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Jeff Bezos says “If you make customers unhappy in the physical world, they might each tell 6 friends. If you make customers unhappy on the Internet, they can each tell 6,000 friends.” It’s true. Most of us have witnessed the troll-ish virality of unhappy consumers making their voice heard online. It’s a frightening scene that often escalates into a nasty, never-ending comment-fueled debacle that points fingers and lays blame.
Brands who continue to step ahead of the pack are doing so because they’ve figured out how important experience is in creating lifelong relationships with customers. Instead of looking past the humanity that is present in every customer interaction, successful brands lean in and appeal to a customer’s emotions to drive endearing memories. When brands intentionally link to experiences that carry emotional significance to a customer, they have a greater opportunity to build positive brand associations that endure over time. Top brands that excel at creating signature moments consider the holistic view of the customer, create meaningful differentiation and relevance for them, all while reaping the benefits of increased loyalty and brand value along the way.
"Experience has quickly become the new common denominator across our everyday lives and it’s those memorable experiences and relationships with brands that are winning with customers"
The truth is, being “always on” is our new norm.
There is no denying the impact that customers have on other customers when interacting with a brand. Equally important is the impact of each experience a customer has with a brand – it is truly what makes or breaks great brands. A good product or service is no longer enough. According to recent research from Kantar, 75% of millennials prefer to spend their money on experiences rather than material things; and this high percentage trend also holds true for 65+ year-olds. Experience has quickly become the new common denominator across our everyday lives and it’s those memorable experiences and relationships with brands that are winning with customers.
Strong brands who deliver an engaging experience are gaining the experience advantage through the power of emotional connection. Emotion is the key to customer preference and a competitive advantage. Experiences drive emotions and ongoing customer relationships and emotions drive lasting memories. Consider the experiences with a brand that stick out most for you. It likely made you feel extremely delighted or severely irritated. While those book ends are often what brands are focused on, it’s as critical to focus on moving those neutral moments, which often elicit little to no emotion. Kantar’s research has shown that customers’ preference for a brand jumps nearly 60 points when customers move from neutral to satisfied and 48 points when moving from satisfied to delighted. In addition, customers who have a high preference and emotional connection to a brand are 7x more likely to stay / re-use, 15x more likely to spend, and 20x more likely to recommend. It’s clear, the key to making an experience memorable is finding and delivering that emotional hook.
Brands who are creating memorable experiences rely on a deep human understanding of their customers’ world. Successful brands find growth not by only placing the customer at the center of their strategy, but also by stepping into their world to understand what they value socially and culturally, what motivates them from both a rational and irrational perspective, how they spend their time, what memories they treasure, what experiences add meaning to their life, and what truly matters the most to them. It is only based on such a deep understanding of a person’s dynamic and interconnected world that brands will be able to identify the best opportunity to deliver meaningful experiences that add significant value to customers’ lives.
So, how can brands translate the power of experiences to build stronger relationships with customers?
Increasingly many brands are seeking the voice of their customers to gauge satisfaction with recent interactions and experiences. Often these measurements narrowly focus on the transaction more than the holistic experience, and don’t provide enough insight into the factors driving customer relationships. Organizations who can match brand and experiential attributes have the advantage of quickly identifying the touch points and interactions driving brand equity, thus the ability to predict and adapt to marketplace shifts in real time and ultimately drive brand growth. Underpinning this connection is the need to first make sure what the brand stands for is clearly articulated and understood by its customers.
Kantar has shown that marketers who drive meaningful, different and salient experiences represent the brands that differentiate and grow the most. These three principles should be at the heart of every experience strategy. Successful brands find ways to easily test strategies against these core principles and ensure their presence across multiple touch pointswithin the customer’s journey.
1. To be truly meaningful, brands must empower their employees to provide proactive, responsive and empathetic service to its customers at every interaction. Employees are some of the biggest brand ambassadors and making sure they resonate with a brand’s purpose is paramount. Staying committed to delivering exceptional experiences across all parts of the organization reinforces the staying power of customer centricity. Aligning KPIs to common goals will empower employees to be in the driver’s seat to decide what’s best for a customer and enable them to provide solutions quickly and seamlessly.
2. To be truly different, brands must empower their customers to ‘do it their way’ in a frictionless omnichannel way. In a world of elevated and evolving customer expectations and access, brands must find the right balance between machine enablement and human enrichment. Instituting technology for the simple sake of it does not win with customers. Leveraging the power of automation and AI can help make customers’ interactions with a brand be simple and intuitive. Applying advanced analytic and human-centric approaches allows for more personalized experiences on and offline that can boost brand equity and word of mouth.
3. Third, to be truly salient, brands must deliver remarkable experiences which reinforce the brand choice. Exceptional delivery is now table stakes for brands, given the increased presence of disrupters in nearly every category. Usage experiences are one of the three most impactful touchpoints for a brand. Brand moments are created anywhere customers interact with a brand, therefore the opportunity to make a lasting impression is always one interaction away.
The experience of a brand is ultimately the fabric of the brand. Given the complex interplay of social, cultural, and emotional factors on rational and irrational customer choices, brands who can connect in such a deeply human and meaningful way will continue to stand out by gaining the respect, share of wallet, advocacy and loyalty of customers and prospects to come.