This article was written by Jess Grossman, contributing writer to DTCX and Founder & CEO of In Social.
One customer’s experience with your Ecommerce brand is usually unique to another’s. It’s not because you’re doing anything wrong — in fact, it actually means you’re doing something right: existing wherever your customers may be. That is, as long as you’ve carefully curated each touchpoint. Keep reading to find out what we mean.
Once you exist where your customers are, how they experience your brand can vary widely. A potential customer may discover you via an organic Instagram post by searching a hashtag you used, click to your website via the link in bio, or scroll to the home page and start a chat to get more information. Another may have heard about your brand from a friend, Googled your brand name, found you via a branded search ad, which led them to a focused landing page, and then they placed an order. A third may have been given your product as a gift, and headed immediately to your support page to start an exchange, while another may be a returning customer perusing through your new collection, looking for their next purchase to spend their loyalty points on.
Every single customers’ (or potential customers’) relationship with your brand starts one way and may continue (or end) another. That means that you, as the brand, must carefully curate how and what you say to them at each touchpoint they will encounter. This methodology is called a full-circle approach to digital marketing.
“A full-circle approach to digital marketing is when a brand considers, strategizes, plans, and consistently implements a cohesive brand philosophy and voice across all consumer-facing touchpoints, including organic and paid social, Google ads, email marketing and automation, website design, and even customer support. Taking this approach will ensure that, wherever someone may find you, they will experience a consistent, trustworthy, and mutually beneficial relationship with your brand.
- Jess Grossman, Founder & CEO of In Social
Think of it like this: every time you go to a McDonald’s, you are pretty much guaranteed to get the exact same Big Mac at your local restaurant as the one in a state miles away. It’s the same size, it looks the same, and it tastes the same. The recipe has been engineered this way, the ingredients have been supplied and measured to a tee, and the staff have been trained to create the consistency you know and love. Their brand marketing (both online and through traditional channels) is also engineered that same way — give or take the culture the brand exists in, of course!
Now let’s take the definition of a full-circle approach to digital marketing and break it down into digestible chunks: consideration, strategy, planning, and implementation. These core tenants will help explain how you can take the approach and apply it to your brand.
The Full-Circle Approach: Consideration
Whether you’re starting a new brand, or working on a brand refresh, this is the stage where you consider what you want to say to your customers across all the touchpoints that they can find (or not find) you on.
What is the brand messaging that’s important to you? Is there a personal story behind why you created your products? Did your products solve a personal problem that you are now sharing with the world? Or, is your brand helping reduce climate change? What is the personality behind the brand? Do you want your brand to speak to your customers as if they are a group of Millennial moms? Or do you want to exude luxury and class, and keep things sophisticated in the language you use and the imagery you display? The answers to these questions will make up the core of the voice to your approach that will filter its way through each touchpoint.
Next, consider where you’ll exist.
Are you planning to have a Facebook and Instagram presence, but not Twitter or TikTok? Some brands (rightfully so) don’t believe that they have the resources to properly invest in managing those social channels, so they leave them out. But what happens when a brand is not on Twitter or TikTok and customers don’t know, or care? Customers like to complain by @mentioning brands on Twitter, but if your brand isn’t there, they may be tagging someone else who has claimed your handle, leaving you without knowing that someone is unhappy about your brand? You may not even realize it, but your brand may be getting hashtagged on TikTok, with tons of UGC (user generated content) that you’re not seeing, responding to, or leveraging for other marketing efforts.
If you can’t be on the platforms, consider claiming your handles, throwing up a profile photo and bio, and be very clear to your customers that you are not active on the channel. Pin a tweet or leave a post explaining where your customers can reach you best.
If you can, set up social monitoring tools (there are some basic free ones) to ping you when you have been tagged/hashtagged, to make sure you can dive in when necessary.
The Full-Circle Approach: Strategy
Wait, isn’t the consideration step what brand guidelines are for? Sort of! They can provide the basis of your brand’s voice and philosophy and your fonts and colors, but does the guide outline how you speak to customers via organic social posts versus how you reply to customer tickets, versus what you offer via an email flow? Do you hold back certain discounts from public channels and save them for your VIP list? Does your brand have a single person as the main face, but then have an offshoot brand voice that provides customer support (because you may not want the face of the brand responding to customer service inquiries)! That’s where this additional strategy comes in.
