Digital Strategy – Simplicity or Relationship?

There is a question about digital strategy- whether to keep simplicity or to develop relationship with customers. According to Harvard Business Review, an experiment comprised of more then 7000 consumers and hundreds of marketing executives and experts shows that in order to drive consumer “stickiness”, which means buying products repeatedly and sharing with friends, brands have to keep the purchase decision journey simple and easy, provide customers relevant and trustworthy information to help them make decisions. On the contrary, there are theories always tell us to build relationship with customers through social media- to focus on engagement but no sales. In my view, these two theories both make their points, and they don’t contradict.

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Simplicity and relationship with customers should both be maintained. It’s true that most consumers might connect brands online in order to get product information and discount and to make purchase. In this way, brands definitely should create a friendly environment for customer to easily get what information they want. But this is not the final step. No matter the consumers make purchase or not after they gain the information you give them, your relationship with them has already begun, and this is the point whether you can deepen the relationship and make them become your loyal customers. If the brand shows cool image or personality, consumers will want to stay in touch with it to know more cool stuffs it shares and even when to be associated with it, even if the thing the brand shares has nothing to do about the product. Apple is the best example. Fans love its products and talk about it all the time, not only the products but anything, such as leaders, event, employee culture, etc. If customers don’t feel connected with the brand, they will easily switch to another products if they see any brand with better offer or quality.

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I was a real estate agent two years ago, and what we did was pretty similar to the above digital strategy. When a client came to us for information of housing in the neighbor, we would explain clearly to him and at the same time, make friend with him. We would chat with him not only about housing, but his family and life. Senior managers always said to us, “make friend first, and the deal are almost done.” Showing houses to buyers was the same thing. We would not only introduce the details of the house, like when the building was built and how’s the price of surrounding buildings, but also the story of the owner and why they were selling it. We would provide relevant and trustworthy information the client needed and build the relationship with him at the same time. When the relationship was stable and he fully trusted the information we gave, the possibility to close the deal was very high. This kind of loyal customers usually would recommend us to his friends, and the chance of making a sale with these friends would be higher than with customers who came to us through organic search.

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The way Gary Vaynerchuk used social media is similar to my above experience. He not only provided clear information that lead to sales but at the same time created conversations and built relationship with his fans.  Through providing simple but relevant information to help customers make good decision and making friends with them, brands can both enhance engagement and increase sales. Only by maintaining both the two elements and creating a tribe with the loyal customers can brands pursue long-term success but not only short-term profit.

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