team will always know where to find work in progress, media to support emerging campaigns, or assets from past campaigns. Brand portals make it easy to share assets with external organizations.

5. Globalize 

Business happens all over the world in every language. To effectively compete around the world, your content needs to be globalized. 

Globalization of content is a holistic practice that affects every part of the content lifecycle. Words need to be translated, of course, but you also need to consider cultural globalization—images and symbols that might change—as well as globalization for numbers, currency, and time zones. Going even deeper, you might have to make design changes to accommodate things like differing word lengths and the flow of text. 

Beyond simply changing content, your work process is affected. When does translation happen? Who is authorized to order it? Who can perform it? How do you bring external translation companies into your internal processes, and how does this affect the flow of content through your organization?  

 

Optimizely One helps you manage the entire globalization process, whether it’s done in-house or automatically via one of our translation partners. Your customers can be served content in their language and culture, and you can carefully control the alternate, “fallback” experience for languages not yet available, or when you’re not translating all of your content.  

6. Layout 

Some experiences need to be visually composed from a palette of content and design components. Designers and marketers want to see exactly what their content looks like before they publish. 

In some cases, this is easy—everyone should be able to see what a web page looks like before it goes live. But what about your mobile app? What about display advertising? A social media update? 

And what happens when you’re modifying content based on behavior and demographics? If you want to see how your web page will look for someone from California who has visited your site before and already downloaded your whitepaper on their iPhone…can you? 

Content no longer leaves your organization on a single channel. Composition and preview is always contextual—there is no single, default experience. Leading organizations want full control over their visual presentation and they know that they need to see their content through the eyes of their customers.  

 

Optimizely One provides the tools to visually compose experiences across multiple channels and can preview that experience when viewed through the personalization lens of whatever demographic and behavioral data you can dream up. And this works regardless of channel: web, email, display advertising—everything can be previewed in real-time. 

7. Deliver 

Content can’t do any good unless it can reach your customers. You need to publish your content to them, wherever they are, which means having the flexibility to push content into multiple channels, in multiple formats. 

A consumable piece of media is an “artifact.” Your content is the idea and message that make up that artifact. Leading organizations develop their content separate from any concept of an artifact, then transform it into different formats to fit the channel that will spread their message most effectively. 

Sure, make a web page—but also push that content to your mobile app, and into your social networks. Broadcast a text message, and an email. While you’re at it, push the information into the display panel in the elevators. Let’s be bold and broadcast it on the TV screens that play while your customers fill up with gas. 

The key is delivery flexibility. The world of content delivery has changed remarkably in just the last few years. It will no-doubt change more in the future. No platform can anticipate what’s coming, so you just need the flexibility to be ready to adapt to what happens. 

 

Optimizely One provides complete delivery flexibility. Our systems store your content separate from presentation, and allow multiple ways to access it, from traditional websites to headless APIs to connect your content to mobile apps or other decoupled experiences. Your content can be combined with internally-stored content or third-party content to provide a seamless “content reservoir” to draw on from all of your channels. 

8. Personalize 

Throughout this lifecycle, we’ve moved from content, to artifacts, and now on to “experiences.” 

One person consuming an artifact—reading a web page, listening to a podcast, watching a video—is an experience. Just like one piece of content can generate more than one artifact, one artifact should enable thousands of experiences. 

Technology has advanced to the point where all of those experiences can be managed. Instead of every customer getting the same experience, it can be personalized to that specific customer in that specific moment. 

You can do this using simple demographic or technographic data—perhaps you cut down the information and make your content more task-oriented when you detect someone is on a mobile device. However, the real power comes when you begin tracking behavior, consolidating information about your customers, and giving them specific content based on what you’ve observed. 

Leading organizations have a single location to track customer behavior and data. For every experience, they know exactly what this customer has done, how they’ve interacted with the organization, and they can predict what they’ll do next. Content and artifacts will morph themselves to fit each individual experience. 

 

Optimizely One connects both customer behavior and demographics along with the tools to activate that data to affect your customers’ experiences. Our platform allows you to track customer behavior and match that with customer demographics—this includes behavior tracking for customers you can’t even identify yet. Based on that behavior and stored data, editors can modify experiences in real-time, changing content and design to match to what each individual customer is most likely to respond. Or let the machine do the work, with personalized content and product recommendations. 