For instance, what you tell your customers about your return policy is most likely not the same as what you’ll actually follow. If you have a 30-day return policy, maybe you’ve told your customer support team that they can be flexible up 5 days after, if a customer is very upset. You wouldn’t put that on your website, but you’d think about what flexibility you actually want to offer.
Another example is that you offer a very specific discount via social media replies as a conversion tactic and track how many uses it gets to gauge your organic interaction efficacy, but you don’t share that discount code via email campaigns or automations.
Taking this a step further, remember that each medium frames the message you’re sending. You launched a new product line and created a TikTok to show off the benefits? You can’t take that TikTok and paste it into an email campaign to launch the same line, as it is not the most effective use of the email platform. You’ll need a different approach, with similar messaging and creative, but it’ll have to be developed in a different way.
In case you haven’t realized by now, everything you do on behalf of your brand will require strategy. Launching a new product line, developing each monthly social media posting plan, customer service protocols… everything needs a strategy, and then a revised one based on data and learnings.
Wait, so there’s a strategy for social, for email, for customer support, for…everything? Yes! Every touchpoint needs its own strategy, which is based on the voice and philosophy, and the touchpoints you’ve chosen.
The Full-Circle Approach: Planning
There is so much to juggle when it comes to a full-circle approach to digital marketing that the only way to be successful is to plan.
If you’re a small brand, it may just be you, or you and an assistant. You may be a medium sized brand leveraging an in-house team and an agency or two. You may be a large brand with a lot of employees — it doesn’t matter what you are in this step, what matters is how they all communicate together. And that’s what requires planning.
Have you ever seen a brand send out a discount code via an email campaign, try to use it, only to realize it won’t work? You go to the online chat and ask what’s up, only to find that the agent on the other end doesn’t know what code you’re talking about. So you screenshot the email, send it back to them, only for them to tell you that they’ll have to “look into it.” You didn’t make the purchase, did you?
This is the crux of the full-circle approach to digital marketing right here: your touchpoints are not consistent, your brand seems sketchy, and you have lost a sale and a potential loyal customer because your teams aren’t aligned and aren’t communicating.
You can have all the plans, all the strategy, all the touchpoints, and all the teams and agencies you think you need, but if they’re not working in unison, your customers will have a poor experience that will hinder your bottom line.
You can address this by creating a plan for your processes and clear lines of communication.
Think about this when planning your next sale (and this is only the crux of what needs to be considered and strategized for):
- What is the sale going to offer, on what products, for how long?
- How does this impact existing discounts?
- Does your email capture pop-up offer a welcome discount that needs to be taken down during this time?
- Does the abandoned cart flow with a discount need to be adjusted?
- Do you have a subscription discount already in place that needs to be adjusted?
- How does this impact ads?
- Does your remarketing campaign currently offer a discount that needs to be paused?
- Do you need to plan to launch the sale a few days earlier to maximize the Facebook ads algorithm?
- How does this impact organic social?
- Will it be posted or kept for email subscribers or website visitors only?
- How does this impact email marketing?
- When are you sending the campaigns?
- What segments will you be sending the campaigns to vs who will not be getting it?
Then, think “who internally needs to know about this?”
Have you thought about it? It was a trick question.
Every team member, every agency, every team member at the agency who touches any of your marketing touchpoints needs to be aware of this sale.
So when a customer sees a discount code based on a sale you planned, via the email that one agency planned to go out at 12 PM and goes on Facebook and DMs you wondering if they can use the discount code they got 2 weeks ago that they saw in a Facebook ad, the social team is ready to give them the correct answer immediately and then provide them a link to your website that applies the sale discount code directly to cart.
That’s a full-circle approach, and that’s how a sale is made.
The Full-Circle Approach: Implementation (and Ongoing Maintenance)
When applied correctly, the full-circle approach to digital marketing allows your brand to provide a seamless experience to your customers. This approach, however, needs to be maintained consistently.
It doesn’t just apply to sales, or new product launches, but it applies to your everyday business operations. When one thing changes that will, in some way, affect the customer experience, that change should be considered, strategized, and planned to be managed across all touchpoints. Everyone on the brand or agency team needs to be made aware of those changes, and cohesively apply those changes where needed.
This is where most brands struggle. Either they have too many agencies doing their own thing, never speaking to one another, and the brand team is too focused on R&D to manage it, or the internal marketing team doesn’t plan for these changes thoughtfully.
With the right consideration, strategy, planning, and implementation, your brand could be the brand that customers prefer, trust, and buy from over and over again.