in flight sledding
The tools marketers have access to today means there's no reason why we shouldn't be offering more human (and humane) digital experiences PHOTO: Tom Driggers

We’ve all been working on this web thing for more than 20 years, yet why are so many digital interactions still so … impersonal?

Take digital marketing. Brands have access to tech that can automate and deliver highly personalized, one-to-one messages and offers. Yet, consumers still receive a barrage of irrelevant emails and online ads. So many brands spray out content and offers, just hoping that a whopping 2 percent (!) of potential customers will respond positively.

The other 98 percent? They’re victims of drive-by digital hand-waving: incessant, irrelevant marketing and communications.

Take Steps to Deliver More Human-Focused Experiences

It’s 2018, people! We have at our fingertips the most powerful communication and interaction medium ever created. Brands have more content than they can use, more customer data than ever and more technology to deliver great interactions in the moment. But why are so many interactions irrelevant and lacking the human touch?

This work is challenging. It requires commitment, investment in technology and a deep integration strategy. Take lessons from companies that are doing some of these things well, and make innovation a habit in your organization. Emulate those organizations that are adapting quickly and creating useful engagement to make life easier, better or just plain more convenient for real people. As they set new standards, so can you.

Go Beyond Marketing to Create a Relevant Experience Continuum

At a time when leading brands are making marketing more personal, they’re also expanding what it means to deliver personalized products, services and support using digital as the medium to provide long-term value and benefits to customers.

Here are a few ideas you nurture in your own organization. It all comes down to offering more human (dare I say, more humane?) customer interactions where digital is the means to justify the ends of a great customer experience.

  • Personalize your marketing: Digital may be the most desirable (and economical) marketing medium, but it too often lacks even a whiff of customer context. It’s easier than ever to use data to target customers with personalized offers across web, email, social and other channels. Use what’s at your fingertips. For example, personalize web and email content to boost engagement and raise conversion. One European media company uses data-driven personalization to make educated predictions about the types of content that interests a reader — a tactic that also creates new avenues for advertising revenue.
  • Guide your customers’ journeys: Hyperpersonalize with customer journey orchestration: Unify all of your customer data, connect your marketing technology systems so they all work together, and apply automated decisioning to trigger the best content, offer or message in the moment to the right channel. A large car company is using this technology to push more prospects into dealerships for test drives by hitting them with just the right message at the right time, whether they’re on web, email, social or ad channels.
  • Reinvent service and support: Most companies have help sites, support lines and call center teams that can handle questions and problems — but they often operate in reactive mode. Forward-thinking brands have made customer service a proactive art. For example, Subaru’s MySubaru.com provides vehicle owners with a monthly vehicle health report, alerting them to service issues and reminders before problems crop up. Sephora uses a chatbot on social platform Kik to answer makeup questions from consumers, providing answers in real time.
  • Blend digital and physical commerce: Home furnishings online retailer Wayfair sells more sofas by bridging the digital and the physical: Take a living room photo on your phone and Wayfair’s virtual reality tool inserts 3D images so you can see how furniture would look in your place. Sephora uses smart digital signage in its stores, so customers can learn more about products based on their interests.
  • Use dynamic digital signage: Campuses, sports venues and airports are leading the way with digital signage that helps you get where you’re going and informs you along the way. The University of Iowa, for example, uses its content management platform to push information to hundreds of screens in dorms, classroom buildings and dining halls — even to menus on school-operated food trucks. The university thereby makes the physical space more navigable and makes sure information is always current in the right context.
  • Deliver a human touch via digital services: Going digital doesn’t mean there isn’t room for human interaction. Bank of America ATMs with teller assist let customers see and converse with a banker from some ATM locations. The Georgia state government uses conversational interfaces for two-way communication as part its new Ask GeorgiaGov service, helping residents to access information about government services. Georgia residents can ask their Amazon Echoes how to renew driver’s licenses, obtain social services or apply for fishing permits.

To strengthen the human touch, take a bold step in 2018 and reimagine what you and your team do every day. Don’t just sit behind a curtain of digital technology. Start thinking like the curator of customer experience. The brands that will win are thinking far beyond customer acquisition, and are instead devoting time and resources to using digital tech to give customers an amazing experience with human relevance across every touchpoint.