5 Ways to Alienate (and Lose) Your "Digital-First" Shoppers

Posted by
Erin Kang
LivePerson Contributor
Wednesday, May 7, 2014 - 12:39

Hi, I’m Erin—a “digital first” consumer. In my day to day, whatever I do, my reflex is digital, first. I click to read, click to explore, and click to buy. I also click to socialize, make professional connections, and even to date. My friends, coworkers, my mom, and even my favorite brands are just a click or touch away—and I want to be able to reach them whenever I want, in my channel of choice, which is obviously digital and never voice. My smartphone is glued to my hand, but I’m a self-professed “multi-screener” that uses devices interchangeably to connect to the world both near and far.

For these reasons, I would classify myself among a growing population of "digital firsts." These aren’t just “natives,” or millennials. My mom is fluent in emojis, and my dad is addicted to Youtube and Amazon’s 1-Click ordering. (Don’t even get me started on Grandma’s selfie habit.)  Being digital-first isn’t specific to age or a trait of a particular generation—it’s a state of mind. And tomorrow, digital-first behavior will become ubiquitous.

This growing population of consumers are tech-savvy and always connected, yet they also demand control and value privacy. They avoid voice, and gravitate toward text and rich-media. They want instant gratification, and timing is everything.

I’ll be the first to admit that engaging with “digital firsts” is tricky, and winning our loyalty is a challenge. While brands are investing in more and more solutions and technologies to stay ahead, they need to know that there is a fine line between being annoying and helpful, invasive versus dependable. The delete, ignore and unfollow buttons are our best friends, and a brand’s worst nightmare.  And while I might like to Whatsapp with friends, is it appropriate for brands to try and engage with me there? If brands employed the right strategy to get my attention, I think my answer would be “yes.” But all too frequently that’s just not the case… yet.

There’s great potential for brands that understand how to gracefully engage and delight the digital-first shopper. But first, brands must ensure that they aren’t crossing a line or missing the mark entirely. If they do, consumers will surely abandon, or worse, “opt out” and disengage with your brand forever.  

Do you “get” the digital-first generation? 

5 sure fire ways to alienate and potentially lose your digital-first customers

1. You’re on the wrong channel.

Today’s online consumers have higher expectations than ever. A 1-800 number buried in the back pages of your website, or a generic email support form, simply doesn’t cut it. They expect personalized, one-on-one experiences and high-touch customer support in digital. Even brands like Amazon are changing their strategy.

The first step is knowing what channel your customer prefers. For digital firsts, the channel is obviously digital, whether it’s on your website, mobile app/site, or social presence. Try offering customer engagement in any of these channels, and you may be surprised. Beauty brands like Garnier and L’Oreal are experimenting with video chat to offer beauty consultations, and others like McDonalds and Taco Bell are taking daring steps to interact via Snapchat. We see more and more consumers, across traditional generational categories, using real-time channels such as chat.

Delight Digital Firsts:
Brands that “get it” deliver a one-to-one, custom experience, in the consumer’s preferred channel. Brands should explore how to provide your digital-first customers a rich, personalized experience the moment they want to engage with your brand wherever they are.

2. Wrong content, wrong time.

The wrong content at the wrong time feels like spam, or worse, feels disruptive and irrelevant. No one likes the feeling that they are being blatantly sold to—especially when their focus is on something else at the time.

Delight Digital Firsts:
Start with your brand’s website. Differentiate your content targeting by sharing content relevant to specific visitors on your site in real-time. How do you know what interests them? Get scientific with content production. You can do this by utilizing the following information visitors already provide: 

  • Keywords searched that brought them to your site
  • Real-time behavior
  • Web and purchase history, which helps map out buyer intent along the buying cycle

Share valuable, intentional content on all channels that you know will be useful or interesting to your targeted audience, at the right moment versus a one-size-fits-many approach. Select themes and topics based on consumer data and behavior. Incorporate commonly asked questions into content and engagement strategies. Get started by serving up content based on search intent through keyword-based targeting.

For example, does your customer service team field a lot of questions on how to assemble items purchased? Use that insight to guide a how-to video strategy. Place it on the product and support pages, or serve it up to those who show intent (i.e. coming to your website with relevant search terms). Make information easily accessible when and where customers need it.

