Think about the last interaction you had with a brand. Maybe you saw a targeted ad on Instagram, opened an email from your favorite retailer, or read online reviews for the latest phone model.
Regardless, there’s a good chance your last brand interaction was a digital one. Thanks to the rapidly expanding internet of things (IoT), our lives are shifting to digital spaces more and more. We use smart devices to work, play, exercise, communicate, and even sleep. Since consumers spend so much time connected, it’s more important than ever for businesses to take a customer-centric view of digital transformation.
In this monthly series, I’ll examine industry trends and marketing data to reveal how technology is influencing brand perception. From social media marketing to online reviews, the fast-paced world of martech is making it possible for businesses to create relevant marketing experiences and form closer relationships with their customers.
What is brand perception and how is tech changing it?
Brand perception refers to the beliefs and feelings a customer has about a company or its products. It is closely tied to customer experience, as it is influenced by a person’s direct contact with a company (such as customer service interactions), and by a customer’s indirect experiences, including advertisements, online reviews, news, and social media.
It’s important for businesses to understand how consumers perceive a brand—and its services or products—to attract new customers and keep current customers happy. A Walker Information report revealed that by 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. If businesses truly want to understand how consumers perceive their brand, they must adapt to the demands of digital transformation.
The concept of digital transformation has been trending among industry experts and analysts for years, but many businesses still lag behind when it comes to implementing new technologies. A report from the Harvard Business Review found that 80% of business leaders said digital trends are “very likely” to disrupt their industry. At the same time, nearly a quarter of respondents said few, if any, of their organization’s products or operations were dependent on digital technologies.
However, there is good news. As more businesses come to terms with digital transformation, they’ll have hundreds of solutions to choose from to help them gauge, analyze, and improve their brand perception.
How to measure brand perception in the digital age
There’s no question that technology is advancing at a rapid pace. To succeed in a market with 24/7 consumers, businesses must embrace new technologies that help them understand how their customers feel about their brand. With more insight into brand perception, organizations can make informed decisions on product development, marketing campaigns, and customer service strategies.
When marketers talk about brand perception, they often use the phrase, “perception is reality.” Your company may go to great lengths to build a unique brand identity, but what really matters is what people think about your brand. As social media continues to help consumers share their opinions and experiences with the public, companies may lose some control over their brand identity.
According to Nielsen, 83% of consumers trust personal recommendations from friends and family, making word-of-mouth the most credible form of advertising. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos wasn’t wrong when he said, “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” But how can companies find out what people are saying about their brand without spending countless hours scouring Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram?
This is where social listening comes in. Social listening tools, such as social media monitoring software, have emerged as a solution for businesses to discover and analyze what’s said about their brand across social media networks.
There are currently 188 social media monitoring products listed on G2, with more than 8,000 reviews. Social media monitoring has a variety of use cases—not only can companies track mentions of their brand, they can monitor their competitors, identify influencers, and pinpoint trends. Many tools use AI to analyze the sentiment of social media messages, which help determine if a brand’s overall perception is positive or negative. More recently, social listening software has begun incorporating image recognition to monitor brand-related images shared on social media.
Online reviews are another way to measure brand perception. A BrightLocal survey revealed 91% of consumers ages 18–34 trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, and consumers read an average of 10 online reviews before they feel they can trust a local business.
As a peer-to-peer review platform for B2B software, G2 obviously knows a thing or two about customer reviews, including that businesses have plenty of choice when it comes to managing their online reviews. The online reputation management software category on G2 lists 199 products with almost 2,000 reviews. These solutions help businesses aggregate their customer reviews, interpret their overall online reputation, and solicit new reviews from customers.
Although most people trust the reviews they read online, there is growing concern among consumers about fake and purchased reviews. This year we saw the FTC announce a groundbreaking lawsuit against a company it accused of paying for fake Amazon reviews. As word-of-mouth marketing continues to gain ground, it’s up to marketplaces and review platforms to crack down on review fraud to guarantee consumers can continue to trust online reviews. For example, G2 follows a strict set of community guidelines to ensure our reviews are authentic.
The future of customer perception
According to Harvard Business Review, 72% of respondents said they expect digital transformation to create closer relationships with customers. This indicates that the vast majority of businesses are aware of the impact tech has on brand perception, and many plan to use this to their advantage. Indeed, 40% of business leaders surveyed said their highest priority in shifting to digital was to create exceptional, highly relevant customer experiences.
There’s certainly no shortage of software designed to help marketers create unique, tailored customer experiences. Every month, I’ll examine data and trends revealing martech’s influence on brand perception across industries. From automation to personalization to customer service, the digital transformation revolution is changing what and how consumers think about brands. As new trends and technologies emerge at a breakneck pace, the most successful companies will learn to adapt their martech stack and develop data-driven strategies that place customer experiences — and brand perception — at the center of it all.
Stephanie is a research analyst at G2 concentrating on marketing and digital advertising software. Prior to joining G2, Stephanie spent four years in B2B marketing and corporate event planning at a small publishing company. This experience nurtured her passion for understanding how technology can help solve the unique challenges many small businesses face today. Stephanie’s areas of interest include brand perception, customer experience, local marketing, social media, and event planning. She received her B.A. in journalism and Spanish from Marquette University and in her spare time enjoys reading, gaming, and trying new vegetarian restaurants.