Digital Strategy

A Checklist For the Digital Road to Recovery

Written by
Sebastian Jespersen
A Checklist For the Digital Road to Recovery

As we recover from this extraordinary time, digital has now become the primary fabric for any kind of intimate relationship between brands and customers. This is a time for brands to innovate and rethink their relationship model within the digital space, as the post-pandemic aftermath has shown that customers’ behavioral patterns are not going to snap back to what they were early 2020. This is forcing companies to undertake fundamental change in how they attract, entangle with, and keep customers.

A digital quantum leap

Major life events can cause the human mindset to change. Buying a house, having children, moving, changing jobs… all can lead to change in social habits, in spending habits and overall intellectual habits. Our habitual behavior is disrupted because the change makes us question whether multiple aspects of our life can or should be different to better adapt to the changing situation. There are only a few milestones in life when buying habits significantly change, and a global pandemic is one of them.

The concept of loyalty may become less strictly adhered to, and our propensity to consider something ‘new’ or ‘different’ rises, as our decisions now fall in line with our ‘new’ life. More than one-third (34%) of U.S. shoppers are adding new brands to their consideration set during the coronavirus pandemic, with 24% adding new brands to the usual mix on their shopping lists and 13% using the opportunity to discover new brands.

As consumers, we will expect companies and brands to service our needs while staying at home. As customers, we will expect our vendors to empower business continuity through the digital medium. A customer’s ‘day in the life’ becomes more digitalized. ‘Information is power’ is no longer the singular truth, but rather, information is power only when it is interpreted and used to understand people so there can be a closer relationship with them. As customers share their data with brands, they expect in return intelligent, meaningful and tailored relationships with those brands.

Brands are not responding

The issue is that despite all this change in behavior, many brands are still holding on to their old forms of communications and experience. Take a look at the experience on your company’s website – the spine of your brand communications to your customers in this digital first age – and ask yourself, how has it changed to truly align with this new customer behavior and expectation? It is not enough to put a rotating hero image saying how the brand is helping with COVID-19 – it is an imperative to literally rethink the structure, brand, communication and experience to be more relevant. Those brands that adapt the quickest will win the newly digitized persona over quicker.

Vertic is working with leading brands rethinking their marketing models and that have turned to digital to innovate their customer experience. Based on the success we have seen; we have put together a check list that constitutes five key items critical to any company’s business continuity.

1. A Digital strategy

The COVID-19 pandemic has made swift and lasting changes to how we live and work. We are collectively navigating uncharted territory, where change is accelerated, and uncertainty is widespread. As we recover from this crisis, we won’t fall back into our old habits; we will evolve into a new reality.

Ask yourself the below key questions:

  • Is there an updated digital strategy in place that provides direction and a clear measurement for the organization?
  • Is our digital strategy providing a toolset that allows the organization to prioritize between different initiatives and correspond with direct impact to the business?

As we consider the ‘new normal,’ customers’ expectations are rapidly changing, and so should brands and their digital strategy to accelerate in these unpredictable times.

Read more at Nothing is Normal about Getting Back to Normal and How Covid-19 is Rapidly Changing Customer Expectations.

2. Update your personas - it’s all about the customer.

COVID-19 has accelerated digital adaptation and altered business conduct. Consequently, businesses should understand the changes in customer behavior and how to best accommodate these new needs and expectations. How do you make it easy and seamless to do business? Do you have a deep understanding and zero-degrees-of-separation with your customers, can you predict customer needs at each phase of the decision journey? Take the time now to identify and understand the new expectations of your customers. How have their habits and priorities shifted during this time? How do they like to work, communicate and make decisions? When you have clear answers to these questions and an updated understanding of your customers and digitized personas, you can start to build a digital infrastructure that will meet your customers’ newly developed habits and preferences. Lastly, make sure to create personas in a format that can be constantly updatable, where it can be easily, seamlessly and digitally distributed.

Ask yourself the below key questions:

  • When did you last update your persona and the buyers’ journey?
  • Are they providing clear guidance for in terms what, where, when and the wow?
  • Are your persona made available to the entire organization?

