How to Move to Digital First Customer Communications

Ira Brooker   March 27th, 2024

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Business has been moving steadily more online for the past couple of decades, and the pandemic of 2020 only sped up that migration. In 2024, a digital first approach is the rule rather than the exception. For organizations still relying primarily on physical media and other older methods, though, making the transition to digital-first can be a daunting idea. In this post, we’ll look at a few ways your organization can digitize communications with minimal disruption to your operations.

What Are Digital First Communications?

A company that incorporates digital-first practices places an emphasis on publishing content onto digital media as opposed to traditional media. For example, a company may prioritize creating content for their blog or Instagram account instead of a print ad. The basic idea behind digital first customer communications management (CCM) is that the online world has become so intertwined in our daily lives that it simply makes sense for businesses to put new media communications ahead of old media.

What Brought on the Digital First Movement?

While business communications have been moving online since the dawn of the internet, the COVID-19 pandemic essentially forced a rapid evolution in communication strategies. Growing concerns over online security and cybercrime have pushed businesses even further down the digital path. As nearly one-third of the world’s shopping has moved online, customers have increasingly opted to connect with businesses via digital channels. Organizations that don’t offer a full range of those communication channels have found themselves left behind.

Beyond business transactions, the move to a digital first mindset has been truly transformative in many parts of the world. Countries such as South Africa and Brazil have made building inclusive digital public infrastructures a key goal of their public policy, partially because physical postal services in those areas have become too unreliable to meet the needs of the public. Coordinated digital transformation projects across sub-Saharan Africa have also empowered communities who previously faced communication challenges because of remote locations, lack of mobile internet access, and poverty. According to a World Bank report, digital inclusion efforts have contributed strongly to a 7% decline in extreme poverty in Nigeria and Tanzania. Digital-first is the way of the future, no matter where your organization is based.

The Main Features of Digital First Communications

What do we mean when we talk about digital first communications? While the specifics can vary from business to business, the following five features are key components of any successful digital first strategy. When you look for a CCM solution, be sure to focus on a system that includes:

By keeping all of your company’s assets in a single place, a digital first approach ensures that document templates, logos, and graphics are used consistently across all of your communications. An intuitive design interface including reusable content fragments allows you to manage dozens or hundreds of document formats using just a single template, eliminating template sprawl.

Automating customer communications as part of your digital first strategy allows your team to easily define participants and configure automated workflow processes that keep your communications moving smoothly. Automation simplifies complex processes from the design stage to the final delivery, including collecting and aggregating helpful communications data.

The ability to easily generate both high-volume batch jobs and smaller, on-demand document jobs depending on the customer’s needs makes your communications scalable and adaptable to a wide range of demands. Easy integration with your CRM, websites, and business applications allows you to smoothly digitize communications such as invoices, annual reports, and monthly statements.

Today’s customers expect and respond to personalized communications far more than they do generic messaging. With more than two-thirds of consumers preferring personalization, a centralized solution that allows your business to apply updates and changes to different departments, geographies, and business units creates a more engaging atmosphere that truly puts digital first.

Providing a digital first customer experience also entails communicating via a number of channels. An omnichannel communications approach helps you to connect with customers while keeping your messaging and branding consistent. That consistency allows a continuous conversation that can be easily personalized, while also maintaining compliance across all channels.

The 9 Benefits of Moving to Digital First Communications

Again, the specific benefits your business will see from making the move to digital first may vary depending on factors such as your industry, the size of your organization, and the volume of your communications. Nearly every business that embraces a digital transformation, though, can expect to see improvements in these nine areas:

1. Cost-Efficiency

Making changes to print advertisements and other physical assets can be a more time-consuming and costly process than many people realize. A task as basic as changing the text or design of an asset often requires coordinating with your IT department and then waiting for the modifications to come through. A digital first platform allows even non-technical business users to make quick changes to communications. Those updates can then be made uniformly across all channels and avenues of communication, cutting down the time and expense it takes to send each message.

2. Ease of Design

Eliminating the need for IT intervention to make updates and improvements also makes design far easier. Unlike physical communications whose messages are more or less set in stone as soon as they have been distributed, digital communications allow your design team to edit and transfer files quickly, often in only a matter of minutes. That creates more flexible and scalable communications that can be personalized to meet specific audience needs, even for clients who require frequent revisions.

3. Insight into Your Audience

In an era where data is all-important, relying on non-digital communications creates a major impediment. Attempting to collect worthwhile consumer insights via physical media is much more difficult than automatically gathering data via a digital first business strategy. Digital communications make it easy to collect information on customer demographics, locations, and interests, and to apply those findings to future communication strategies.

4. Greater Flexibility

Not only does a digital first mindset give your team more flexibility to make and implement changes in your communications, it also allows you to react more quickly to customer needs and world events. For example, a communications strategy that banks heavily on digital channels such as social media and email allows your business to issue immediate reactions to major events in your industry, or to respond almost immediately to customer concerns about a specific issue. Relying on physical communications would reduce those response times considerably.

