How to Build Digital Platforms for the Evolving Customer Journey
Dotcoms, microsites, mobile apps, ecommerce sites—digital platforms come in all shapes and sizes, and they’re key components in building a strong brand identity. Having a platform strategy is now a requisite for any business to thrive, as they serve as the backbone of most efforts to immerse the audience into a brand’s world. But while this truth may elude no one, the fact that platforms inhabit an ever-growing digital ecosystem poses the question of how we can make them memorable.
Because they are a direct reflection of a brand’s values, products and services, platforms should embody the brand identity in their look and feel. Above all, they should strike the perfect balance between functionality and impact. That, however, may be easier said than done. The process of developing, implementing and maintaining great platforms calls for a high level of subject-matter expertise—and here are some of our learnings from years of building brand legacies in this space.
The brand impression is determined by the digital ecosystem.
Digital platforms have evolved from playing a supportive role in the customer journey to becoming one of the main destinations in the brand’s ecosystem. That means that the experience they get will dictate their impression of the brand. “I like to say that we need to design for the ‘first date,’ because in that initial encounter, the interface is the brand,” says Creative Director Niels Dortland. "If a dotcom is flat and unremarkable, consumers will extend that perception onto the brand."
Platforms need to be functional and easy to navigate, but they must be delightful digital experiences too.
As opposed to other channels in the ecosystem, dotcoms offer a fully ownable space. Because of this, astute marketers strive to make them the number one place where consumers interact with the brand. “You can’t be certain where the consumer will land within the digital ecosystem, but you can make sure your dotcom is the one they choose to come back to,” explains Dortland. “Investing in platforms that offer a great digital experience is investing in relationship-building with customers and business growth.”
While simplicity and clarity are great attributes for a platform to have, it doesn’t stop there. To stand out in a sea of sameness, we need to add another layer to the experience. Here’s the secret: the key to uniqueness lies in the brand’s identity.
Use your brand’s truth to rise above the noise.
Digital platforms are part of a broader ecosystem, and each one of these touchpoints should reflect the brand’s identity while serving a strategic purpose in the customer journey. “The way in which we add texture to an experience and make it truly authentic is by finding the brand’s truth and designing around it,” says Dortland. “If every platform is branded around that truth, that means they will be completely different to that of their competitors.”
On The Climate Pledge platform, which we built in collaboration with Amazon, content comes to life through interactive elements and rich textures that fit WCAG 2.0 accessibility guidelines. When landing on the home page, visitors first see an animated intro video that spreads the optimistic ambition of the project, making for an impactful first impression. On Toblerone’s D2C platform, meanwhile, users are not only captivated by the stunning color palette, but also by the interactive features that allow them to create personalized gifts. Because they reflect the brand’s identity and tone of voice, both of these platforms are widely different, yet equally memorable.
Of course, what visitors find impactful is always a moving target. With people seamlessly jumping from offline to online and into digital spaces where everything is customizable, expectations are high for what a bespoke user experience should look like. There’s a higher demand for creator-led experiences and personalization—which spurs brands to leverage the user data in ways that benefit consumers.
First-party data elevates the potential of digital platforms.
The brand truth dictates the look and feel of your digital platforms, and data should also inform the design. Platforms facilitate interactions like product search and the purchase of goods and services, providing brands with new information about their consumers. In that process, any data collected should be used to offer experiences that are tailored to people’s needs, interests and even personalities.
What’s more, when the value exchange for someone’s data is clear, brands can establish a healthy feedback loop where they are providing a great service and gathering more information in the process. “The key to designing the right experience is listening to people’s behavior as they interact with the digital ecosystem,” says Dortland. “Our value lies in using data for customer understanding, which will ultimately help us design experiences that elevate brands, drive conversation and growth.” The more engaging the experience, the more data it will generate in return, meaning platforms can become increasingly more effective.
Platforms are more successful in a consistent brand ecosystem.
Essentially, platforms are key to enabling consumers to interact and transact with brands. They host digital experiences that optimize the customer journey and drive consumers’ loyalty. However, platforms are part of a larger brand ecosystem that needs to be consistent.
While apps and dotcoms are must-haves for brands, they can’t live up to their full potential if there isn’t a broader strategy to support them.
If these touchpoints can’t be disconnected, neither should the teams that focus on each one. Working with partners that can develop an app from the ground up, create content for your brand’s social media or even deliver branded activations leads to a more cohesive narrative—a single truth that manifests itself across channels.
All of these considerations will help you forge deeper connections with your audience—and while building the perfect platform may not be easy, the good news is they are fully under your control. The customer journey never looks the same, but one thing is certain: behind every meaningful interaction is a bespoke platform strategy connecting the dots between people’s needs and a brand’s offering.
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