Marketers: Think Beyond the Search Engine to Serendipitous Discovery


Digital experience and content marketing leaders know how important it is to be where your customers are. 

But what happens when your customers aren’t using traditional means of content discovery — like the Google search bar — and spend more time in social channels interacting with the brands they love (or stumbling into competitive offerings)?

Move Beyond the Google Search Box

More than ever, your customers’ and prospects’ attention is scattered in 100 digital directions. You can’t rely on Google alone to help customers find your company and to cater to your brand fans. Customers’ online journeys take them all over the place. They travel online like a blindfolded unicyclist bouncing down a mountain trail, at night, in a snowstorm. 

With four out of every 10 people finding visuals more engaging than text, brands have an incredible opportunity to show up with the right image at the right place and time — to capture that magical moment when a Twitter user sees a tweet linking to an Instagram post, clicks through to the second social network and immediately sees an apparel brand tagged in that Instagram post. Within seconds, a pair of shoes (or watch or hat) is in that user’s shopping cart, ready to be purchased.

Digital marketing and customer experience today veers increasingly toward serendipity — where finding something online by chance is a very real likelihood. We spend hours on end browsing feeds and clicking on anything that attracts our interest. 

Why shouldn’t that interest come from a brand on occasion? 

Google search is still a great way to connect with audiences, but marketers are now challenged to be wherever consumers go, utilizing new methods that may be less direct and more unexpected. Witness it in the methods behind hashtag marketing and analytics on Instagram, Pinterest embracing visual search and Twitter letting users add stickers to their photos that function like hashtags. 

Here’s how to capitalize on an increasingly visual social media world ripe for chance encounters between users and brands.

Use Serendipity to Your Digital Marketing Advantage

Keeping up with new ways for brands to engage with consumers (and, consumers to engage with brands) can feel overwhelming. 

Social marketing success requires us to challenge our assumptions about the channels where users love to get lost. Think of it as an opportunity for companies to capitalize on methods in which serendipity reigns — and embrace the art (and in some cases, science) of being there for your audiences’ unstructured journey of discovery.

Defining what it means to search for and find a brand or product is changing, but companies shouldn’t fear this sort of serendipitous search. Instead, find the opportunities to take advantage of it.

Start thinking bigger about what a well-planned and context-aware digital experience can do for content discovery.

In many ways, serendipitous journeys take some of the control out of the digital experience — both for the user and the brand. That doesn’t mean brands should sit back and let things happen. 

When I think about the changing social interaction landscape, my mind goes to the hashtag marketing and Pinterest visual search described above. But there’s more.

Ditto Labs has created a visual search algorithm for businesses to apply to their social media accounts. The algorithm analyzes photos across each channel and identifies brand logos to reveal whose products appear in an image. This info — along with who is sharing it — presents tremendous opportunities to seek out everyday brand ambassadors and connect your brand with an individual or audience.

With Ditto, a brand would see when a guy wearing a Nike cap, Ray-Ban sunglasses and North Face jacket uploaded a photo of himself to Instagram. Any of those brands using Ditto’s tech could conceivably reach out to the individual to gauge his openness to having the photo shared on their own account.

Commit to a Wider-Reaching DX Strategy

With an eye toward serendipitous search and discovery, it’s important to understand and acknowledge all the places and ways prospects can discover your brand. 

Consumers won’t press “purchase” until they’ve gathered all the information they need. In fact, they may not be buyers until that fortunate moment when “need” or “want” crosses social media paths with your brand or product.

Creating a strategy that lets them bump into your brand while searching on the sites they already visit can provide some inspiration, introduce or reinforce your brand promise, and social media users amass information that allows them to take action. Being on the right social platforms with the right hashtags and the right messaging can indicate that you understand your unique audience and what they’re looking for when they pick up a phone, tablet or laptop. 

And you quickly turn a moment of serendipity into a valuable brand interaction.

The rise of alternative search and discovery options doesn’t spell the end of the digital experience as we know it. But it does mean that brand marketers need to expand their approach and make room for the ways today’s consumers interact with their surroundings.

We’ve barely scratched the surface with the possibilities around search and discovery options, and new techniques are continually coming to life for immersive, visual, omnipresent discovery. 

Think about this: Now that consumers everywhere are armed with a camera and an internet connection, we’re not far from the time when every object could be searchable. For brands, it’s a massive opportunity to expand reach, catch consumers’ attention in the right place at the right time, and ultimately make a connection that pays off for the customer and for your brand.

David Aponovich is the senior director of digital experience at Acquia, where he helps articulate the business and technical value of Drupal and Acquia solutions. In his role, David champions how organizations, through the power of open source innovation, are creating new revenue streams, lowering costs, digitalizing their business, and engaging audiences more deeply through content, community and commerce.


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