The age of digital marketplace has made it possible for unknown and smaller companies to compete with better-known and well-established brands. Take for example some consumer products. On one hand, you have a JBL Bluetooth speaker that retails anywhere from $200 to $500. However, you can also get unbranded Bluetooth speakers from Amazon for less than $50.
Because it’s now easier to find less expensive — and sometimes better — products through digital marketplace, most people are thinking that brands are no longer as important than before.
But that is simply not true. Dynamic brands are still very much relevant in a highly digital world like ours. It’s all a matter of getting your customer’s loyalty by engaging them.
How Samsung Did It
In 2016, the South Korean consumer electronics maker opened Samsung 837 in New York City. There are a lot of things that you can do here, including participating in interactive art, trying out augmented reality, attend an event, or even enjoy live performances. However, you cannot buy a Samsung product in this space.
The thing is that the best way to engage your customers is not to sell them anything. Or more appropriately,
Go Where Your Customers Are
These days you really can’t expect your customers to go to your physical store to buy. You can’t even expect them to go to your website or digital marketplace. Nope, you need to be where they want to be. That means that you will need to figure out where your target customers are when they go online and you have to deliver the right types of messages on these platforms.
Some of the most visited websites allow you to engage and converse with your customers. For instance, Facebook lets put up a brand page and even interact with your “likers”. Facebook has a traffic of more than 512 million users every month.
Other sites you can consider (with their corresponding monthly traffic counts) are as follows:
- YouTube: 1.6 billion
- Twitter: 535.7 million
- Reddit: 184.3 million
- Pinterest: 160.0 million
- Instagram: 95.6 million
Another area where brands can engage their customers is messaging apps. According to this site, more than 41 million messages were sent via WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and other similar apps every minute. And the number of users is staggering: WhatsApp says that they have 1.6 billion active users every month, while Facebook says that they have 2.7 billion users for their core products. Even regional apps have billions of users, such as WeChat having more than 1.1 billion monthly users.
These private communication channels have billions of users, making it a dream for any digital marketplace professional to get into. But brands should not go into these messaging apps without a good plan. If you sell too much, you will probably turn a lot of people away from your brand.
Instead, build relationships with them. Give them helpful tips, respond to their questions, tackle their complaints, and / or entertain them.
In the old days, retailers had a one-way relationship with their customers. Brands just sell and sell, and customers buy from them. Today, it’s a different story. Brands are giving back, which results in an increase in customer loyalty.
Being socially responsible helps brands sell. This was the result of a 2013 study that found that:
- 91 percent of consumers will patronize a brand that they believe supports a good cause, over a similar brand.
- 93 percent are loyal to a brand that support social issues
- Nine out of 10 will boycott a brand that they have been patronizing if they found about that the company has been irresponsible
- 34 percent will tell their friends and followers on social media about a positive brand experience
- 26 percent will share negative experiences with a brand on social media
- 29 percent relies on social media to learn about an organization’s specific issues
Tom’s Shoes: More than 96.5 million lives touched
Tom’s Shoes gives part of their sales to their local partners. The company assists these organizations by giving away free shoes, restoring sight, creating water that is safe to drink, and other initiatives.
So here’s what the company did so far:
- More than 95 million shoes given away
- 780,000 people can now see clearly again
- More than 722,000 weeks of safe water produced
Beware of the Corporate Hypocrisy
There is something about a brand that gives back. According to this study, apart from people patronizing a company that shows strong corporate social responsibility, there are also other reasons why brands are looking towards philanthropy.
- For one, the customer will find out and the media gives these steps a lot of coverage.
- There are also consumer advocacy groups that are aggressively hounding companies who do bad.
- There are also movies like Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, Supersize Me, and other movie documentaries that shed light on the issue.
However, some companies are cheating and are being accused of corporate hypocrisy. One of the more recent examples include Coca-Cola’s Come Together campaign, which tries to paint the company’s products as “healthy”, or at least, allows you to make a healthy choice by putting the number of calories on the label or having smaller sizes.
Another is Burberry, with the luxury clothing brand touting how British its clothes are. When in reality most of its products are manufactured in China. They are also being accused of overpricing their products by as much as 37.5 times. Then there’s Coca-Cola, Heineken, and McDonald’s acting as corporate sponsors to the London games.
If these are mishaps, perhaps you are looking for an example of what to do. The clothing brand Patagonia came out with an ad that tells people not to buy a certain jacket. And then talks about how the company has sustainable processes that contribute to the durability and quality of its product. It was honest in explaining why the particular jacket was harmful to the environment. It also encouraged people not to buy things they don’t need.
Why Brands Are Still Relevant in Today’s World
The thing is, through digital marketplace, people’s buying and shopping behaviors have changed. You no longer need to sell today, at least not in the way they did a few years ago. Brands can still bank on consumers who know them to stand for something. For instance, people have come to expect beautifully designed smartphones from Apple, and they know that unlike some generic mobile devices, iPhones are durable.
However, brands also need to change the way they sell in digital marketplace. They should set up authentic and sincere steps to be where their buyers are, to give them experiences and try to engage them rather than be a creepy, pesky, and intrusive salesman. Customers need to be able to trust your brand because it’s what separates you from the clones, copycats, and cheap knockoffs.
Photo courtesy of gdsteam.