Accelerating a trend well underway, our at-home reality has forced businesses to go digital on shorter timelines and tighter budgets. Brands and agencies alike have scrambled to recreate our physical world online, but what guarantees that these changes will stick?
COVID-19 came suddenly and without warning, and we all came to grips in real time with a crisis we had no framework to solve for. March was a turning point and businesses had to quickly transform – notably, the digital ecosystem became center stage.
Across industries, those that have been most successful in this new world order have seen it as an opportunity to transform their business, reconnect with customers, and reimagine how their product or service can be a source of light in our day to day. The question as we look towards Q4, though, is how long this rapid transformation and investment in life-from-home tech will balance alongside in-person activations once they begin again. The longer we’re in this alternative state, the more comfortable and functional it becomes, and the harder it is to argue for the return to “normal”.
The guiding rule? Center the user’s “why”
1 ) When you build around the user, rather than what’s trendy, possible, or impressive, the move to digital makes people’s lives easier, and that’s what keeps them coming back.
Take, for example, the evolution of Pfizer’s clinical trial portal. The experience of participating in a clinical trial is complex, sometimes scary, and always data-rich, leading Pfizer to identify this touchpoint as one well suited for a digital supplement. Working with Code and Theory, Pfizer developed a platform that could answer common questions and requests, accessible at any time without the oversight of doctors, nurses or medical professionals. The well-researched design put common anxieties, questions and needs at the core, creating a seamless experience in which patients felt recognized, heard, and answered. Pfizer is translating these learnings into their COVID response as well. In the June 25 edition of Back to the Future, Pfizer’s former VP of Global Consumer Experience and Engagement Richard Schwabacher noted that “What’s really important is the things that made good experiences and good design strong – the integrity of good design – are going to carry us forward in the face of this challenge”.
“What’s really important is the things that made good experiences and good design strong – the integrity of good design – are going to carry us forward in the face of this challenge”Richard Schwabacher, Pfizer
2 ) Smart data insights create a ‘why’ story out of the numbers, and that story should inform what you build.
Of course, not every digital transformation project is going to have a “why” that involves saving lives. But a simple shift in the way we think about data can have a profound effect. Viewing that data through a “why” lens to tell a story, instead of as a tool to mechanically target and retarget, can unlock insights and amplify impact.
Renne Miller, Senior Creative Strategist at Code and Theory and guest on the June 11th episode of Back to the Future said it best – anyone with an online presence, from a small business to a multinational corporation, has the ability to know their customers via their online footprint and shape services and communications to meet those needs. There’s no longer an excuse to not meet customers where they are because they’re providing the map – online marketers can easily learn where customers shop, what they view, the platforms they use, and what they buy.
“You have power in seeing where your audience is, seeking out that knowledge first hand, and then speaking to them in the way that they are already speaking online”Renee Miller, Code and Theory
Are they visiting your site to escape, or for necessities? Are they bargain hunters or loyal customers? Are they arriving via a community of promoters (influencers or bloggers), or their own discovery? Aggregated, this data creates a persona with specific wants, needs, and expectations. Designed to meet the needs of this persona, digital platforms will prove utility and value up front and build buy-in for later efforts that go beyond the necessary or expected.
3 ) Data + Empathy = Success
Once brands know the customer story, it’s their job to become part of it, building out content and platforms around the story they know is resonating, not the one they think might resonate. It’s also their job to know that the story will change, and that they need to change along with it. By combining real time data with real-world experiences and empathy, brands will have a pulse on when and why the story is changing so they can respond.
Whether it’s shopping patterns (in some places in-store shopping is picking up more than others) or content preferences (there is COVID info fatigue but heightened engagement around back-to-school), brands should understand what customers want and iterate towards that need. But especially in a world as complex as the one we’re living in now, the answer won’t always be in a dashboard, report or database. The answer lies somewhere in between these data points and the awareness, instinct and experience that seasoned teams bring to the table.
“We’ve lived in a world so focused on data, but not much intelligence. One of the things we are focused on is applying your heart to your consumers’ journey, not just your head”Tim Heffernan, T3Expo
Using a smart digital presence born out of informed strategy, the sky’s the limit for businesses large and small. With the internet as the great equalizer, brands have the opportunity to fill the void and make their lives easier. By centering the consumer in the relentless push towards digital innovation, we unlock a whole new level of connection, service, and efficiency that will make the new digital transformation a permanent fixture in modern life for years to come.