9. Experiment 

No matter how much you know, customers will always surprise you. The right answer to persuading your customer to take an action might be something you’re not even thinking of. Or, you might have an idea, but you’re not confident enough to bank on it. And let’s face it—sometimes, you just love two different ideas. 

Wouldn’t it be great if you could publish more than one thing? 

You absolutely can. And you absolutely should.

Leading organizations let go of the idea that an experience is bound to one version of an artifact. Don’t just write one title for that blog post—write three. Publish them all and show them randomly. Let your customers tell you—by their next action—which one was the right one to use. 

Experimentation allows you to try new things without the inertia of re-considering and re-drafting all your content. Ideas can go from your mind to pixels on the screen quickly and easily, and you can see what works and what doesn’t. Try a new title, or next text on a button. Does it give you better results? If so, great, keep it. If not, throw it away and try something else.

Refine, refine, refine. The idea that you publish content in one form and just hope it’s the right one is a set of handcuffs that can be tough to shake. But the results can be impressive.

 

Optimizely One allows you to quickly create and publish multiple variations of content and content elements to any channel. You can separate your content into elements and try different combinations to see which one drives your customers to move forward in their journey, then automatically route more traffic through winning combinations. You can manage feature rollouts and soft-launches, enabling specific functionality for specific audiences in any channel. 

10. Analyze 

The key to a learning and evolving content team is a transparent and unflinching look into what happens to your content after it’s published.

Analytics need to be considered in the context of the entire content domain. What content performs well but has low traffic? What content is consumed often but never moves customers down their buying journey? Customer behavior needs to be tracked carefully, then used to segment customers into audiences, based on both your content team’s observations and insights provided by AI. 

 

Optimizely One offers complete behavior tracking and content analysis, showing you what content works, what content doesn’t, and what your customers are doing during every step of their relationship with your entire digital estate. 

Juggle the entire lifecycle 

“Publishing myopia” prevents most organizations from truly benefiting from the power of their content and marketing technology. Too many ideas are undercut by an obsession with the publish button. We rush content out the door and just throw it over the wall and hope it lands. 

Within that mode of thinking, great ideas get trapped under the surface. Great content is delivered to only one channel in one language. Great experiences never see the light of day because content exists in only one form. And every customer sees the same thing, no matter how their own experience might benefit from something else. 

Remember: the marketing lifecycle is a series of stages

Each stage builds on the last and allows content to grow from a random idea your team takes in from the field and turns it into a spectacular multi-channel experience which rearranges and modifies itself to fit each customer. 

Juggling all of the steps in the marketing lifecycle can be done, but it’s easy to lose the forest for the trees and get too myopic about individual steps in this process. Leading organizations step back, consider the entire cycle from start to finish, and make sure their ideas, their products, and their messages are enhanced and strengthened in every step. 

 

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Comparing Credibility of Custom Chatbots & Live Chat

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Building Customer Trust: Comparing Credibility of Custom Chatbots & Live Chat

Addressing customer issues quickly is not merely a strategy to distinguish your brand; it’s an imperative for survival in today’s fiercely competitive marketplace.

Customer frustration can lead to customer churn. That’s precisely why organizations employ various support methods to ensure clients receive timely and adequate assistance whenever they require it.

Nevertheless, selecting the most suitable support channel isn’t always straightforward. Support teams often grapple with the choice between live chat and chatbots.

The automation landscape has transformed how businesses engage with customers, elevating chatbots as a widely embraced support solution. As more companies embrace technology to enhance their customer service, the debate over the credibility of chatbots versus live chat support has gained prominence.

However, customizable chatbot continue to offer a broader scope for personalization and creating their own chatbots.

In this article, we will delve into the world of customer support, exploring the advantages and disadvantages of both chatbots and live chat and how they can influence customer trust. By the end, you’ll have a comprehensive understanding of which option may be the best fit for your business.

The Rise of Chatbots

Chatbots have become increasingly prevalent in customer support due to their ability to provide instant responses and cost-effective solutions. These automated systems use artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language processing (NLP) to engage with customers in real-time, making them a valuable resource for businesses looking to streamline their customer service operations.

