This relationship needs to be driven by marketing - certainly this concept of ‘relationship' marketing is not new, but what is new is the concept of how business can create a customer experience that challenges traditional thinking and allows consistent re-invention in a changing market environment via their online presence. Today, service and the ability to make customers feel valued is what will keep an organisation relevant - all of which can be well communicated and driven through correct online marketing.
With the advent of technology diversity available to marketers there is no longer any excuse for not maximising customer relationships online - especially if we consider that consumer confidence in the Internet has increased. According to Online Publishers Association, online media usage in South Africa has grown by a staggering 120%* in the past two years. As a result, if companies want to continue to remain relevant is this digital world, they need to give customers a single view of the organisation and utilise the online environment as a channel that supports worthwhile engagements with customers - don't be fooled by the old adage of merely letting customers read content on a site - this is not a worthwhile experience!
We all know that a good website is one that has all of the conventional titbits of company information, including, an overview of the company, its products or services, mission and vision, contact details and generally displays a sense of the company's culture. However, a great website is one that provides the visitor with a rich interface that serves as a business-enabling tool. It is this, together with additional touch points like mobile applications, contact centers, e-commerce and business process outsourcing; which determines the key factors to most buying decisions and therefore closed-loop processes and relationship marketing strategies are essential to ensuring the customer experience is relevant and worthwhile.
However, building relevant relationships also relies heavily on the automation of personalised communication, often referred to as artificial intelligence technology, where the visitor to a Web site has the opportunity to ‘opt-in' to the marketing as well as provide relevant feedback in a “safe environment”. This interactive dialogue is what supports a company's ability to build upon past and current visitor behaviour and certainly is a priceless source of information for future meaningful engagement opportunities.
These types of Web-based relationship strategies offer a grand opportunity for companies which operate in the retail industry or those that can't reach their customers efficiently.
A successful company website is a key relationship marketing tool, assisting in connecting with potential customers across multiple channels. Thus, a company needs to develop a web-centric approach that is carefully implemented, monitored and essentially continually advanced to ensure it attracts sought after prospects and retain its already loyal customer base.
To compete, successful companies need to get to know their customers and become their customer's advocate. They need to offer additional touch points to make it easy for customers to do business with them. They need to think of the experience from their point of view and improve any technology that acts as a barrier. Eliminate anything that might annoy them. Make customers feel valued! Certainly the online environment is one channel that can support this, if undertaken correctly.