Digital Differentiators: Using the Latest Tech & Design Trends to Set Your Brand Apart

August 22, 2018 Jessica DeJong

As companies embark on a rebrand, they often look to industry competitors for inspiration. A/E/C companies that want to differentiate themselves from the competition should look beyond their industry for ideas and inspiration. Many consumer products and tech companies incorporate new technologies and forward-thinking design ideas into their digital brand.

Two new trends that other industries have begun to embrace are design systems and progressive web apps. A/E/C companies early to adopt them into a rebrand, however, will stand out from the pack and position themselves as digital innovators and industry leaders.

Ensure a consistent brand with a design system
As marketing teams develop and execute programs over time, they risk maintaining focus on the brand’s core value proposition. Marketing teams’ responsibilities are increasingly spread across many channels – from social media to the website to tradeshows and events. The resulting diffusion can lead to inconsistencies, which can have a negative impact on the overall impression of your brand. Implementing a design system allows all marketers – regardless of their day-to-day responsibilities – to stay on-brand across channels. Google, IBM, Salesforce and the City of Boston all follow design systems.

A rebrand is the perfect opportunity to begin digitally documenting the new brand’s style with a design system, which will establish the brand’s foundation and allow for quick updates in the future. Much like a traditional style guide, a design system contains details on fonts, colors and imagery. In addition, design systems also outline the brand’s digital characteristics, such as animation, accessibility, grid systems and voice.

By housing the brand’s new characteristics digitally in a design system, marketers can easily reference the guide to quickly update or create new brand materials. For example, if the marketing team needs to create a new social media campaign, it can consult the design system to ensure it follows the brand’s corresponding imagery guidelines, colors and fonts. Or, if it plans to implement a chatbot, the design system will help identify the bot’s voice and tone. Marketers should plan to regularly maintain the design system as the brand evolves and ensure it stays up-to-date.

Give customers a five-star mobile experience
With many innovations in mobile technology, customers and prospects now expect an engaging mobile experience. Mobile internet use has doubled since 2011 – and studies show that most users will abandon a website that they’re trying to access if it takes longer than three seconds to load. Progressive web apps are an exciting new option to ensure visitors are able to easily reach and interact with a brand on mobile. 

PWAs – the “next big thing” in mobile technology – are responsive websites that look and feel like mobile apps. PWAs provide all the benefits of mobile apps – offline functioning, push notifications, home-screen access and full-screen experience – but are much easier and faster to build and update than a native app. Additionally, PWAs load instantly, quickly respond to user interactions and allow for an engaging, immersive user experience. 

Business-to-consumer and technology companies that have implemented PWAs have seen numerous benefits:

    • Ride-sharing giant Uber’s PWA takes less than three seconds to become interactive on intermittent networks, including 2G (no WiFi)
    • Furniture retailer West Elm saw a 9 percent increase in revenue per PWA visit
    • Carnival Cruise Line improved conversions from push notifications, achieving a 24 percent opt-in rate and 42 percent open rate
    • Starbucks’ PWA is only 0.4 percent the size of its native app counterpart

There are many ways A/E/C firms could leverage the power of PWAs for clients and prospects. PWAs could be used to communicate project progress updates to existing clients, or to send relevant thought leadership or industry alerts to prospective clients. Essentially, PWAs should be considered for any idea that previously could only be done via native apps or a website.  

Marketers beginning a rebrand should consider incorporating PWAs into their plan. Start small – such as building the app for a specific occasion or practice area – and then use the data and analytics you collect to make future improvements. We experimented with this ourselves last year during our 48-hour hackathon. We designed and built our first PWA to provide users with information for an upcoming event. We’ll review users’ tracked app interactions and decide which features to add to the app to complement this year’s event.  

Embrace digital trends to lead A/E/C industry
As marketers embark on a rebrand, incorporating design systems and PWAs into the plan will enhance the perception of the company as a digital innovator. Even if the firm can only begin tackling one of these trends, taking small steps to incorporate new technologies will strengthen the brand’s digital presence. Both digital trends are growing rapidly among other industries, and A/E/C marketers who implement them sooner than later will position their firm at the forefront of the industry.

Learn about Plante Moran's PWA, the Tax Reform Playbook, here. 

©Marketer, The Journal of the Society for Marketing Professional Services, August 2018, www.smps.org.

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Jessica DeJong Creative Director

Jessica is One North’s Creative Director, collaborating with clients to deliver interactive solutions, including creative strategy, website design concepts and brand development. In addition to bringing an artsy edge to everything she makes at One North, she also specializes in procuring the best cat GIFs to spread around the office.

  • If I were a vegetable: I would be a bhut jolokia (ghost pepper) because it’s the closest vegetable I could find to HOT SAUCE.
  • Favorite color: Maize. 2nd favorite color: Blue.

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