Leading brands and  innovators have been transforming the customer journey for years using digital tools and creative customer engagement strategies. We can try on glasses at home and order them online. We can take classes and learn new skills from industry experts with the click of a keyboard button. We can order groceries, make appointments, and get medical care all from our cellphones and laptops.

While the pandemic has certainly been a stressor for businesses, this is an exciting time for marketers because digitization has been propelled forward at an unprecedented rate. When the world was on lockdown and people were in their homes for months on end, brands used digital tools to reach their customers. Now, more often than not, the customer's journey begins and ends online. We're working with a digital front door.

All of the bells and whistles of traditional marketing -- glistening storefronts, compelling campaigns, thoughtfully designed websites, and advertising initiatives -- are worthless without a successful customer experience. The digital front door represents the first place where customers meet the brand or company, and it's instrumental for engineering a successful customer journey.

Marketers must make it easy for customers to get in the digital front door

It's imperative that marketers engineer a process for customers to get in the figurative front door so that they can begin their customer journey. This means accessibility and ease of use should be at the forefront of business owners' minds. For example, Samad Syed, the CEO and founder of SRS Web Solutions, has adopted this digital front door model and built technology that promotes accessibility and ease of use for a specific industry: dentistry. His platform, mConsent, digitizes and streamlines all of the processes necessary for a patient to complete their visit, including scheduling and appointment reminders, intake paperwork, insurance verification -- and even initial video consultations with the dentist. Patients can complete everything online from the comfort of their home before they ever cross the practice threshold. This dentistry-world strategy of simplification can be applied across industries. 

The coronavirus pandemic pushed digitization forward at an alarming rate, but many resulting processes -- built out of necessity and urgency -- were clunky at best. Sometimes that meant half of the customer journey existed on a third-party platform and half existed on the company's site or even in person. 

These hindrances deter customers from completing the sales process, and Syed witnessed this in the dentistry world as well. Often, patients would neglect to complete paperwork because it was spread between platforms, systems, and even devices. His technology, which ultimately functions as a health care marketing tool, ensures that the customer's experience is seamless and simple -- and gets them through the door and in with the doctor more efficiently. This is what omnichannel marketing looks like in a digitized world, and these tools make up the digital front door experience.

Automation equals convenience, which improves the customer experience and supports growth

Any marketer will tell you this: Customer acquisition and retention are the primary goals. Digitization is more than online marketing or online tools, it also means automation and streamlining workflows that result in more convenience for both customers and project stakeholders. Automated tools can improve the marketing team's efficiency and effectiveness -- less paperwork means less time filing, and digital documents are easier to filter through than paper documents.

Digital processes such as forms can also be easily updated without additional work, instead of requiring patients or customers to fill out an entirely new form before each visit. Automation also provides direct and clear data insights as to whether or not marketing initiatives are effective. In such a fast-paced, digital world, these insights can save thousands of dollars (if not more) on marketing efforts if companies quickly identify what is working and what is not.

Marketers should focus on automated tools in 2021 and beyond because they can make the most of a brand's first impression by providing convenience. The coronavirus pandemic added a layer of complexity to business operations -- and now there are more outlets for communicating with customers and a greater need for virtual interactions than even before. If leveraged tactically, these assets will improve the customer experience and support growth in the company by improving customer retention rates. Profit margins can increase if processes are made more efficient and more customers can be served in a shorter amount of time. 

In order to thrive, businesses must streamline and automate their essential processes to provide ease of use for their customers. The digital front door represents where virtual marketing overlaps with the customer experience -- it is the first place where customers experience the brand. Companies that neglect to accept digitization risk becoming obsolete, and this is especially true at the digital front door. It's imperative that marketers understand that innovation, and being the first among innovators, will help brands meet demands, solidify a loyal customer base, and capture a lion's share of the market.