3. Your brand is robotic.

Research shows that consumers prefer digital to connect with a brand. But even in this digital world, consumers still crave meaningful assistance from a human being. Web optimization is obviously a critical component to your business, but there are still times when your customer needs assistance. An automated response is cold, impersonal, and most of the time, irrelevant. Empowered “digital firsts” have scoured your website before opting to ask for help, so when they do, they want to talk to a live person. The cost of a “cold” digital strategy?  Annoying and losing detached consumers.

Delight Digital Firsts:
Humanize your engagements. As interactions shift increasingly to the digital space, brands need to look for new opportunities to create relationships with their customers. Look for ways to add a human touch to your digital channels, whether it’s through live chat, video support or social engagement. 

4.  You’re slow, or unavailable.

LivePerson’s Connecting with Customers Research found that most consumers will wait an average of 76 seconds, and if timely help doesn’t arrive, they’ll seek alternatives. Digital first shoppers don't like to wait for anything, and the reality is that they won’t.

I personally expect always on, 24/7 customer support. My time is precious and if I am a loyal customer, or if I intend to spend money with your brand, I should never have to wait for help. I’m put off by slow loading websites, complicated checkout processes and unanswered questions. In fact, 31% of consumers expect immediate help, and 30% abandon a cart because they had trouble finding help online. At minimum, during waking hours, I expect you to be available, easy to reach, and I’d rather not have to search for a way to connect with you. It should be apparent and easy.

Bottom line: Digital first shoppers demand quick, convenient resolution to problems on your site, and they have low tolerance for slow customer service.

Delight Digital Firsts:
Offer speedy, intelligent, real-time help. Provide live chat buttons, plus voice and video for more involved scenarios, like checkout. Also, make sure to continuously update FAQs on support or contact website pages—by using insights from customer chats, you can make that content as relevant and valuable as possible.

5. You don’t optimize for social, or mobile.

Google says we are in the “participation age.” Are you facilitating (or hindering) participation on your site?

If I took the time to read a blog post, I’ll want to share my thoughts or comments via a social network. My digital-first friends and I live by the silly mantra that “If I can’t socialize it, it never happened.” So, I want to be able to share my thoughts and experiences about a brand with my community. In a new survey, Google and Advertising Age revealed that 90.8% of respondents engage with brands online on a regular basis.  Plus, those who engage more will probably buy more.

One sure way to frustrate a digital shopper is to make it difficult to share content via social. It annoys me when I can’t click to share, tweet or pin. If you aren’t catering to your social consumers, you’re most likely snubbing your mobile consumers, since most people are using social through mobile. A recent report from Business Insider found that more than half of time spent on social networks is from mobile users. 

Delight Digital Firsts:
Integrate social sharing buttons or widgets into your site, and make sure all site elements are optimized for mobile. Encourage site visitors to comment, engage and share content. Take a look at some of the most social brands and see if you can reshape your social strategy. (Suggestion: take a look at Nike and Coca-Cola.)

Showcase: Prescriptives Beautifies the Digital Experience 

Brands are creating a customer-engagement strategy that speaks to Digital-Firsts. One brand leading the way is Prescriptives—with its “personalized service when and how you want it!” They’ve been offering customized beauty products and services since day one, and their innovative customer engagement strategy is no different. Check out their customer service page -- a dream come true for the digital generation, with more than one way to connect one on one with a beauty consultant, all in digital, all in real-time. Prescriptives offers text chat, text chat with photos, and face-to-face video chat with brand beauty geniuses. Plus, beyond product information, they offer beauty how-tos, and Q&A's on their website. Digital firsts like to be spoiled for choice, and these innovative options make it hard for me to go to any other brand to talk (and buy) makeup during my busy lunch hour.

The world is fast changing, and digital firsts are leading the way. So let them take the lead, and look to not only meet but exceed their expectations with rich, innovative ways to improve their brand experience. As long as you follow the basic rules of thumb—be digital, be real-time, be personal-- you’ll sure to be a friend to digital firsts. Wow them, and you’ll be a bestie.

Ask yourself: Are you annoying your customers? Would your brand antics annoy you or delight you as a consumer?

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