Gone are the days of simple brand loyalty: You purchase Tide or Cheer because it’s what your mother always used and she might be personally offended if she found out that you switched. Today’s savvy marketers know that nothing can be taken for granted, beginning with Mom’s favorites.

So what’s changed?

In an era of fading loyalty and competitive advantage, digital habits have become one of the most powerful tools in the CMO quiver today.   Just consider the way we are off and running on a Google search before we even know it. Google has maintained more than a 60 percent market share in search since 2009, despite the billions Microsoft has spent marketing and developing Bing.

How’s that for brand loyalty, when Google’s nearest competitor is just a URL away?

With the advent of technologies such as social insights and wearables, digital marketing professionals can reach, measure, and reinforce customer behavior in unprecedented ways.

The digital space now offers several ways to connect and build digital habits that keep customers coming back:

  • Social enables brands to tell a story, engage their audience, and encourage them to share their views, to be part of (and sometimes drive) the conversation. Bonnie Raitt may have expressed this best: “Let’s give ‘em something to talk about.”
  • Engage customers via convenience because they know it is the fastest way to get the job done and move on with their lives.  People return to Google because they trust it will find what they need the fastest.
  • Quiet loyalty: Work in the background on your customers’ behalf.  Think of subscription models and automatic bill pay services that automatically provide services and bill you every month.
  • Attract through targeted promotions.

So if content is king, what are some techniques for creating interesting material, engagement, and experiences for your community that form digital habits that lure customers back to your brand?

The most successful campaigns operate across a variety of channels that work in concert to form digital habit ecosystems. When Apple made the revolutionary move to allow external developers to build apps for its App Store, it led to market leadership and opened countless new on-ramps into their ecosystem. To operate optimally in this new paradigm, it’s important to not only be concerned with the features, but also to always be designing digital habits.

Triggers

In a world of fleeting attention, triggers are on-ramps to your brand.   A trigger is a behavioral prompt that kicks us into action in an unthinking way.  (e.g. You put on your shoe and automatically tie your shoe; you have a question, you Google it.)

The goal could be to get in shape, to influence, to save money, or to learn something useful each day. Saving your customer time, money, and increasing their productivity are all things that tap into what motivates us all. A well-constructed trigger masterfully engages the consumer, pulls them into your ecosystem, and inspires them to return for more.

Take the short form Vine video as an example. The haiku of advertising at six seconds long, Vine reinforces the idea that less is more. One of the most successful brand Vines is Lowe’s “Fix In Six” series, which uses stop-motion animation to deliver time saving tips on how to remove a stripped screw or remove a price tag sticker with a blow dryer. According to Adweek, brand Vines are shared four times more than brand web videos. No one wants to be the person to bog others down. They want to be the person who posts a pithy clever tip or ‘life hack’ that their social media network will appreciate and repost. This is how relevant content drives brand preference.

Technology

The goal is to move from one-off transactions to delivering experiences The goal is to move from one-off transactions to delivering experiences through a set of well-designed triggers that are built upon quality content and services, encouraging customers to engage at several touch points along a journey that increase in value over time.

Dependency is what an ecosystem is built on. Look no further than Apple to illustrate this – a Mac is needed to run Yosemite, which is needed to use Mac mail, iCal and iTunes. To be fully integrated, you will also need to use Safari as your browser.

More technology on-ramps means more customer interactions. Consumers engage more and more with the ecosystem across channels – web, mobile and social media and each new customer becomes part of the ecosystem. Each new product and or partner (Apple’s App Store) attracts more customers to the ecosystem. This productive cycle results in increased market share.  The Apple Watch is yet another on-ramp onto their ecosystem of engagement.

Habits

As you know, there should no longer be any distinction in any marketer’s mind between traditional media and new media. All channels are important in the customer journey. Therefore, finding ways to be present and relevant at each digital touch point is critical.

Job one is to consider your customer’s Timeographics (pronounced Time-o-graphics) mindset at each touch point. (Timeographics are similar to demographics except customers are profiled based on time and attention constraints instead of age and income.) For example, you may be best friends with the executive you are contacting, however if your communication catches him right in the middle of a critical deadline at work, your request will likely go unnoticed.

Digital technologies increasingly enable the measurement of customer Timeographics. For example, consider click-paths and time-on-site website analytics. Such capabilities  will become even more in-depth as the Internet of Things (IoT) unlocks more insight into human behavior patterns.

Unlike regular habits that form by repetition, if you rely too heavily on one type of digital reinforcement, this may lead to a customer breaking the habit with your brand.  Imagine if an e-tailer sent the exact same email every day to your inbox.  You’d unsubscribe, right?

Applying Habits To The Customer Journey

Along the timeline of the customer journey, a reward should follow the trigger at each touch point.  And content should be consistent with customer time priorities (Timeographics). Through design techniques such as these, marketers are able to leverage the synergy of technology and human motivation in order to form digital habits that will distinguish and grow your brand.

Assessing and designing digital habits as part of your customer journey should be part of every CMO strategy. Are you going to Bing that fact or Google it?