The Best Ways for Brands to Branch Out of Their Comfort Zones

This article first appeared on VentureBeat.com on May 8, 2015, where our CEO Jerry Jao is a regular contributor. You can find the original version as well as his other pieces here.

A little less than a decade ago, you could only order a pizza from Domino’s by phone or in a store. Today, those “old school” methods stand aside a slew of more convenient options, including the Web, mobile devices, TVs, smartwatches, and even cars.

Domino’s strategy ” proliferate the touchpoints where consumers can interact with your brand is one that every company should pursue. Beyond adding convenience to customers’ lives that keeps your brand top of mind, increasing touchpoints is often lucrative; not only do Domino’s digital orders now make up half their total sales, these orders result in higher checkout rates and customer satisfaction.

But multiplying the ways consumers can interact with your brand in the wild is often easier said than done. It usually requires companies to branch outside of their comfort zones, much like a pizza chain diving into the world of e-commerce and technology.

Here are three tips to step out of your comfort zone.

Understand where your target audience and competition lives

You need to be strategic with how you branch out, especially if it’s in the early stages. How do your ideal customers shop? What entices them to buy? What do they prioritize most?

Apple adopted a new strategy for the launch of Apple Watch, choosing to sell its product at select fashion boutiques in several cities throughout the world. The company was willing to forgo the controlled environments of its own stores to give customers of these trendsetting shops the exclusive opportunity to purchase a smart watch for themselves. While Apple has received criticism for its decision to not sell Apple Watch in its own stores, this was also a strategic move to capture an e-commerce opportunity that many luxury watch brands are neglecting.

When weighing where to reach consumers, identifying the places where your competition isn’t is just as important as understanding where consumers want to connect with your brand. It was because fashion hadn’t stepped up to the e-commerce plate that Apple was able to reach under-served consumers and blur the line between tech and fashion.

Branch out with a purpose

With attention at a premium, logic would dictate that you should expand to as many outlets as possible in order to get in front of consumers. But don’t lose sight of the overarching purpose of increasing touchpoints addressing a real business problem or long-term goal.

Amazon recently introduced Amazon Dash, a physical extension of its online store in order to simplify the process of repurchasing everyday items. While it’s a bit gimmicky, the Dash button is also a creative, unorthodox solution to breaking into different verticals beyond Amazon’s dominance in books and electronics. The retailer’s long-term goal is to be the “everything store,” including groceries and household items. This button gives Amazon a gateway into consumers’ homes for small items that always need restocking.

Leaving your comfort zone is a risky proposition, but it becomes a calculated risk if the decision is guided by a strategic, long-term objective.

Above all, put customers first

Regardless of the channel, consumers have heightened expectations for a tailored experience with every interaction. Look for moments where you can add a personal, human touch, and even an element of surprise.

Domino’s has shown ingenuity in how it engages its customers on digital channels through interactive features like its voice-activated digital assistant “Dom” or its real-time progress tracker that goes so far as to display the name of the employee making your pizza. Loop Commerce puts aunique spin on e-gifting by anticipating their customer’s dilemma on picking the perfect present. The service allows users to select specific items as gifts  like shoes or pants while letting recipients choose the size, color and style. This creative spin gives people flexibility to choose what they want via a more meaningful, personalized gift than a standard gift card. While each touchpoint has its idiosyncrasies, putting customers first is a tactic that will consistently set you up for success.

With the seemingly unceasing influx of new touchpoints, the perceived need to be present on every one of these can seem overwhelming. Remember, however, that some of them are simply not a good fit for what you’re trying to achieve. Be strategic in your expansion efforts and work to identify those destinations that can become future comfort zones.

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