Now that I’ve defined what digital communications is and calmed down the paranoid around “social media” (hopefully), what is digital communications, what are the channels of digital communications, and what are the wrong ways to be effective at digital communication?
Effective digital communications can take many forms, but the basic premise is the understanding of how your customer receives important key brand messages while completing an online transaction, entering a contest, giving a comment or feedback, creating or engaging in a conversation, and so much more! We refer to this online interaction as an experience that creates an emotional connection with customers.
Digital communications for any business use to be limited to experiences strictly on your website. However, in the past five years, the multitude of channels for experiences has grown immensely. Advances in technology and software development have created new channels that shifted the population towards the new phenomenon in Facebook and social networks. This ultimately shifted the communication away from a company’s website to numerous channels.
This shift in communication has forced businesses to have less control over the experiences of their brand(s) and more engagements with their customers. Businesses are now forced to pay attention to or own multiple channels of possible congregating fans, such as:
- Facebook Pages
- Facebook Groups
- Facebook Messaging
- Mobile Apps
- Social Gaming (eg: Farmville)
With an abundance of channels and an infinite amount of online experiences, your customers can never have a neutral experience with your brand. Your brand will either go up or down. There is no middle ground!
Engagement techniques have been around for a while now, just not in the same form as we think of them today. Tip: Don’t talk back to a customer that wants to talk to you. You only turn them away!
As Scott Stratten pointed out in last weeks Unmarketing Conference, “It’s not your job to tell your audience how to consume your content, you just want them to consume it.” In otherwards, don’t kill the spread of content by creating new channels that force customers to engage elsewhere than where they are use to talking. They won’t come!
Second, be cautious of engaging on multiple channels. Creating content for Yelp, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, blog, and website may not be necessary for your brand. The danger with this approach is that you can spread your resources, time, and content too thin across the digital spectrum and your customers may begin engaging on a medium you’re not comfortable with. Then you really are S.O.L.
I highly suggest building up one or two platforms at most that provide high levels of engagement, such as Twitter and/or Facebook. Having said this, there is no question that you need to own a presence on all, if not most digital channels, but your content and resources should be heavily focused on just one or two channels.
Last night I attended the Vancouver Giants hockey game having purchased the 2 for 1 Groupon that was offered in late November. I’m also going to the game on Thursday with the Groupon offer. However, not all is bright and cherry for this promotion. With all good things, there are limitations. But when those limitations become major inconveniences, disaster can strike. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Giants and will always go to my usual two or three games a year, but Groupon & Vancouver Giants provided a very poor brand experience last night.
The Groupon offer:
$24 – 2 Red Zone Tickets & $10 Gift Card
- Tickets only available for Red Zone (not the best seats in the Coliseum)
- Groupon’s can only be redeemed to games in the month of December. (Limited games available)
So I knew all this ahead of time.
My total savings was approx. $12/ per ticket + $5 per person on a gift card.
What I did not know prior to purchase:
- Tickets can’t be redeemed via Ticketmaster.
- Tickets can only be redeemed at the Pacific Coliseum Box Office.
- The Box Office is only open on game days. (Open times: Weekends – Noon & Weekdays – 3pm)
- The Box Office has 10 windows and only 1 window is dedicated for redeeming Groupons. (Yes, it moved quickly considering how long the line was)
Personally, I found the number of limitations provided a very poor experience in trying to attend a Vancouver Giants game. Normally, I simply log on to Ticketmaster and purchase tickets to the game without worrying when I am able to purchase them. Typically, you can redeem gift cards or other promotional codes on Ticketmaster as well. So I was quite disappointed to learn that my Groupon code would not be eligible to be redeemed on Ticketmaster.
Not only would I have to redeem the Groupon on the game day, but also my friends and I ended up standing in a long lineup for 20mins in the pouring rain redeeming the Groupon’s at the Box Office managed by Ticketmaster employees. For a savings of $17/ per person, I found the Groupon redemption method a major headache and inconvenience. If I weren’t a passionate fan, then I would not be returning.
Having said all this, if you’re coming from a fair distance away such as Abbotsford/ Chilliwack, Vancouver Island, or elsewhere, then the inconvenience for the process of redeeming the Groupon may be worth it for you. But for your everyday fan that lives in the lower mainland, I found this offer to not be worth the value gained or inconveniences experienced.
Tip to any business: If Groupon is providing any customer redemption limiations to your business that could provide a negative experience, then don’t do accept. Providing a discounted deal for a bad experience will only hurt your brand and sales in the long run.
Here are some other major risks that Groupon presented to businesses as described:
- Discount-focused CRM is not ideal for most local businesses. While consumers might prefer a relationship channel solely focused on deals, local businesses probably do not. Non-deal CRM platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter provide broader context for: branding, engagement, introduction of new products, customer service. Many local businesses might utilize deals to get new customers through the door, but it’s unclear their next step is to encourage them to drive them to their Groupon page.
- Groupon’s success here may work against itself. Should Groupon users start following their favorite businesses, a friction will emerge where users expect to be alerted of offers from their merchants, but merchants would want to surface its deepest discounts to everyone but their current customers.
