Prior to the advent of digital marketing and social media, brands were able to craft their own reputations. From billboards to TV campaigns, traditional advertising formed the basis of influential brand interactions. Ad creative and brand messaging could be neatly encapsulated in a definitive space that ensured mass reach and awareness.
With the explosive growth of digital, shaping brand perception has become a two-way street, especially following the soaring popularity of social media and online reviews. Real-time consumer feedback – both positive and negative – is now the bedrock of reputation, whether shared through a review site or a social media channel. As a result, customer experience is the make-or-break factor for brand success.
Although brand reputation is ranked as the top marketing priority, today’s digital-first nature of the majority of customer communication to brands can present challenges to traditional strategies. So, what can brands do to gain qualitative consumer insights and manage brand reputation in real-time? How can brands deliver impactful experiences and manage a customer-centric reputation, both online and in person?
Get to know your audiences
Digital channels are ingrained in consumers’ everyday lives, reaching 89% of UK adults and occupying over four hours of their time each day. And many are spreading their time across channels – from Facebook and Instagram to TikTok – which saw a phenomenal uptake almost overnight in 2018 and became the seventh most downloaded app of the 2010s. In comparison, businesses can typically take months or even years to successfully incorporate new channels into their marketing mix.
Experiences are far more fruitful when brands connect with customers on their preferred channels, rather than trying to incentivise them to interact on brand-owned sites. Listening to consumers on digital channels is an invaluable way of getting closer to them and learning how a brand is truly perceived.
By collating and analysing qualitative, conversational data at scale, businesses can generate actionable insights that inform more effective branding efforts and customer experience management.
Keep up with consumer expectations
One key advantage of digital channels is that they allow brands to benchmark themselves against competitors and keep their finger on the pulse of customer expectations. As conversational data is in the public domain, brands can conduct research into what earns the best consumer engagement and what misses the mark.
With AI-powered technologies, businesses can also gain a wider view of how consumers perceive their industry as a whole and adapt their branding in response, as well as follow topical issues as they arise. Whether they want to monitor conversations around breaking news or track emerging consumer trends, brands can set up alerts that enable relevant teams to take action in real-time.
This is especially beneficial for crisis management. In today’s digital landscape, brands can no longer contain crisis situations – they must explain them to their customer base in a transparent way to win back consumer buy-in.
Despite many businesses facing challenges in 2020 – for example, delays to delivery services or a surplus of demand – those that clearly communicated these issues enhanced their brand reputation. According to IBM’s research, 71% of consumers consider transparency an important brand attribute, so businesses must prioritise this when interacting with customers and building their reputations.
Be responsive as a brand
To craft consumer-centric experiences, brands must embrace conversational data in all branches of their business. Marketing, product, and customer service teams – to name but a few – should all have access to a platform that consolidates consumer insights, connects departments, and enables them to deliver a comprehensive and exceptional brand experience.
For instance, McDonald’s overturned 14 quarters of decline by listening to its regional customers and realising all-day breakfasts were hugely popular. By taking on board customer feedback from digital channels, the brand identified a valuable, untapped opportunity and adapted its offering.
Furthermore, ensuring front line teams can access consumer insights is vital. Bad customer service is often the first thing to negatively affect brand reputation, meaning brands need to strengthen both online and offline experiences to enhance overall consumer perceptions.
Most importantly, conversational data allows customer service teams to be conversational themselves. Front line teams must be responsive to consumer needs to successfully navigate the two-way street toward a robust brand reputation.
As digital channels are breaking down the barriers between individual brand interactions, businesses must break down the silos between their own teams. Digital channels provide brands with crucial, qualitative data that helps them get to know their customers, stay in touch with current trends, and pivot their branding efforts.
By generating real-time insights from online consumer interactions and sharing them across departments, brands can sustain their reputations with a responsive and optimised consumer experience.