Read more at Why Closing the Customer Centricity Gap Has Never Been More Urgent and How Covid-19 is Rapidly Changing Customer Expectations.

3. Digitally empowered demand gen.

The siloed approach to the buying cycle with marketing cultivating leads and sales closing the deal separately is not working out anymore. Companies should empower marketing to take responsibility of as much of the funnel as possible so sales can focus on closing as many matured, cultivated and real opportunities.

Advertising, marketing and communications must demonstrate a tangible and direct business effect. Clear KPI frameworks must be in place so marketers are able to articulate how marketing activities are leading an increase in sales, driving leads and/or reducing the cost of sales and time to market. While such frameworks should always be in place no matter the circumstance, they are now becoming essential to any marketing initiative and business continuity. Ultimately, businesses need to be able to answer how they have made it easier for their customers to do business.

Digital ABM programs should be tuned using the latest technology for personalization. Businesses should have a clear understanding of what matters to the customer and what information they need to proceed in their decision journey.

Ask your organization the below key questions:

  • Have we created industry/geographic/competition battle cards?
  • Do we have an always on ABM program in place or are we still creating campaigns promoting the latest products / services?
  • Are we combining internal and external data sources (CRM, analytics, search, social etc.) in creating meaningful digital experience?
  • Has a digital “war room” with participation from marketing, sales and IT been established?  

Read more at Marketing to the Rescue

4. The dot com.

Since the global crisis, the dot com has an even more critical purpose as the brand’s front door, the spine of your digital ecosystem and the entry from which you can move away from traditional marketing engagement into a more value adding, meaningful and longer-term one-with-one relationship with your customers. Even before this crisis, the buyer’s journey was already making a dramatic shift toward a digital experience, with 67% of a buyer’s decision journey now being digital, and 57% of the decision-making process done before a customer reaches out to a salesperson. These numbers will only grow as we rapidly change our habits to adapt to a new way of working. As we continue to work from home and become increasingly comfortable conducting virtual meetings and making more of our decisions online, we will significantly move the digitization of the funnel. Your dot com’s role in supporting the business will only become more important.

Get an answer to these 7 essential questions about your .com:

  • Try to search for an important topic / product using your .com’s own search function. Google has taught us to search. Is your .com search functionality able to assist the user in finding relevant information by producing relevant search results from your site?
  • Has our content been audited and aligned with the buyer’s journey and been interlinked across menu structures or do you experience dead ends?
  • Are you ranking for the right topics or only product / service terms on Google
  • Fill out a form on your website: how much information do you have to fill out? What do you do with it? What kind response are you getting? Follow-up with your qualification team/sales to understand what information they get?
  • Try to chat with your chat bot, find a product, find a partner and/or take an assessment. Is it easy/meaningful?
  • Ask your analytical team to get a list of customers that have been to the site and what they were looking at over the past 6 weeks.
  • Come back to the site several times. Is the experience changing based on your previous visits/behavior?

These are all very basis things, yet many sites are failing. Get the basics right!

Read more at Three Corporate Website Trends that Elevate Customer Experience

5. The Agency mix.

We no longer go online, we live online. Therefore, the way we interact and optimize our digital activities should reinforce the ability for companies and their brands to provide meaningful, relevant content and experiences to their customers at each phase of their journey. With organizations changing their digital strategy, digitizing their understanding of their customers’ needs, preferences, decision journeys and translating these into meaningful, value adding experiences – ask yourself these key questions:

  • Do you have the right set up to make your digital strategy come to life?
  • Do you have the right agency partners in place with similar mindsets, passion, and ability to execute your digital strategy seamlessly?
  • Can they create those new insights that are critical foundations to inform your decision making?

As you rethink your digital strategy and operational set up, this also requires different agency partner mindsets and skills. There is a higher need for partners and agencies that can digitally empower you with quicker turnaround time – as time is key to survival or even flourishing in these unpredictable times. Consider a cross-partner agency and brand collaboration model, closely integrated with and acting as an extension of your core team, providing real-time insights, recommendations and ‘always on’ optimizations to your digital activities.


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