A consumer’s sweet spot is when a brand hit strikes resonant emotional chords with its targeted consumers. The average consumer is exposed to a plethora of marketing messages from brands a day and in order for a brand to cut through the clutter, its message has to be of emotional resonance. The Brandberries exclusively interviewed Tarek Abdalla, Regional Head of Marketing for Middle East and Africa at Google, to get his take on how to connect with a consumer’s sweet spot.

BB: A customer journey is not mapped by how customers feel at any given point in the journey but rather how they feel over the course of the entire journey. How can brands effectively evaluate their customer journeys?

TA: Marketers need to create marketing and communication strategies that help customers reach their goals and technology today removes the guesswork from determining the most important touchpoints in the consumer journey. This helps brand managers understand and identify communication touchpoints in the customer journey from start to finish as well as assess their effectiveness and importance in the purchase decision.

It is important to be able to recognize pain points and moments of delight. For example, how might customers feel at the pre-purchase, purchase and post-purchase stages? They may be happy that your website makes browsing easy but frustrated at how confusing it is to purchase a product.

According to our latest research at Google, 89% of shoppers start their customer journey researching online and 80% of these use online Search. Furthermore, two out of three of undecided shoppers said their buying decision could be influenced by a good promotional video.

In key moments, such as back-to-school, online shoppers start researching products as early as three months before the start of the school term, so marketers need to be aware that the customer journey can start months before a purchase is actioned.

BB:  It’s widely known, and too often forgotten, that brands stand or fall based on the customer experiences they create. How can brands make use of the consumer insights in enhancing their customer experiences?

TA: Brands need to be present at each touchpoint of the customer experience and make the journey as seamless and enjoyable as possible. Marketers need to inspire as well as deliver on what they advertise whether in product quality, ease of payment or time for delivery.

As many customer journeys start with Search, it is imperative that brands are highly visible online – whether they appear through advertising or organic SEO. Once visible, brands need to create, manage and influence their online reputation.

This can be done through creating great promo videos for your products and services. In YouTube we find online shoppers are more interested in upgrading their experience of a product, for example a company selling hair clips can inspire online shoppers to make the purchase by creating YouTube videos that show shoppers how they can use the same clips in a more creative way.

Another key trend we are seeing is effective marketing via social media, especially among younger audiences in MENA. In the GCC, almost half of consumers aged 18 to 26 discover luxury products on social media as opposed to word of mouth.

BB: The moment your brand strikes an emotional chord that resonates with your target consumer’s internal sweet spot, is the moment your gains occur. Can you mention some ins and out on how brands can find out about their consumers’ sweet spot ?

TA: While each consumer journey is different, there are some commonalities. By focussing on the start of the consumer journey, in particular when the consumer is still undecided about product or brand, marketers can open a consumer’s eyes to the possibilities of their products. We find on YouTube among our most watched videos are inspirational and shopping haul videos where YouTube creators go on a shopping spree then explain the different use cases for the products they bought.

If marketers can reach customers at the very beginning of their journey, inspire them about the creative ways their products or services can be used and more importantly how they can add value to their lives, then they are on a winning streak.

BB: With the rise of e-commerce, big brands shouldn’t ignore the online sphere and work on mirroring a pleasant and empowered customer experiences in the cyber world. Can you shed some light on how e-commerce has reshaped the way brands design customer experiences ?

TA: The eCommerce market in MENA today is worth billions of dollars, with Saudi Arabia, UAE and Egypt taking the lion’s share. At present, the advantages of shopping online include ease in navigating products, shorter time to action a purchase and ability to access shops that may not be near your geographical location.

The key customer preference when it comes to eCommerce is experience. The better the online shopping experience the more trust and loyalty you gain from the customer. Moreover, now customers are taking the best experiences from one industry and demanding a similar or better experience in another industry – car manufacturers have to match or supercede the online customer experience offered by fashion retailers, so marketers are now being held to a higher standard than ever before.

Marketers have to find a way of creating unique and memorable customer experiences that target relevant demographics. For example, today we are seeing brands make use of eCommerce not just through their websites but also through social media channels where there is a rise in merchandised posts. Brands are realising their customers are spending more time on social media channels and are now making it easier for their customers to purchase their products through merchandised posts.

A good example of this when luxury online outlet Yoox Net-A-Porter gamified the user experience by using unskippable ads on YouTube. The 25-second pre-roll video ads practically dared viewers to buy a one-of-a-kind item – the catch being of the user didn’t click on the ad quickly enough the offer was gone forever.

This proved successful in driving conversions straight from the video ads which were delivering thoughtful creatives to relevant audiences.

BB: With the rapid growth of multicultural customers all over the world and their unparalleled influence on the marketplace, brands should consider strategies that are inclusive to appeal to these critical consumers. Please comment

TA: Global eCommerce is rising now that more of the world is becoming connected online. Brands have a golden opportunity to reach more customers in more markets than ever before if they can develop more inclusive marketing strategies.

In MENA we are seeing a rising middle-class and more women joining the workforce. There has never been a better time for marketers to adopt inclusive strategies that appeal to a wider customer base.

In Google, a key lesson we’ve learnt about inclusive marketing is the makeup of your internal team matters. When we are hiring we ensure a diverse range of candidates from a wide variety of backgrounds are considered before making a decision. And it’s not just our own teams but even our agency partners that must be inclusive.

We understand diversity goes beyond gender or skin colour, it’s also about age, geography, socio-economic diversity, abilities and so on. Ultimately, to tell relatable stories in marketing you need a deep understanding and empathy for the people you want to reach. Stereotypes are the fastest way to show users you don’t understand them.

BB: As technology revolutionizes shopping, it’s creating a new consumer demographic, the one that’s always plugged in and ready to spend. Can you shed some light on how should brands engage with this digital savvy consumer base?

TA: Internet and smartphone penetration is rising across MENA, and consumers are becoming more and more comfortable with browsing and shopping online. In the UAE and Saudi Arabia, online Search queries with shopping intent are rising year-on-year.

For sure, digital plays a role in influencing online and offline purchases in MENA as the internet is nowadays used by consumers at every stage of their shopping journey from discovery to post-purchase.

More and more shoppers are using digital for ideas and inspiration and even to discover relevant brands. Google research shows shoppers will view online videos and then turn to the internet to compare prices and features.

Brands can engage with digitally savvy consumers not just by building superior eCommerce portals and optimising the user experience but also by being proactive on multiple platforms. This can be done by developing expert content to suit various platforms, especially on different social media channels or industry forums.

It’s also vital for marketers to continually assess their performance, this can be done by using data analytics to implement performance-driven marketing. The key thing here is to learn what works and what doesn’t for your specific audience, take these learnings and use them to continually improve your strategies.