CTM Blog


What is Digital Empathy?

by Barb Cronin

Marketers are talking more about digital empathy today than ever before. And with good reason; the increase in online interactions–for virtually every industry–makes it an essential part of marketing and sales strategies. To be competitive today, it’s vital to understand what digital empathy is, how it can help improve your customer’s experience, and ways to start using it.

According to Statista, “global adoption of digital solutions for customer interactions accelerated by three years due to the pandemic.” This means there are a lot more online interactions than marketers and businesses were ready to handle. Most don’t have the software, or knowledge, to maximize these opportunities. 

But, if you aren’t optimizing all of your online interactions and touchpoints and using digital empathy, you’re probably losing valuable leads and customers. 

Digital empathy can play a pivotal role to get a better understanding of your customers so you’re better able to optimize the right touchpoints in the right way. In fact, this is what customers are expecting. According to a Salesforce report, about 75% of buyers expect you to understand their needs. 

When you express digital empathy, you’re showing them you understand what they need. But what exactly is digital empathy and how do you effectively use it in digital marketing? 

Empathy versus Digital Empathy 

Many of us know the term empathy. Empathy is the ability to share and understand the feelings of another person. Digital empathy is being able to understand the feelings of your customers as they interact with your online messages and touchpoints. 

Understanding these feelings and needs helps teams get to know their customers better. When marketing and sales teams are able to ‘walk a mile’ in their customers’ and prospects’ shoes, they truly know how they feel and what they need. Then teams can express digital empathy through messaging and during online interactions to drive engagement, delight customers, and ultimately increase sales. 

How Digital Empathy is Different from Empathy

While they are very closely related, digital empathy is different from empathy. Because of the virtual interaction involved with digital empathy, the cues used to pick up on your customer’s feelings aren’t the same. In addition, the way you express digital empathy is altered. 

In person, you can pick up on body language and other nonverbal cues to understand how the person you’re talking to is feeling. And, when you are in the same room with someone you also get direct verbal communication about how they are feeling–good, bad, and ugly. 

But, when you aren’t face-to-face, you can’t rely on these traditional cues.  

Not only do you get different ‘cues’  during online interactions, but as mentioned the way you respond is also altered when it comes to digital empathy. In traditional face-to-face settings, you can easily express empathy to your customer through verbal communication, body language, and nonverbal communication. 

For example, as someone is expressing their frustration with the problem they’re experiencing, you can empathetically nod your head in understanding. When they’re excitedly telling you about success, you can smile and show enthusiasm with your eyes. 

But with digital interactions these cues and the ability to respond don’t exist in the same way. So how do you first understand what your audience is feeling? How do you get insight into the problem they need to solve? 

And, how do you then show prospects and customers that you’re listening? That you get it? And how do you get the information to do all of this? 

It all starts with data! 

Data and Digital Empathy

The first step in expressing digital empathy and humanizing online interactions is gathering the right data. Digital empathy leans on comprehensive, consistent data. With the right program and process, you can gather data from each of your touchpoints. This leads to a better understanding of your customer, how they are feeling, and how you can respond in a personalized, uniquely helpful way. 

But there’s more…

Data unlocks hidden insights into your customers’ pain points that often go overlooked. Knowing your customers’ pain points is marketing 101. It’s critical you speak to specific pain points and let them know you get it. Then you can pinpoint a solution specified to their needs. When you express how your product or service can solve their exact problem, you’re cutting through the noise, connecting with them, and probably closing a sale. 

In their Consumer Intelligence Series, PWC stated, “Give customers a great experience and they’ll buy more, be more loyal and share their experience with friends… What truly makes for a good experience? Speed. Convenience. Consistency. Friendliness. And one big connector: human touch – that is, creating real connections by making technology feel more human…”

Carefully crafted messaging at your touchpoints will demonstrate to your audience that you really feel for them and understand what they’re dealing with and why they need your help. The information you can get from data lets you do this. 

Using data in marketing is nothing new. In fact, data is the cornerstone of strategy for many marketing teams. Most teams rely on data to increase insight into how their marketing campaigns are doing and how they can drive more revenue. 

Download our 2022 Survey: The State of Data-driven Marketing

However, in addition to these valuable benefits, this data can also be used to create better customer experiences from the first touchpoint to the last. Data is the key to understanding your customers better and expressing digital empathy. 

Benefits of Empathy in Touchpoints

There are many benefits of expressing digital empathy to your customers and prospects. And, as digital marketing and online interactions grow, it will become more important to master the art of digital empathy. 

Here are four benefits of using digital empathy: 

Bullet list with four benefits of using digital empathy.

1. Build and nurture relationships

Despite the increase in online engagement, buyers still want to feel connected. While the ease of online interactions is a bonus, losing connections is a drawback. When you are actively gathering and assessing data, you can understand which of your messages, products, and channels really resonate with your customer. Then, using this information, you can consistently use messaging they connect with about things they care about.  This creates connections. 

For example, if you see Customer A keeps looking at ads about website design you could be sure to retarget them with this type of information. On the other hand, without this data, they could keep seeing ads about social media when they are only interested in website building. 

In the first scenario, Customer A will feel that you understand their need, however, in the second, they’ll feel you’re disconnected from their needs. 

Sending a customer information about something they aren’t interested in is annoying and a sure way to lose them. However, when you send your customer and prospect information about what they’re interested in, in language they get, it’s a whole other ball game. 

Data–and expressing digital empathy– lets you fine-tune your messages and strategy. This is not only helpful for attracting new customers but also for driving loyalty with current customers.  