Funny, I was recently blind-sided by some similar Groupon unexpected redemption problems. I purchased the $100 credit at Larry’s Sports that was offered a few weeks ago, and redeemed it on my iPhone. Despite Groupon’s assurances that I could present it on my mobile device, when I got to the store the owner expressed a little surprise that I hadn’t printed it out, and then said I had to email it him so he could print it off. After taking a screen shot and emailing it to him, I had to wait for him to serve other customers, then walk back to his office to get the coupon. All told, it probably added (a very boring) 10 minutes to my shopping experience. It wasn’t as frustrating as your experience by the sounds of things, but it was enough to make me question the disconnect between Groupon and the retailer.
A friend and I were actually talking the other day about Groupon and Larry’s, about how the partnership never really seemed like a good fit. Larry’s is well known for offering discounts to their customers – it’s not uncommon for a shopper to be given 10-15% off the sticker price as a matter of course. When it happens, the shopper feels like they got a really good experience, and that Larry’s really cared about their business; Larry’s felt like your buddy, who was going the extra mile for you.
But with the Groupon, the customer doesn’t feel special, they feel instead like bargain hunters who would switch retailers in a heartbeat if a different Groupon was offered. It took something that felt given, and turned into something that felt entitled. From a customer experience standpoint, the former is a much better feeling.
Yes, it does seem that as fast as Groupon has arrived, it could be gone just as fast if it continues to erode the value of a brand or brand experience. You are most certainly right that customers don’t feel that special anymore when it comes to receiving kind retailer gestures. Groupon is starting to turn customers, even myself, into price sensitive shoppers that expect to find bargains.
I have another experience that happened today with Groupon to share as well. I went to Steven Nash Fitness World & Sports Clubs today to redeem my Groupon purchased in October. However, little did I realize that Fitness Worlds were just an umbrella of the Steve Nash Fitness Clubs. Unfortunately I didn’t do my homework on this deal and read the fine print as closely as I needed to. The Groupon did state that the deal only works at Steve Nash Fitness Worlds at the specific listed locations.
A read flag would have risen if I had seen this. I purchased the Groupon thinking that it could be used at any Steve Nash Fitness Worlds & Sports Club location. I thought they were all the same. Fortunately, I ran into the Sales Manager at the Sports Club and I got a tour of the facilities where I then decided to sign up for a membership.
The Sales Manager was the one to inform me of the limitations I did not read on the Groupon. Instead of denying my use of the Groupon, he turned my immediate negative experience into a positive one with friendly customer service and appreciation of my current situation. He then allowed me to use my Groupon and went further yet to accomodate my needs with other offers included in my membership.
I definitely think you’re right that Groupon can and is likely to produce a very negative brand experience for someone because of it’s stipulations and control. If Groupon continues to turn customers into bargain hunters and entitled shoppers, then Groupon will see a quick fall.
I purchased 2 KIVA Gift Certificate through the Groupon website. The next day, I got a terse e-mail, saying that my purchase amount had been refunded. I e-mailed them, asking what the issue was. No reply. I asked again, a day later, as I am a big fan of Kiva, and wanted to know if there was a problem. No reply. I went on Twitter, and suddenly, I got a reply… from a CSR who said I hadn’t purchased it in time. Except I had, and I called her on it. So she made up some other excuse… which was also transparently a fabrication. I finally got an apology on Twitter, with a brief explanation, saying it should have been taken off their website, but wasn’t.
I would LIKE to think that Groupon:
a) Would have honoured the purchases made, as KIVA is a Charity.
b) Would tell their CSR’s that lying is not a good thing.
c) Would have enough sense to protect their brand, and answer concerns quickly and efficiently.
I WOULD have thought that… but I would have been wrong.
Now, I am a Grooster customer, as Groupon has permanently lost me as a client.
Good luck with any future purchases… and CAVEAT EMPTOR… Let The Buyer Beware !!!
Happy New Year !!!
In the spirit of Jay Baer and Amber Naslund’s book, The Now Revolution, we’re keeping in the theme of “7 Shifts To Make Your Business Smarter, Faster And More Social”. Today, we’re listing the seven reasons why you should attend The Now Revolution Tour in Vancouver [of course there are many more]. Without further ado, here are the seven reasons:
- You are using social media.
- You may be unsure what resources are needed.
- You work with or are a SMB wondering how social media can work for you.
- You are wondering how to implement social in your business.
- Your corporate culture is not social? If your sales team talks to customers, it is.
- You’re business is on Twitter, but no one is talking with you.
- No one is joining, commenting, or liking your content on your Facebook Page.
“Once upon a time, customer contact was centralized around the switchboard, and the phone was the preferred method for communication between companies and customers. When it rang, you answered, because it was likely a customer or a potential customer on the other end of the line. Now, the calls are coming through online, via the social phone.” ~ Marcel Lebrun, CEO of Radian6
If you need more reason to attend The Now Revolution Tour in Vancouver, then check out the following interview. One of Vancouver’s finest social media strategists, Trevor Turnbull, who is anExecutive Consultant for tMedia Strategies and Founder of Social Connect Blueprint recently did an interview with Jay Baer discussing the essence of The Now Revolution.