Advantages of Chatbots

24/7 Availability

One of the most significant advantages of custom chatbots is their round-the-clock availability. They can respond to customer inquiries at any time, ensuring that customers receive support even outside regular business hours.

Consistency

Custom Chatbots provide consistent responses to frequently asked questions, eliminating the risk of human error or inconsistency in service quality.

Cost-Efficiency

Implementing chatbots can reduce operational costs by automating routine inquiries and allowing human agents to focus on more complex issues.

Scalability

Chatbots can handle multiple customer interactions simultaneously, making them highly scalable as your business grows.

Disadvantages of Chatbots

Limited Understanding

Chatbots may struggle to understand complex or nuanced inquiries, leading to frustration for customers seeking detailed information or support.

Lack of Empathy

Chatbots lack the emotional intelligence and empathy that human agents can provide, making them less suitable for handling sensitive or emotionally charged issues.

Initial Setup Costs

Developing and implementing chatbot technology can be costly, especially for small businesses.

The Role of Live Chat Support

Live chat support, on the other hand, involves real human agents who engage with customers in real-time through text-based conversations. While it may not offer the same level of automation as custom chatbots, live chat support excels in areas where human interaction and empathy are crucial.

Advantages of Live Chat

Human Touch

Live chat support provides a personal touch that chatbots cannot replicate. Human agents can empathize with customers, building a stronger emotional connection.

Complex Issues

For inquiries that require a nuanced understanding or involve complex problem-solving, human agents are better equipped to provide in-depth assistance.

Trust Building

Customers often trust human agents more readily, especially when dealing with sensitive matters or making important decisions.

Adaptability

Human agents can adapt to various customer personalities and communication styles, ensuring a positive experience for diverse customers.

Disadvantages of Live Chat

Limited Availability

Live chat support operates within specified business hours, which may not align with all customer needs, potentially leading to frustration.

Response Time

The speed of response in live chat support can vary depending on agent availability and workload, leading to potential delays in customer assistance.

Costly

Maintaining a live chat support team with trained agents can be expensive, especially for smaller businesses strategically.

Building Customer Trust: The Credibility Factor

When it comes to building customer trust, credibility is paramount. Customers want to feel that they are dealing with a reliable and knowledgeable source. Both customziable chatbots and live chat support can contribute to credibility, but their effectiveness varies in different contexts.

Building Trust with Chatbots

Chatbots can build trust in various ways:

Consistency

Chatbots provide consistent responses, ensuring that customers receive accurate information every time they interact with them.

Quick Responses

Chatbots offer instant responses, which can convey a sense of efficiency and attentiveness.

Data Security

Chatbots can assure customers of their data security through automated privacy policies and compliance statements.

However, custom chatbots may face credibility challenges when dealing with complex issues or highly emotional situations. In such cases, the lack of human empathy and understanding can hinder trust-building efforts.

Building Trust with Live Chat Support

Live chat support, with its human touch, excels at building trust in several ways:

Empathy

Human agents can show empathy by actively listening to customers’ concerns and providing emotional support.

Tailored Solutions

Live chat agents can tailor solutions to individual customer needs, demonstrating a commitment to solving their problems.

Flexibility

Human agents can adapt to changing customer requirements, ensuring a personalized and satisfying experience.

However, live chat support’s limitations, such as availability and potential response times, can sometimes hinder trust-building efforts, especially when customers require immediate assistance.

Finding the Right Balance

The choice between custom chatbots and live chat support is not always binary. Many businesses find success by integrating both options strategically:

Initial Interaction

Use chatbots for initial inquiries, providing quick responses, and gathering essential information. This frees up human agents to handle more complex cases.

Escalation to Live Chat

Implement a seamless escalation process from custom chatbots to live chat support when customer inquiries require a higher level of expertise or personal interaction.

Continuous Improvement

Regularly analyze customer interactions and feedback to refine your custom chatbot’s responses and improve the overall support experience.

Conclusion

In the quest to build customer trust, both chatbots and live chat support have their roles to play. Customizable Chatbots offer efficiency, consistency, and round-the-clock availability, while live chat support provides the human touch, empathy, and adaptability. The key is to strike the right balance, leveraging the strengths of each to create a credible and trustworthy customer support experience. By understanding the unique advantages and disadvantages of both options, businesses can make informed decisions to enhance customer trust and satisfaction in the digital era.

