Brands need to clean up, de-clutter their online content and treat their virtual presences like physical stores, according to David Martin, European online director at Coca-Cola.
Consumers are living in an increasingly fast-paced world, and brands must find ways to connect with them at credible and meaningful touch points in order to give them "solutions" that make their lives easier and help them manage their time, he said.
Speaking at the IGD online and digital conference this morning, Martin urged brands to avoid filling the "virtual world" with rubbish and to treat the space as they would their physical stores, which should be clean and de-cluttered.
He said the lives of consumers were now likely "the slowest they’re going to be" as they become more connected, and that understanding what is driving customers' needs is crucial.
As the world continues to change, data will provide businesses with "the bridge" between business insight and delivery, he said, with "data scientists" providing businesses with some of their most important hires over the next 18 months.
Martin said: "At Coke we’re absolutely obsessed about understanding the shopper journey – or the shopper cycle, as it never stops.
"To understand where we can add value to that experience, where we have permission to help solve the problems customers have [is key]."
One of the three key areas where a business could add value, he said, was in flexibility, providing customers access to what they want, when they want it. Share a Coke offers this and engages with customers on a personal level.
Customers are able to order their own personalized product, which Martin described as a "simple manifestation of the idea of flexibility and ‘providing stuff that’s right for me’ ... Undoubtedly the direction a lot of our businesses will take."
However, he urged brands to get some "basic things" right: for example creating meaningful content and considering the customer’s needs first.
He said: "Even though we work in a virtual world, it’s really important to remember our customers are real.
"Make sure you live life for your customer. I love what Dave Lewis is doing at Tesco. He’s making people go back to the shop floor, he’s making people go back to really understand what [customer’s] needs are.
"I think sometimes we need to reflect on the fact that just because it’s a virtual world, doesn’t mean we need to fill it with rubbish.
"By all means find ways of surfacing relevant content as and when customers are looking for it. What they want is easy and simple solutions."
This article first appeared on marketingmagazine.co.uk.