Tend to Your Digital Footprint

Digital Footprint Cover Image

Today, digital is a must for business.

The pandemic shook many out of the lull they were in that digital marketing was just another tool in the toolbox to realize that it is absolutely essential to business resilience.

In the past year, as many companies have been ramping up their digital investment during COVID, brands must embrace a regular assessment of their company’s digital footprint while also being proactive in promoting their brand.

“We’re all familiar with the dynamic landscape and explosive growth of online shopping, a consumer shift accelerated with the onset of COVID in early 2020. But a brand’s digital presence, aka digital footprint, must be monitored and maintained regularly,” advocates Derek Kristopher, associate director of marketing for the New York City-based manufacturer S.D.C Designs, in a Plumb Club podcast, ‘The Digital Transformation.’

“Your digital footprint is the digital trail your brand creates or leaves behind on the Internet, including your website, social media, emails, review sites, relevant affiliate sites that link back to your site and social pages, anywhere your company or brand name may appear,” Kristopher explains. “The tentacles are far-reaching. Some of it is in your control, and others are not. But, it’s critical to track your digital footprint while proactively promoting your brand.”

Kristopher underscores the importance of identifying, maintaining, and constantly evolving your digital presence to keep customers aware of your brand. With modern technological advancements and consumer expectations evolving, the days of creating and leaving a website alone are long gone. “Your website must be more than a digital billboard,” he says. “It must be as much of a store, a living entity, as your brick and mortar.”

Sizing Up Your Footprint: A simple way to assess your digital footprint is to type your brand name into a Google search and review the results, suggests Kristopher. Look at your branded content and the channels you control, like website, blog, social media, email/enews. Then, look to third-party sites where you might be mentioned, such as online publications, review sites, brand inclusion on partner pages, and other online distribution channels.

Just like in traditional retail, where you have to maintain a store presence by cleaning showcases, seasonal rearranging, and freshening up displays, there’s similar maintenance online, relates Kristopher, noting that it happens faster in a 24/7/365 world. The lack of an off-button is a big reason a brand’s digital footprint needs regular tending.

Managing Your Digital Presence: Brands need to be proactive to shape and control their online identity and reputation, says Kristopher, underscoring that analyzing your digital presence should be more than a one-time exercise. Assign the task of management to a point person or team to regularly monitor web traffic and any content that pops up that’s not in your control, like review sites.

Thom Duma, owner of Thom Duma Fine Jewelers, Warren, Ohio, advises fellow jewelers to reply to every review, even the bad ones. He says it shows customers you’re invested in long-term relationships, not one-off sales. Respond promptly to negative reviews. Assess and evaluate the feedback internally before publicly responding. Be professional and positive, and state the facts while respecting their opinion. Kristopher views a lousy review not as a problem but as the result of a problem and an opportunity to show how you handle issues.

Customer interaction software, like Podium or Clientbook, can make collecting and managing reviews easy in one centralized platform. The links from these apps eliminate trying to find you on Google, Yelp, or Facebook to leave a review. Duma encourages getting customers the link to leave a review right away when they’re happy, so they’re more inclined to respond quickly.

Keep Content Fresh & Accessible: Consumers may visit your site multiple times before making a purchase, says Kristoherp, so consider having a dedicated spot, like on the home page, for breaking news updated daily (i.e., product launches and event announcements). He suggests using a simple calendar to manage future product offerings, content, and promotions. Plan by month, quarter, or season, but lay it out strategically for the year. A consistent strategy will help customers feel at home when they visit your page.

Mix it up: a product shot here, a video there, and then a lifestyle image. “Consistency and organic content are most important,” believes Kristopher. “Decide how many posts are within your comfort zone and budget. Post authentic and on-brand content curated specifically for your customers.”  He underscores that a holistic view must unify all digital touchpoints.

Ellen Seckler, CMO of Citizen Watch America, in a Plumb Club podcast, ‘Content is King,’ notes that as good as creating all this content, how it is saved and stored is essential. “The metadata, that’s how search engines find content. It’s essential to have some data asset management system. If you don’t have access to your content, you’re handcuffed. It’s essential to have a place, a repository, to put all of your content, someplace where everyone can find it. In these days of COVID, working from home, we would have been dead in the water if we didn’t have a Cloud-based system.”

Think in Omni-Channel: Customers research, browse, and purchase wherever they are, Kristopher explains. “Rather than treat each channel as an independent silo, an omnichannel perspective accounts for the transitions between channels and offers the same customer service across the board. The boundaries have been removed to create a unified 360-degree customer experience. Social media, mobile, physical, and instant message distinctions on the website have vanished and are understood as a single view by the customer.” This is another reason brand messaging needs to be consistent across all touchpoints.

Kristopher advocates brands look to strengthen online channels that are not as strong or could use improvement when analyzing their digital footprint. Also, keep the e-commerce presence up-to-date with accurate information, like available inventory, current merchandise assortment, and fresh online content.

Ryan Hakimi, vice president of the New York City-based diamantaire, C.H. Hakimi, in a Plumb Club podcast, ‘Automating Jewelry‘, advocates jewelers to automate their business to stay organized and on task. “With an online platform, you can automate virtually every business category, sales, production, repair systems, accounting, and inventory preparations. Personally speaking, we’ve done the same, and it has been tremendous.”