Digitally Transforming Customer Experiences Through Franchises
The COVID-19 lockdown has brought to the forefront the importance of digital connectivity. Every company worth its mettle is exploring the digital dimension to connect better with it's customer, be it to establish an E-commerce channel or simply to be in the customers mind space.
In this article we want to look at another dimension of connecting digitally; and that is the need for franchise companies to adapt to digital marketing at a local level.
Every franchise company faces a challenge of ensuring consistency in its communication strategy especially while considering local level marketing. While the franchiser would like to maintain a uniform message across all channels, the fact remains that local advertising sometimes needs to be tweaked to suit local sensibilities. For example, a national level food/restaurant franchiser would advertise keeping in mind generic/major occasions or build offers around a major event. However, the local franchisee best knows what will sell when and needs to target their communication accordingly, perhaps around a local event/festival.
Franchisees know their customers best and are expected to understand local market dynamics and generate leads at a local level. Hence the freedom to design their digital channel strategy is important to achieve local level success. However, opening the use of digital media at a local level is a challenging proposition from the point of view of managing brand message coherence especially for larger franchise chains.
So how best to go about this
1. Design an effective Brand level strategy
An effective corporate strategy with clear guidelines for use at local levels will allow franchisees to develop their own marketing strategy, staying within the brand diktats and still communicate a common brand message. A website being an important digital media asset is often controlled by the brand itself and can be one that funnels down to lead the customer from the brand to the local store level. Allowing franchisees to operate their own websites can be a challenge and is usually left best to the brand. To augment the website, digital marketing tools such as social media marketing on Facebook and Instagram, Email marketing, etc. can be used effectively and dynamically to generate leads by individual franchisees at the local levels. Where the stores are stand alone sales entities, such as in a large format grocery store, digital apps for individual stores may be more workable as they easily facilitate inventory lead promotions.
The digital media strategy needs to consider the conflicts that may arise due to the end goals of the franchiser and franchisee. While the franchisee tends to focus on short term impact such as immediate lead generation, sales, views; the franchiser is required to consider the long-term impact on brand building as well as on its other sales/franchise partners. At the same time the strategy must allow for innovation and creativity allowing the franchisee to connect better with the end user.
2. Maintain Consistency
If a franchiser and it's franchisees deliver inconsistent or conflicting content and marketing messages on their digital channels, the whole brand will suffer. Clear road maps of the communication strategy must be provided with guidelines for customization by franchisees. This will help provide a unified brand experience. Media-wise guidelines such as what are the brand colors, logos, sizes, images and designs to be used will ensure uniformity across channels, stores and even countries for global franchisers. Designs may be provided every season based on the brand’s communication planned for that season. A clear protocol will ensure there is no ambiguity and allow easy local dissemination of brand imagery.
Although monitoring and ensuring that the brand message isn’t being compromised is not an easy task, it does have clear benefits. This process allows for
a. Engagement of stakeholders (franchisee) in the brand’s growth process
b. Franchisee ownership to understand and engage with their customer
c. Deeper brand-customer engagement
d. More feedback from customers and market trends can be gauged more easily
3. Managing Territories
When more than one franchise exists in a territory, if each franchisee were to, for example, release Facebook ads at the same time, it would tend to confuse the customers in the locality; especially so if the messages communicated were varied. Here it is advisable that digital media be handled at a territory level rather than store level. An exception to the rule would be of course in the case of a store specific campaign.
Ultimately it is the responsibility of the franchiser to bring in and increase sale across the sales channel. Hence effectively exploring the use of digital media and training its franchises to use it, lies in the best interest of the franchiser. Not every franchisee may be adept at using digital media. There is no argument that today digital media may be one of the most effective ways to connect with your audience. Train franchisees on how to identify and target their customers on social media. Provide the tools they need to reach out to the right customer, with the right message, at the right time. This will result in the brand's messages percolating better to the end consumer.
In conclusion, brands on their own do have a limitation of providing the personal customer experience or reaching the end user on a one-on-one basis. This is easily solved through opening up of digital media for local level advertising. While the franchiser focuses on building the brand, the franchises focus on generating leads and building sales. Every franchiser needs to be willing to recognize and adapt to the possibilities of digital transformation. Companies need to look at this digital media in quick speed and design its incorporation into their marketing plans.
Please feel free to share your thoughts and experiences in this area. If you would like to have a discussion on how we can help you please write in to us at