Customer Experience is the #1 connector between a customer and a brand. It is the influencer that keeps a customer engaged with the brand. It is the feeling that drives customer confidence in buying products from your brand. It is the reminder of confidence in a brand.
Companies need to spend more time and attention focusing on how your customers interact and connect with your brand, and what they are seeking from their overall brand experience with the brands that they choose from. Marketing today should be all about making sure you understand your consumer fully, and then connecting with a consistent brand message everywhere that the consumer interacts with the brand so you build that customer confidence, enhance that customer experience, and secure the relationship that they have with your brand. This is a great article reminding us of the relevance and importance of customer experience.
Luxury’s Lesson To Brands: Get Your Customer Experience Right
“The stuff that matters in life is no longer stuff. It’s other people. It’s relationships. It’s experience,” noted Airbnb’s co-founder Brian Chesky. Airbnb nearly single-handedly disrupted the hospitality industry by capitalizing on this shift from “stuff” to experiences.
Transformation of businesses from physical items and properties to experiences is best explained through the concept of the core value unit. The core value unit refers to the element (product, service, information, content, social currency, etc.) that is being created or consumed. Traditionally, the core value unit of retailers has been their product. Everything they do to transfer this core value unit to their customers – supply, production, distribution, and marketing – consists of value-adding actions revolving around the product.
In introducing digital economy’s core value unit, Chesky isn’t alone. Uber, Farfetch, One Fine Stay, Spring, or Hello Alfred don’t have any physical products to speak of. They are all in the business of removing friction in providing services and delivering experiences to their customers.
At its best, luxury today is anticipatory, empathetic and non-obtrusive These smart upstarts are gaining in relevance with the next generation of affluents as they redefine what the modern luxury is and how we enjoy it. At its best, luxury today is anticipatory, empathetic and non-obtrusive. It revolves around unique, individual experiences that spiritually and mentally enrich us and are enjoyed in private or with a few selected others.
Modern luxury lifestyle revolves around wellness, mindfulness and environmental sustainability – and around those who can afford them. It is a perfect balance of the ancient Japanese concept of motenashi and contemporary consumers’ values of time, achievement, self-improvement and entrepreneurship.
Luxury today is firmly placed in the domain of seamlessness, convenience, utility, personalization and speed. This intrinsically links it to service and experience design.
If service and experience are the lens of modern luxury, what are their implications for the mass brands?
The answer is putting the consumer at the center. Smart brands today focus on creative ways to improve users’ quality of life and offer the most desirable, viable and feasible solutions to users needs in an invisible, intuitive, one-step-ahead-of-you manner.
To succeed in this, brands need to be clear on what their core capability is, and how to translate it in a consistent, holistic and scale-building customer experience delivered through products, utility, content, and campaigns. This experience will then help users move through their decision journey by responding to their emotional, social and informational needs at every moment.
Just like motenashi, being intuitive, effortless and flexible with users helps brands strategically guide their allocation and sequencing of marketing investments across touchpoints that are most desirable from the user’s point of view and that are critical in user’s decision-making process.
Gross-level marketing investment is getting replaced by brands understanding and managing individual touchpoints. This micro-/human-centered and cost-effective focus on every brand interaction makes it valuable and beneficial to users in its own right, outside and beyond their product purchase. Users emotional satisfaction and brand affinity are a byproduct of the pleasure with the quality of experience and service they get.
For example, Tesla, Warby Parker, Net-a-Porter or Patagonia all wrap their physical products into attractive service offerings along the entire customer journey. This allows them to ensure superior end-to-end customer experience and excellent customer service. It also allows them to win in their industries by proactively creating, customizing and automating their customer’s paths, thus creating customer lock-in and fending off competition.
These companies all realized that the decision journey is central to their customer experience of the brand. Consequently, they started managing it as they would any product. Through their journeys, they acquire and retain customers and create finely tuned, white-glove, intuitive and custom experiences that are hard to resist (and steer away from).
Customer data is critical in this process. The fastest growing and most successful brands of today all heavily invested in data mining and analytics, which allowed them to better target, service and convert their customers. Yoox has so much data on their customer behavior that it can confidently claim that Germans are the biggest returners of merchandise; and that the bulk of online shopping happens on Monday mornings when consumers are battling their beginning-of-the-week blues by treating themselves to something nice.
As they reorient their business towards service and experience, brands need to learn how to use the intoxicating abundance of data like butlers and not stalkers. Those who manage to collect and capitalize on a digital wealth of information to offer superior service without scaring off their fickle customers will come out as winners.
The days of building brand preference pre-purchase are gone. Modern luxury teaches us that in order to win, brands need to build the impeccable, immediate and data-based presence throughout their entire customer decision journey – from consideration to evaluation to purchase, bonding, advocacy, and loyalty. This used to be true only for brands with long purchase cycles, like luxury, but in the digital economy, it applies to the rest of brands as well.
Design of customer experience is a matter of business transformation as much as it is of management of the social, emotional and physical touchpoints where customers interact with the brand and the way they move through these touchpoints over time. The first step in creating a truly experience – and service design-centric business is to shift the definition of brands’ core value unit and the brand capability that’s built around it.
Today, as always, a brand’s goal is value creation. The difference is that, in order to create value for themselves, brands first need to create value-adding experiences for their customers.
Direct link to original article posted on Brand Quarterly.