After months of repetition, rituals become deeply ingrained — which is why the sweeping changes in consumer behavior that have taken root during the pandemic are likely to last well into the future. In my work advising Fortune 500 companies, I call this COVID-stasis — a state of suspended animation that is keeping consumers stuck in place.
It’s no surprise, then, to see that many brands expect trends in digital and e-commerce to keep going even as the pandemic subsides. A recent Gartner report found that while CMOs do expect an uptick in the number of people visiting brick-and-mortar stores, they also expect further increases in purchases via store websites and other online channels.
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For marketers, this means prioritizing the role of digital initiatives and experiential marketing in the customer journey. Here, many brands have gone wrong in the past. Too often, companies approach the digital experience for customers in a transactional way. Although focusing on making shopping online faster or simpler for customers is important, brands must also take an experiential approach by building new ways to interact with customers on a human level. It’s this focus — digital humanization — that separates truly revolutionary brands from those just trying to get by.
Digital humanization in marketing means using technologies to offer what feels like white-glove concierge services. Perhaps ironically, this type of digital marketing can be more engaging, exciting, and personalized than the in-person experience. When done right, virtual experiences offer the chance to provide the kind of fantasy brand experience and attention that customers could only dream of getting in most retail outlets these days, while building a stronger relationship with them. Here are three keys to getting the digital experience right.
Beat Retail on Engagement
For years, in-person shopping has been a very hit-or-miss experience, with the likelihood of finding what you’re looking for and getting a helpful store representative all too slim — a problem many shoppers are frustrated by amid a labor shortage and supply chain issues.
Through well-designed online experiences, brands can replicate the sense of exploration and discovery that people have at brick-and-mortar stores while also providing personal virtual assistance. In recent years, some businesses have tried this with virtual reality setups accessible only to people with VR headsets.