2. Personalize and humanize online interactions

When you use data to truly gain an understanding of your customer, all of your team members are able to personalize–and humanize– their conversations with each customer and prospect–virtual or otherwise. 

In that same Salesforce report mentioned earlier, it was found that 50% of buyers will ignore any communications not personalized to them. 

Imagine the difference when your prospect or customer connects with your team and they know what product or service they’ve looked at the most, where they see most of your messages (Facebook, LinkedIn, website), what keywords they’re searching for, and more. 

Armed with this information, teams have the opportunity to really show the customer they are listening and they understand. Instead of making your customer feel like they’re another number talking to a robot, you can tailor your online communication to show them a human being is on the other end. 

Creating this type of experience not only wins sales but also keeps customers happy and loyal. Happy and loyal customers can become raving fans who want to refer more business to your organization.

3. Meet your customers where they are with what they need

Most marketers already know the importance of meeting their customers with the right message at the right time. When you utilize data you are better able to do this. 

Assessing data can reveal trends and patterns amongst certain demographics. Drilling down further, you can see more precise details about individual prospects and customers. This gives you insight into what messages certain customers are drawn to, which channels they visit the most for their research, and even when they are most active online. 

This means you can meet their needs by providing them with relevant information, in the right format, on the right channels, and at the right time. When team members and teams are aligned around this it also provides consistency for your customers. 

And they want that. In a report from Gladly, it was found that upwards of 75% of buyers reported inconsistent answers from support teams as being one of their main frustrations. 

For example, say your organization is in the business of selling tile trackers to keep track of items like car keys, cell phones, remotes, etc. Maybe your target audience includes Millennials, Gen Xers, and Baby Boomers. While each of these groups may benefit from your product in the same way–finding lost stuff–your messages, channels, delivery time, and other variables are most likely very different. 

The messaging for Baby Boomers who are getting older and forgetful will be very different from that of the Gen Xers. In addition, you may find the Baby Boomers on platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn, however, Gen Xers are most likely to be on TikTok or Instagram. 

The time you’ll send your messages to these very different audiences will vary too. Most Baby Boomers will be doing their research in the daytime while Gen Xers and Millennials are more night owls. 

You can make a lot of assumptions about these two groups. However, getting consistent and comprehensive data showing you who they are, where they are interacting with your brand, and what resonates with them will help you determine how you can best help them. This is digital empathy at its best. 

4. Differentiate your brand from competitors

Most customers and prospective customers take time to research online before they reach out to you. When you are expressing digital empathy through consistent, targeted messaging in the right channels, at the right time, you are creating exceptional experiences for your prospective customers before they even connect with you. 

Providing this exceptional experience–from the first touchpoint to last–can help you stand out from your competitors and WOW your customers. It’s vital to realize how important it is to provide a good customer experience. According to a Zendesk report, 61% of buyers would go to a competitor after just one poor customer service experience. 

As you can see, the need to demonstrate digital empathy and connect with customers is more important than ever before. So how do you do that? 

How to Demonstrate Empathy in Online Interactions

There are many ways to express digital empathy. Some of the benefits mentioned show how this can be accomplished. But here are some other tips for expressing digital empathy: 

List of three ways to demonstrate empathy online.
  • Align marketing and sales teams around messaging

Be sure the members of both of these teams are talking about your products or services in the same way. If you’re in an industry with a lot of jargon or terms specific to your product be sure everyone understands what each means and uses it accordingly. Remember, consumers want consistent messaging. 

  • Personalized messages and conversations 

There are many ways to engage with customers today. From chat and text to emails and ads, it’s vital to personalize all of these interactions whenever possible and in as much detail as you’re able. 

Certain software will give you the data so you can do this. Depending on what platform you use, you can get information like where they first engaged with your brand and how many touchpoints they’ve had, where they work, their job title–and much more. 

With this information, marketing teams can personalize messages on emails and videos and sales teams can humanize their chats and texts with prospects. 

  • Prompt responses

It’s one thing to personalize messages but it’s another when these messages are prompt. As the old adage goes, “strike while the iron’s hot”. When your prospect is engaging with your brand it’s the perfect opportunity to guide them further down the sales funnel. Properly managing your leads, and responding quickly and with personalized information will help you build and nurture relationships with your prospects. 

Digital empathy will continue to become important for marketers to consistently implement across all touchpoints and messages. However, when the buyer goes offline and picks up the phone, empathy and personalization must continue. 

Continuing Empathy Offline

When the digital journey transitions to the traditional phone call, teams still need that information to zero in on their customers’ key pain points, provide personalized service, and have a solution to meet the exact needs of their customers. 

While many marketing platforms track online interactions, the trail goes cold when they reach out offline. Since 75% of consumers report they still prefer interacting with a real person, it’s essential to have the information about their online interactions transferred. When your team member on the phone has all of this information, they can then continue the consistent messaging, personalize the conversation, and provide exceptional customer service that wins sales and creates loyal customers. 

Call tracking lets you do this–and more! 

Call tracking used with dynamic number insertion lets you see where your prospect or customer saw your ad, what ad they saw, the keyword they searched for, and so much more. When you add call tracking to your marketing mix, teams can really focus on what’s driving prospects to pick up the phone and call. 

This further helps to align teams to provide personalized, consistent, and prompt messaging and customer service. When customers are happy, they spread the word, they are loyal, and revenue grows. 
Learn more about the value that adding call tracking to your marketing mix brings, check out our powerful, no-code integrations,  or see how it works for yourself when you Book a Demo!