When it's time to drive, you pull up a map, whether it's a print or Google map. When you're planning on building a house, you have an architect draw up a blueprint. Much like these situations, when you create a business, no investor will take you seriously without a comprehensive plan for your business. Any online presence, whether it's your overall brand, website, marketing assets, or specific channel presence, follows the same rules. Starting down a pathway without a plan is a surefire recipe for chaos, and implementing any type of digital brand or online campaign without a strategy results in the same.

What is Digital Strategy?

The digital strategy process focuses on discovering and highlighting what your goals are for your business and then creating a plan to achieve them. While it might seem simple, there's a lot that goes into the initial discovery process. A website isn't a website for the sake of having something pretty on the Internet with your brand name on it. Your website should be sleek, clean, and display your products adequately - but beyond that, think about what your storefront currently does for your business. This should be the starting point as you begin to identify your digital strategy.

Examine Your Offline Experience

Any brick and mortar storefront is focused on bringing people inside and displaying a product or service that addresses their needs as soon as they walk in the door. Whether you are B2B or B2C, there's an entire experience in-store that defines who you are as a brand. There's a salesperson there to greet customers, or perhaps a customer service representative to answer any questions or concerns they might have. There are also mapped layouts to get potential customers through aisles of products, or an employee showing them around product prototypes or accompanying them to a sales presentation. All of these things are pieces of your storefront strategy and are in place for a reason.

In Store Shopping Experience

When you are working in a storefront, you can generally optimize the ultimate customer interaction because you are experiencing it firsthand and in person. You receive feedback from customers in real time, and can have a better grasp of why a sale didn't happen because of conversations with the customer that provided you with legitimate insights about what can be improved.

Use Off-site Experience to Shift the Online Experience

A website is different from an in-store experience however, as no one is there to guide or show them through their buyer journey. Metaphorically speaking, a customer would enter a store, but no one would be there to greet them. While they might see an assortment of products that interested them to come in, no one is there to answer questions, and without a clearly displayed price tag, they get frustrated with the in-store experience and walk out. The entire brand experience is ruined, and even if the customer does make a purchase, they probably won't come back. This might happen to a user who enters a poorly structured and layered website. Since we can't assume that in-store sales happen automatically without an employee present to serve a customer's needs, how much more so is that true with digital sales - when the user is entirely on their own. According to eMarketer, the most important digital marketing strategies are for optimizing the digital customer experience.

Most Important Digital Marketing Strategies

When working in the service industry and people come into your showroom or office, you might sit them down and listen to what they have to say. As a business you're trying to find out why they came in and what makes them a prospective customer. Once they would tell you their predicament and what they need, you would take them through a customized sales process of educating them about your service, share some brochures and literature, and finally have them fill out a form before you encourage the hard sell. If your customers come to your website and are unable to distinguish what product or service is right for them based on their needs and expectations, it is only a matter of time before they leave your website - the equivalent to walking out of a store. If they're given information that isn't relevant to them at the point of their buyer journey - they might feel alienated, leave, and never come back again. An overall general sales pitch or experience leads to lost sales and can contribute to a high bounce rate because users are entering your site with a specific need, not immediately finding what they are looking for, and then never returning.

Good Digital Marketing Strategy Draws On Offline Precedents

If you know customers typically enter your store because of the gorgeous window display, you know imagery is important. If customers like to ask a lot of questions before purchasing, perhaps a live chat feature needs to be included on your website. Defining all of these elements of your business during a detailed discovery process will help your strategist ensure that your website is crafted with the right audience in mind, sending them the right message, and most importantly - driving them down the path to convert and get your business the results you want.

Define the Successful Elements of Your Business

Creating appropriate content, messaging and conversion points for a website that speaks to your prospects at every stage of the buyer journey until they are finally ready to convert them into actual, paying customers is exactly how you would want your employees to service every individual customer as they enter your physical storefront. As you craft the perfect brand strategy for your company, you should define all of the necessary elements that make your business what it is. Think about your audience and their needs, your competition and how you can gain an advantage over them, and the kind of employees or brand personality you want representing your company in-store and online. Content, messaging, website structure, and user pathways need to be carefully planned and structured on all your business fronts. If you're designing a store, you're going to consult an interior designer or professional merchandiser to find out exactly how the store should be laid out so customers do what you want them to do - buy things! Website design, development, and information architecture are key components to what makes your online business mirror your physical store and feel right to customers. Consider samples or discounts for first time and returning customers, as well as product suggestions on your website that would also be offered in person. Translating the off-line store experience into an online one is key to creating a website strategy and of course, generating online ROI. How has a digital marketing strategy helped your company flourish? Let us know in the comments section below.

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