Not all that long ago proximity was everything. Your job as a marketer was to get customers to come to you, usually in the form of physical interactions. For example, a customer would come into your shop because of an exciting promotion, visit your accountancy firm following a cold call or spot you and get talking to you at a networking event. Although these things still happen, the focus of physical proximity has changed and we now need to consider both on and offline channels.
It’s fair to say that physical proximity is not as important as it used to be. With the rise of digital channels, online networks and new innovative communication channels, business is now more accessible than ever. In fact we can do business with just about everyone, anywhere, anytime and even if we have never met them. Video conferencing has become a huge revolution, suddenly meaning that we don’t have to be in the same room to make those all important business deals.
So how important is proximity today?
We simply need to think about our closeness to customers in different ways. There has been a rise of digital only businesses, most notably online only e-commerce sites, online banks and online services, which reduce the need for physical space and interaction. Although you never meet with someone in the online space, proximity in the digital world follows the same principles and presents the same strategic challenges to marketers as in a physical space. Your aim is not to get people to pass your bricks and mortar shop, but to get them to your virtual shop and your biggest online asset, your website.
If you are struggling with your online marketing, start seeing your website as your shop or even your office. Does your website make your customer want to visit? Once they are there are they going to buy from you, or does your competitors shops look a whole lot more appealing?
Creating the most beautiful store is the first thing, but is it in a desirable location, are your customer base nearby and is your website where they are looking? This is where SEO and digital marketing are key, your website is your beautiful store and your links and activity away from the website are like your billboards, adverts or leaflets offline, it’s all about being found in the right place. Understand your audience, create content and generate links that makes sure your audience find you just when they need you.
Then it’s about driving your customers to your location online, where do they hang out? In a physical world this was about understanding your customers movements, in a digital world it’s about understanding their behaviours, who are they interacting with online and where are they interacting? If you don’t have a prospects email address or contact details, then it is about working out which channels they are interacting with on a daily basis and where they are sourcing information that might lead them to your brand.
But tradition is not dead
I often hear people talking about digital marketing as a replacement for more traditional approaches, it really can’t be. Traditional marketing approaches still have a great importance for the majority of business and it is about perfecting the mix of both.
Even the biggest purely online retailers have crept onto TV adverts or leaflets through our doors. The key is knowing where your customers are both online and offline and appearing everywhere.
Physical Proximity is back and more interesting than ever
To add an extra level of complexity, new technology is making physical proximity more interesting than ever. Instead of just shopping or simply viewing traditional media how we always have, suddenly we are seeing a whole new level of offline marketing, bringing the digital and traditional marketing world closer together. In the last few years it has become all about how adverts and the shopping experience can be bought to life, with technologies such as augmented reality, beacons and even wifi, which can enable businesses to track their customers movements in the physical world.
This combination of online and offline merging together is something we are going to see more and more, with the connected home, the internet of things and a whole host of other technologies emerging, who knows we may be interacting with company robots next. It’s no longer just about where your customers are physically, it is about where they are and how they are moving in the digital world at the same time.
So what do you need to do to keep customers close
Quite often the use of digital channels to enhance the offline experience is not just about getting noticed and doing something innovative. We already know that digital channels give us by far the best visibility of results, with advanced analytics capabilities and the ability to manage every interaction. So think about how you can bring digital into your offline marketing to bridge the data gap.
When it comes to perfecting your digital strategy, make sure the first step is always about getting the platform right (your website), before you invest heavily in campaigns. You wouldn’t send customers to an unfurnished shop, so never direct clients to an incomplete website or a website that does not reflect your brand.
It pays to be close to your customers. Whether online or offline the aims are simple, you want to get the right people to your destination when they are ready to buy and know exactly the journey that have taken, so you can perfect the formula.
Data is everything and Integrated strategies are here to stay, it’s time to develop yours…..