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MARKETING

The Rise in Retail Media Networks

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A shopping cart holding the Amazon logo to represent the rise in retail media network advertising.

As LL Cool J might say, “Don’t call it a comeback. It’s been here for years.”

Paid advertising is alive and growing faster in different forms than any other marketing method.

Magna, a media research firm, and GroupM, a media agency, wrapped the year with their ad industry predictions – expect big growth for digital advertising in 2024, especially with the pending US presidential political season.

But the bigger, more unexpected news comes from the rise in retail media networks – a relative newcomer in the industry.

Watch CMI’s chief strategy advisor Robert Rose explain how these trends could affect marketers or keep reading for his thoughts:

GroupM expects digital advertising revenue in 2023 to conclude with a 5.8% or $889 billion increase – excluding political advertising. Magna believes ad revenue will tick up 5.5% this year and jump 7.2% in 2024. GroupM and Zenith say 2024 will see a more modest 4.8% growth.

Robert says that the feeling of an ad slump and other predictions of advertising’s demise in the modern economy don’t seem to be coming to pass, as paid advertising not only survived 2023 but will thrive in 2024.

What’s a retail media network?

On to the bigger news – the rise of retail media networks. Retail media networks, the smallest segment in these agencies’ and research firms’ evaluation, will be one of the fastest-growing and truly important digital advertising formats in 2024.

GroupM suggests the $119 billion expected to be spent in the networks this year and should grow by a whopping 8.3% in the coming year.  Magna estimates $124 billion in ad revenue from retail media networks this year.

“Think about this for a moment. Retail media is now almost a quarter of the total spent on search advertising outside of China,” Robert points out.

You’re not alone if you aren’t familiar with retail media networks. A familiar vernacular in the B2C world, especially the consumer-packaged goods industry, retail media networks are an advertising segment you should now pay attention to.

Retail media networks are advertising platforms within the retailer’s network. It’s search advertising on retailers’ online stores. So, for example, if you spend money to advertise against product keywords on Amazon, Walmart, or Instacart, you use a retail media network.

But these ad-buying networks also exist on other digital media properties, from mini-sites to videos to content marketing hubs. They also exist on location through interactive kiosks and in-store screens. New formats are rising every day.

Retail media networks make sense. Retailers take advantage of their knowledge of customers, where and why they shop, and present offers and content relevant to their interests. The retailer uses their content as a media company would, knowing their customers trust them to provide valuable information.

Think about these 2 things in 2024

That brings Robert to two things he wants you to consider for 2024 and beyond. The first is a question: Why should you consider retail media networks for your products or services?   

Advertising works because it connects to the idea of a brand. Retail media networks work deep into the buyer’s journey. They use the consumer’s presence in a store (online or brick-and-mortar) to cross-sell merchandise or become the chosen provider.

For example, Robert might advertise his Content Marketing Strategy book on Amazon’s retail network because he knows his customers seek business books. When they search for “content marketing,” his book would appear first.

However, retail media networks also work well because they create a brand halo effect. Robert might buy an ad for his book in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal because he knows their readers view those media outlets as reputable sources of information. He gains some trust by connecting his book to their media properties.

Smart marketing teams will recognize the power of the halo effect and create brand-level experiences on retail media networks. They will do so not because they seek an immediate customer but because they can connect their brand content experience to a trusted media network like Amazon, Nordstrom, eBay, etc.

The second thing Robert wants you to think about relates to the B2B opportunity. More retail media network opportunities for B2B brands are coming.

You can already buy into content syndication networks such as Netline, Business2Community, and others. But given the astronomical growth, for example, of Amazon’s B2B marketplace ($35 billion in 2023), Robert expects a similar trend of retail media networks to emerge on these types of platforms.   

“If I were Adobe, Microsoft, Salesforce, HubSpot, or any brand with big content platforms, I’d look to monetize them by selling paid sponsorship of content (as advertising or sponsored content) on them,” Robert says.

As you think about creative ways to use your paid advertising spend, consider the retail media networks in 2024.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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