As companies compete with an increasingly broad array of digital options, their brands must evolve to adapt to the new strategies available to them.

When a company sets out to create a brand relationship with its customers, it focuses on identifying the needs of customers, finding the context for those needs, and leveraging that information to become the necessary solution for those needs. Over the past fifteen years, that core strategy has never changed, but the ways in which companies approach customers has.

With an ever-growing array of channels for consumer interaction, the customer journey has become meandering, formed by the channels users prefer. Some see a commercial on TV, visit the website, but then return to the company’s site through their phone or tablet. According to Gartner, by 2020 customers will manage 85% of their brand experience without interacting with a human — ensuring that this experience is delightful, memorable, and seamless is of critical importance. These automated channels will form a brand and its identity and relationship to consumers. Ultimately, the form that a brand takes will be dictated by its digital strategy.

Channel-Driven Experience

In the pre-digital age, companies created brand relationships with a relatively limited set of media: print, radio, television, and in-person interactions. These interactions are relatively static and one directional — every consumer digests the same image, and has relatively little access to feedback opportunities. In contrast to today’s digital climate, consumers can now fire off a public and praising (or incendiary) tweet or Facebook post in half a moment’s notice. More than just singing praise or airing complaints, today’s customer expects a response of some sort for their digital declarations.

As a result of this omnichannel consumer access, the way customers interact with brands has fundamentally changed, driving stronger brand relationships. And the way consumers experience a brand matters: 86% of customers will pay for better customer experience. Soon, brands will either sink or swim on positive consumer interactions and consumer’s public response around it.

But the potential for positive engagement is enormous. Omni-channel customer experience presents companies with many novel opportunities to elicit strong consumer responses through rich, immersive experiences. If the television ad was a model of years past, the experiences of today look like interactive and personalized videos, virtual reality, rich online social dialogue, and a broad suite of digital purchasing options that emotionally transport the user. The lines between advertising and engagement have been heavily blurred, and digital triggers abound.

More than an image to which consumers aspire, the brands of today are formed from real, tangible interactions with consumers that form the basis of vibrant and ever-evolving relationships.

Model Interactions

This depiction sounds fantastical, but it’s rooted in reality. According to the BJ Fogg behavior model, successful brand interactions are predicated on three fundamental requirements: the motivation of the consumer, an ability to perform a desired action, and a trigger to facilitate the engagement.

It may seem obvious, but if a customer lacks an emotional bond with a brand, there’s no force impelling them to act. More still, if a customer doesn’t have the ability to complete a desired behavior, that passion is wasted. In a nutshell, making all options open to customers means they will pursue all options, when they feel connected to the brand. If they feel the urge to buy a shirt, and the phone in their pocket has a link to that brand’s e-commerce site, they can make that transaction at the moment they have the impulse.

Finally, customers require external stimulation to engage — the trigger. Omni-channel customer experiences have enabled companies to use the power of sensors (like beacon technology), contextual messaging, and personalized push notifications to drive consumer motion. The more companies make use of these technologies, the more a brand will take the shape of their respective functions. This is, of course, a balancing act of needs, emotions, context, and execution, and many companies will look to thought leaders to help reimagine the customer experience of tomorrow.