Customer Experience

Why Should You Care if Your Customers Have a Great Brand Experience?

caller-exThere are discussions in the media almost everyday surrounding the importance of having a great brand experience, but what does it really mean and what is the value in ensuring you have one?

To give you a great example of brand experience, I will pull from the restaurant industry. If you are a restaurateur, giving your customers a great brand experience will include everything from your website, online reservations access, the tone of the person on the phone taking your reservations, the smell when you enter the restaurant, the tablecloths, bathrooms, carpets/flooring, decor, location and parking, the wait staff, the host, oh, and of course the food. If any one of these components is out of line with the rest, you won’t have a great brand experience and without a great brand experience, you have just another restaurant.

A brand experience is the totality of the experience as well as the tonality.

Marketing is all about the kind of experience you deliver to your customers with each and every interaction. The more compelling the experience, the faster you will build brand loyalty. In fact, the experience you build becomes your brand in your customers’ minds.

The Whole Thing

Brand experience is used to describe the total impression a potential consumer has with your brand. It refers to the total experience of the brand, which may include social media reviews, websites, advertisements, actual use (of a product), customer testimonials, or other interactions with your brand.

Every customer touchpoint creates a “profile” in the mind of a potential consumer, one that is full of feelings and attitudes about the brand, helping the consumer to psychologically predict what items are associated with it. This is therefore a highly valuable concept for makers of brand name items, as manipulating that experience can yield higher profits.

Create A Brand Experience

It is often thought that the most successful brands have a clear and singular experience because of focus and consistency through all avenues of exposure. For a brand to be strong, it must present a clear and unified experience. This means that the items or services associated with the brand must perform as they are advertised. Keep the meaning simple because a complex experience is likely to become diluted in the mind of the potential consumer.

Often brand experience is related to marketing and advertising, which attempt to communicate the brand, and thereby the product/service, with meaning by presenting it with information and images. Think about your typical truck or beer commercial as an example here; the commercial is designed to make you feel a certain way, and therefore you know if that is the truck for you.

Measure The Experience

Measuring brand experience can be tricky because although you can glean some information from conducting customer research, it is difficult to identify and quantify what specific emotions, intellectual thoughts, and sensations are associated with the brand. Thankfully, there are several social media tools and indicators, as well as other online tools, which will help you in measuring your brand experience.

If you value your customers (and we all do), then make sure you are taking steps to ensure your customers are receiving the type of brand experience that will keep them coming back for years to come.

What kind of brand experience do you think you offer your customers? Have you measured it? What types of things have you put in place to ensure a good brand experience for your customers?

Brand Strategy Tips: Is Your Brand Having An Identity Crisis?

online-identity-crisis-300x243The most successful brands never fall victim to an identity crisis because they know who they are, and the responsibility they have to those who they serve.  Their innovations are consistently delivered, genuine and true.  They are focused on what matters most to their consumer (B2B or B2C) and on continuously making the experience better.

Today, we are constantly challenged to create a brand that customers want to identify and grow with, and one that earns their trust, reflects their values and makes them feel valued.

Whether you are a Fortune 500 company, business owner or entrepreneur, here are my top 3 tips to help you create and maintain a strong and differentiated brand:

  1. Create an Engagement Experience

Create an engagement experience that you want to have with your target audience. Be consistent, but at the same time mix it up, and don’t be too predictable. Your customers are reevaluating their needs more often than you might think, so instead of being reactive to your audience’s needs, be on the front end and help guide them.

  1. Establish an Identity That is Easily Relatable

Keep it simple. Your customers don’t have the time to figure out what your brand is trying to convey. Too often brands complicate their unique value proposition (UVP) to get attention.  In their efforts to reinvent and renew, they complicate things that frustrate their customers and shareholders.

A brand identity is most powerful when it evolves and its value proposition strengthens in alignment with the changing demands of its audience. Your customers want a brand to be deliberate with their identity – straightforward while at the same time forward thinking.

  1. Educate and Inspire

Even for B2B businesses, it is important to make sure your brand educates, communicates and inspires your audience about the totality of your brand – what it represents and what it stands for.

Your brand’s value proposition must come to life and have an impact on your audience with messaging that is educational and innovative.

A winning branding strategy must be ambitious in its commitment to knowing your audience inside and out.  Always be accountable to the needs of your audience and take responsibility to keep the momentum of the relationship moving forward.

What experience you are attempting to leave behind for your brand, and what will your audience remember most about how it impacted them? I look forward to your comments below.

Three Strikes and Online Shopping is Out!

Online Shopping

I recently decided to buy a bicycle for my wife online. I really don’t have the time to go to the store and I knew exactly what size, tire rim and features, including colour my wife wanted.  Simple task… or so I thought.

As a Canadian, I started my online experience at Canadian Tire. I found the site easy to navigate, lots of product information and even videos about getting the right fit, but looking through the FAQs, I found they did not have the right size tires on the bike I wanted.  I called the store to speak to a sports representative and I am still waiting for them to call me back… (Strike one.)

Next.  I tried online shopping at Wal-Mart. The American site was far superior to the Canadian site with a lot more brand variety. Not as much product detail, but still easy to navigate, I found they didn’t even carry the brand I wanted. I called the store to double-check and was told they thought they did carry that brand, and I should check online.  I asked them a few questions and was told to come into the store. (Strike two.)

By now, this online saving me time experience has turned into over an hour, but I was not quite ready to give up.  I decide to give up on the large stores and go to a few smaller sporting stores and bike shops.  Needless to say, after invites to come to the store, and a few more phone conversations, I gave up looking online. (Strike three.)

I did what I usually do and drove over to my local Canadian Tire and low and behold they had the bike I was looking for right on the floor display. When I asked the sales representative why the bike was not online, he said, “It isn’t?”

As a marketer, I was surprised at my experience. I thought that large retailers were trying to push online sales, I see consistent online specials and even free delivery for online purchases – so it seems the strategy is to push incentive-based online sales. However my experience was not unique. Frontline personnel do not necessarily know what’s online and it seems the online system does not account for storefront displays or new arrivals.  This raises many questions – was I naive to think my online and in-store experience should be roughly the same? Am I expecting too much from online shopping? I am expecting too much from the store staff?  There is no push online to send me to the store, yet lots of push in the store to push me to online.

Online shopping has existed for many years now and yet I feel it often falls short of my needs and expectations.  As a key deliverable to customers, I expect integration between the store and the website at the very least.  Is this the online strategy (or lack of strategy) or simply our need to ultimately “see for ourselves” and interact with a product, to touch it, feel it and truly experience our product in the store?  Ultimately, online shopping has raised more questions for me than answers.

What has your online shopping experience been?  Do you think online shopping takes away or builds your trust in a brand? I look forward to reading your comments below.