5. Increase Brand Awareness

The fact is that people spend more time online than ever before, and that is especially true of younger users. Digital first solutions allow your business to connect with a far wider audience than older communications methods could ever reach. Steps such as optimizing your website for mobile users, incorporating more social media channels, and creating interactive web forms help to cultivate your brand’s digital presence while also leaving space for more traditional marketing methods.

6. Deeper Storytelling

One of the biggest advantages digital first communications have over traditional messaging is being dynamic rather than static. Digital communications allow your audience to interact with your content directly. Your audience can also be confident that they are always getting the most current information available. And unlike print communications, a digital platform allows you as much space as needed to tell a deeper story for customers who want to learn more.

7. Enhanced Customer Experience

Your customers are busy people, and physical media can’t always accommodate the realities of their active schedules. When customers receive communications via the postal service, they’re often asked to dial a number or visit a website, an extra step that many people simply won’t take. A digital first communications strategy makes it much easier to engage with customers on their own terms. Interactive forms, social media posts, and emails containing helpful links all allow your customers to connect with your business instantly, via the channels they most prefer.

8. Going Paperless

Traditional communications methods usually involve a lot of paper documents. Sending mail through the postal service, collecting paper invoices and other documents, and creating physical flyers and other advertisements can eat through a lot of materials. That approach gets expensive quickly – you need to account for the expense of not just paper, but also physical storage methods and maintenance to printers and other equipment – and also has a significant environmental footprint. Moving to a digital first approach cuts costs, causes less ecological impact, and frees up space.

9. Improved Security

Data security is a major concern for businesses of all stripes in an era of rampant cybercrime and privacy issues. Digital first communications make it easier for your business to consolidate your communications efforts within a single omnichannel platform, eliminating many of the security gaps that come with a fragmented plan that’s spread across multiple departments. The added security of a private cloud storage system keeps sensitive information safer and also makes it easier to resolve problems when they do arise.

How to Make a Seamless Change to Digital First Communications

Adopting a digital first communications strategy isn’t an overnight process. There is likely to be a learning curve for both your employees and your customers. When approached intelligently, however, a digital transformation can be much more smooth and seamless than you might expect. Be sure to keep these key ideas in mind:

1. Consolidate All Relevant Data

If your business isn’t already using a digital first approach, it’s likely that the task of collecting and managing your data is spread across multiple departments. Digital first communications offer you an opportunity to reduce errors and simplify your processes by consolidating all of your data sources into a single platform. That ensures both that important data will be easier to find and manage, and that customers can expect a consistent and uniform experience every time they interact with your communications team.

2. Keep it Simple

Digital first communication solutions offer so many new options and chances to experiment that it can be easy to get carried away. Remember that your key objective is to simplify the communications process for your customers. If communicating with your business becomes too complicated or feature-heavy, a digital shift can be a turn-off. Be sure to provide easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions for all of your communications efforts, and connect with your customers ahead of time about any aspects that will be changing in your new system.

3. Demonstrate Personalized Value

Once your customers are comfortable with your new digital first communication strategy, it’s important to give them demonstrations of its ongoing value. This is where personalizing your communications and tailoring content to meet the specific needs of certain customers and audiences can really pay off. Simple steps such as calling customers by their names and segmenting messages by demographics go a long way toward establishing a personal connection.

4. Create an Omnichannel Strategy

Today’s customers seldom communicate via only one channel. Meet them where they want to be met by distributing your communications across multiple channels, including email, SMS messaging, social media, online portals, and mobile apps. You may even want to segment your communications and run A/B testing to determine which channels are most effective in communicating to different parts of your audience.

5. Create a Self-Service Experience

Empowering customers with a digital self-service option is an excellent way to drive engagement while also gathering more accurate information. Self-service portals allow your customers to communicate with your business on their terms and time frame, while automated software solutions make sure that all of their information is entered into your system correctly and processed quickly and accurately.

Ready to Learn More About Embracing a Digital First Communications Strategy for Your Organization?

Contact MHC today to request a demonstration of our industry-leading software solutions for customer communications management. Our in-house experts will be in touch to find out about your organization’s specific needs and goals. We’ll craft a tailor-made solution designed to provide your business with a digital communications approach just for you, including integrating with your existing systems and processes.

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Ira Brooker

Ira Brooker is a freelance writer and editor based in Saint Paul, Minnesota. He has been writing blogs and copy about software-as-a-service solutions for most of the past decade. Before exploring accounts payable and workflow solutions with MHC, he wrote about fields including cybersecurity, workforce management, online accessibility, audiology, retail sales, and much more. When he’s not doing business writing, he also indulges in writing fiction, journalism, arts criticism, and bar trivia.

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