I recently had the chance to sit down with Ron Fusco to chat about digital media in 2016.

Ron leads marketing measurement strategy at HP, and he previously ran strategy & analytics at 3Q Digital in San Francisco.

Digital transformation is a phrase that gets thrown around a lot these days. But what does it mean for a brand to be transformed via digital media?

The way I think about it is more from the perspective of the consumer.

Most interactions today have a digital component to them – even when you meet people in the flesh, you are still connected through devices.

You add them on Facebook, you store their contact info in your phone. Maybe you even share articles that match what you were talking about in person. 

At CES this year, there was a portable in-person translation device designed to go with you when you travel – even real-world ‘word of mouth’ can be improved with digital technology.

Another example of this is Amazon Alexa and Echo – tools that integrate real-world conversation mechanisms with the power and accessibility of digital media.

The lesson for brands? When customers connect with brands and products offline, they are still interfacing with the digital world.  

Customers are constantly referencing the digital world to improve their experience in the real world: store location searches, product comparisons. From the customer’s perspective, every interaction is digital.

Brands must tune their customer experience to the way the customer interacts with the world – and that means digital.

Digital transformation and digital experience is not forcing your version of brand experience on the customer, but optimizing your brand experience to where the customer already is.

Digital transformation is the backdrop of customer experience.

If a major brand wants to begin reaching customers through digital channels, where should they look? How should brands begin to address digital media?

Finding the right first step depends heavily upon the product:

  • Who are your product’s customers?
  • How do your product’s customers interact with the world in the product category?

Sometimes this means brands should make mobile-first responsive sites because their customer is mobile-centric when it comes to their product category. 

Other times this might look like seeking out strategic partnerships with other brands who already have good digital traction.

These partners can influence your customers along their already existing customer journeys to move towards your product.

In the end, it all comes back to the first answer: brands need to know how their customers interact with the world, and then use digital media to meet them there.

Take banks, for example: so much of today’s banking experience is digital, but for many people switching banks is still an “analog” experience.

Certain parts of the customer journey remain offline, while loyalty and experience are heavily digitized.

Many banks have identified where their customer is during much of their time spent on financial decisions, and have provided online solutions to meet the customer’s natural preferences.

The world of digital marketing analytics and optimization is full of expensive strategies that can (theoretically) become game-changers well worth the money. Of these, which have you seen deliver meaningful results for brands? Which do you think deserve more attention?

A lot of these tactics are buzzwords that come get high-level sponsorship, but most companies need to focus on the basics. 

During my agency experience, many clients would ask about advertising attribution but weren’t even measuring advertising analytics, or how customers behave on-site.

Ron Fusco

One example is brand search vs. non-brand search: these two tactics have very different impacts on the customer journey.

Non-brand search has more opportunity for new customer acquisition, while brand search has more opportunity for loyalty and reputation management.

There are many obstacles facing major brands as they examine new digital tactics and technology (e.g. legacy systems). How do you drive meaningful digital transformation in such an environment? 

In many cases, competitive benchmarking is an effective means of convincing key players to change their approach to digital media.

If their competitors are doing it and it seems to be helping, they will want to do it. 

If the situation is worse – if the brand is hurting – they will be more likely to invest in digital media than if there is no pain point. Necessity is the mother of invention, after all.

How important to digital campaign success is a clear understanding of your target audience? 

It’s critical to understand who your customers are in order to give them the best digital experience with your marketing. 

In order to know them, talk to them. Don’t just talk to focus groups – you only get certain types of people in those – ask customers directly, with surveys.

But also ask friends, your kids, or random people you meet.

I worked with a CEO who would start conversations with random people to see where it would lead and get to know what they look for from brands.

Going back to the original point: know where you customers are in their world, and how they interact with digital media.

Adjust to their needs and behaviors, don’t make them adjust to you.