We are hard wired by evolution to see structure in everything. We look for understanding and empathy everywhere: we see faces in clouds, in burnt toast, in rice pudding, we look for the friendly face in the crowd and we gravitate to empathic people. And thus when we are online we prefer companies whose websites show humanity, forgive our errors and have personality over the more generic ones. In short, we want our digital brand's interfaces to mimic human to human interactions. Therefore it is key that your customers can see the face of your brand in your website interfaces and can hear its voice in the copy, and that that face and voice is on-brand (i.e. coherent with your offline brand if you have one) and one of meaning and purpose.
From recent work with our clients we know how crucial it is to understand what your current brand experience is (across all touch points) and why it is so important to build a cohesive strategy in order to compete in the digital economy.
Below I detail how and why you need to create a Digital Brand Experience Strategy.
First of all, what is the Digital Brand Experience?
The Digital Brand Experience is the feelings and thoughts generated by an interaction with a brand's digital interfaces across multiple digital marketing channels and touch-points with the purpose of creating a lasting relationship between the company and the customer across the entire Customer Decision Journey.
Digital interfaces must be on-brand in order for a customer to have the correct experience (feelings and thoughts when interacting with the brand across digital touch-points) and then execute the correct actions. This experience must be unique to the brand and coherent across all channels and platforms.
Before a coherent digital brand experience can be achieved the 'experience' must be defined, and once defined then implemented through the design of the interactions which make up the interfaces.
And why bother define the Digital Brand Experience?
Brands, and the interfaces that represent them online, must act human in order to create the basis of a successful relationship with users.
Humans trust humans. Online 'dumb' vanilla interfaces create barriers to trust because they cannot be engaged with on an emotional level i.e. the digital brand experience has not been defined and therefore is not present.
Time and time again we find with our clients that a well defined and controlled digital brand experience enables differentiation from the competition in a utilitarian digital market place through the creation of symbolic digital interfaces. Digital interfaces must symbolise something more than their function and represent a user's inner needs and wants in some shape or form - just like the offline brand attempts to do.
But how do you define your Digital Brand Experience Strategy?
At the core of the digital brand experience definition process are the brand strategy and values. These form the basis of the 'translation' of an offline brand experience to online. These are translated in to a Digital Personality which is then a key input into the formation of the Digital Experience Principles which together form the Digital Brand Experience Strategy.
What is a Digital Personality?
The Digital Personality is the process of humanising the brand strategy and values through a human prototype into a set of characteristics and interface 'reactions'. These will begin the formation of a set of principles to which the brand will adhere across all digital touch points.
What are Digital Experience Principles?
Digital Experience Principles are high-level statements which clearly verbalise the company's digital experience aspirations. Together these form a vision for a coherent and consistent digital experience strategy which will enable the successful definition, design and implementation of on-brand interfaces across all digital marketing channels and touch-points.
The principles are constituent parts of a company's multi-faceted digital brand personality and together create the possibility of human-like reactions to customer actions via digital interfaces which are on brand, relationship building and are able to drive the customer through the Customer Decision Journey stages towards advocacy and bonding.
Three rules to keep in mind when defining your Digital Brand Experience Strategy
Number 1: understand the digital interface
The interface is the layer that makes the data and logic behind the data palatable. The interface is what allows us humans to 'feel' a digital offering. It is the human face we yearn for and therefore it is the human face of your brand. Be careful what you do with it - whatever you do make it human.
Number 2: make your digital interfaces meaningful
Customers want things to work. But most of all they want meaning. Customers don't just want to transact, they want to relate. In digital this need is even more pronounced. Interfaces must not just be functional, usable and reliable. They must now also be personal and more importantly, meaningful. Meaningful experiences turn customers into advocates. Create on-brand meaningful digital experiences or don't bother.
Number 3: humanise your digital interfaces
Customers, whether filling in a form online or viewing your prices, want to be able to judge your intentions through the way your brand looks, sounds and feels in the digital environment. They infer your brand's personality through their interactions with your digital interfaces. Therefore make sure you know and control that personality by building a human prototype of your brand through archetypes, personality facets, tone of voice and other human prototyping tools.
Humans, as a rule, are generally coherent and predictable. Customers expect your brand to be the same. If your digital brand is incoherent and differs across different touch-points then the customer will find it harder to trust in you or your offer.
In order for every digital touch-point to be coherent you will need to create a repeatable brand experience through the creation of a Digital Brand Experience Strategy. This strategy is the heart that pumps the blood that runs through every part of your brand's interaction landscape and is what will deliver the customer actions you require.
So, before you redesign your website, or any of your digital touch-points, define the digital experience you are selling - and make sure it is on-brand, repeatable and coherent but more importantly, that it is human.