Nina Bibby, O2: To compete in this frantic digital world, add genuine value

It is no secret that we are a smartphone nation, hooked on our phones like never before. Half of all 18- to 24-year-olds check their phones within five minutes of waking up, according to Ofcom, while on average smartphone users check their phones 150 times a day.

Nina Bibby

Operating on the front line of mobile technology, I can see first hand the huge marketing opportunities. It has clearly never been easier for us to keep our collective finger on the pulse.

Phones and tablets have become much more than utilities that help us to keep up-to-date with family and friends. They have become the gateway to our passions and the key to our shared experiences through sharing a run on a social network, challenging an absent friend to an online game or simply capturing a moment with a photo and sharing it via Instagram.

However, as marketers we face new challenges in this world, starting with gaining customers’ attention. Yes, consumers are now connected more than ever and that enables us to reach them in more ways than previously imaginable.

But it also means our competitors can do the same. Before they have even made it to work, consumers have been bombarded by hundreds of advertising messages across a huge range of touchpoints.

Brands therefore have to grab attention in micro-bites. Forget about the 30-second advert; it is now the first five seconds that count. Although we can now reach every customer in an increasingly targeted manner, it has never been more difficult to ensure that our messages are actually heard.

How do we compete for our customers’ attention in this frantic digital world? More importantly, how do we not just grab their attention but turn them into brand advocates?

My belief is that to build brand advocacy, we have to focus less on marketing our product or service and focus more on our customers’ lives.

We have to be relevant in ways that will allow us to be a visible and active participant in their lives, and not expect them to fit into our world.

With O2, for example, our digital loyalty scheme O2 Priority allows us to extend our role, offering customers genuinely valuable offers and once-in-a-lifetime experiences that they could not get anywhere else. With such a wide variety of offers covering a range of different passion points, we aim to give every one of our 25 million customers something that is relevant to them. It also gives us an opportunity to have a relationship with customers that extends beyond our core service.

In order to build a genuine relationship with the customer, you cannot rely on digital interactions alone. It is important to ensure that the entire process, including face-to-face interactions, is right. This is why our ‘gurus’ – a team of experts offering free, impartial tech advice – are an intrinsic part of the process. They help customers get more out of technology in their daily lives, thus further extending our relationship with them.

I recently heard about a guru who had an appointment with a customer to help him top up his mobile broadband dongle. Their meeting ended with the guru helping the customer get in touch with his family in Zimbabwe, who he had not heard from in 18 years. We know how much our customers value this level of service. On average, customers who are aware of our gurus have a level of trust in us that is 11% higher than those who are not.

We all know the digital revolution will not wait for anyone. To succeed, brands have to carve out a role for themselves in their customers’ digital lives, fostering an emotional attachment that is much more difficult to break. Only by adding genuine value will we turn today’s connected customers into true brand advocates.

This is part of a series of columns written by our Vision 100 inductees, who will share their experiences, best practice and thoughts on what makes visionary marketers and organisations. Marketing Week’s Vision 100 in association with Adobe is an exclusive club of the brightest, best and most visionary executives.

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