The Digital Customer – your new channel

While not everyone is a “digital business” as such, we all engage with our customers and users using digital platforms.

This week, Hargraves held a Q&A panel event facilitated by Annalie Killian, Catalyst for Magic, AMP which specifically focused on the Digital Customer. This event was organised in response to specific questions relating to digital engagement by  Hargraves members. The expert panel included:

  • Kate Burleigh, Managing Director, Intel Australia/New Zealand
  • Leanne Sheraton, Director – Consumer Marketing, PayPal
  • Brett Cooper, Director – Digital Delivery, Telstra

All 3 panelists provided great insights into how they work in a world of connected commerce.

PayPal focuses on being a cloud based digital wallet – connecting Australia customers with many merchants. For them it is about the speed of this connection and how it translates into convenience (don’t queue for your coffees) and safe transactions. They endeavor to shorten the distance between their users and buyers.

The digital world has meant that Telstra is perhaps a software company with value added services.

Intel approached the digital world as an extension of their B2B partnerships and co-branding with a premium product.

The balance of digital minds and analogue hearts.

The panelists talked about how digital customers are not new customers – it is the channel that may be new and how people are accessing your information. Digital is a connected channel and customers are often connected to more than one platform at a time. This means that being in the digital space is not just about pushing your product or service – you need to think about how and when people are connected. Also take into account that expectations are high, the noise is great and patience is limited.

Enterprise/ CRM systems need to go beyond traditional elements to maximise opportunity in the digital space. PayPal has thousands of business analysts looking at data and identifying customer characteristics that will help them innovate. Hand in hand with the analysis is the responsibility of the company to protect the data and customers will always expect something in return for their data. People want you to be as personal as possible, but beware the fine line that, if crossed, will cause a shutdown of communication. Transparency is important

Whist the customers are not new, customers using digital channels have new characteristics and behaviours – older people are used to being protected and will, perhaps, be more cautious; the younger generation are happy to try things. So there may need to different communication strategies for these segments. Give transparent and easy to find options for customers to communicate with you the way they want. For example PayPal moved their phone number to the front page – they saw an increase in customer calls, – a large percentage of these calls were easy to resolve and change customer behaviours in a positive way.

How do they prepare for the Future within our Digital World?

Different game plans are required for different businesses and levels of risk. Kate talked about a changing culture within Intel that embraces both highly structured planning for those big investments as well as a new psychology of being able to try things and learn, being more agile when it is appropriate.

Leanne talked about truly involving customers in designing the future – they have found these activities to always produce a “gem” when asking customers what they would do if they were PayPal. Also regular war-games are an effective way to look at the company from a competitors perspective.

The future for Telstra also lies in working with government – looking where “collisions” are coming from and being present as a partner eg eHealth.

Partners and your Brand are important

All 3 panelists highlighted how important partners are when you are embracing the digital world to do business. It is not a solo activity – use partners that are aligned (particularly around privacy and security of data) and that you respect.

Collaboration is important and often an enabler.  Don’t loose sight of your brand as that is one of the key differentiators in the cluttered digital world. People expect customised messaging and also visual cues.  Push information under your brand to inspire, educate and engage. This is no different to the other channels that you amy use for your business. Ask yourself “ what are the top three activities my customers do in the digital world?” and place your brand and message there.

As a channel of engagement, it is even more important to work WITH IT experts within and outside your business unit – it is a combined effort that will make it a great experience for the customer. You need to break down silos within.

A parting word

An important learning is that while digital is easily accessible, it is not necessarily a cheaper option than other channels. It was felt that this was a misconception from when digital was an infant – now you have to work just as hard to be heard in this channel as you do in others – and perhaps the expectations are higher – speed, access and personalisation. This is an important message for your CFO – digital is not necessarily cheaper, expect to need a similar budget.

Is it too late to join the train now?

No , but as Leanne suggested “there is no point in building a Ferrari to just drive around the cul-de-sac”. If you are considering a digital platform – stage it, look at 4 phases to implementation and even de-scope from the beginning. Scope each phase when you get there.

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