If brand experience was an animal, it would be a pretty, flashy dog, specially groomed for dog shows. Conversely, customer experience can be likened to a trustworthy guide dog, that helps and follows you throughout.
In today’s fast-paced marketing world, it’s very important to differentiate between brand experience and customer experience. Sometimes these terms are mixed up and used loosely, but they represent two distinct concepts. The similarity is that both brand and customer experiences inherently focus on one thing – the customer. Brand experience kicks in from the start and is an ongoing process; it caters to both customers and non-customers. Customer experience follows closely behind, to guide your acquired customers when they are transacting or interacting with your brand.
While they differ in their approach, they are similarly rooted in consumers’ wants and desires. In order to engage and delight your audience, you’ll need to make your brand and customer experiences work together for best results. Let’s dig a little deeper to understand how they form part of an all-encompassing strategy to drive revenue for your organisation.
The concepts of user interface and user experience have expanded beyond the scope of web design.
Broadly speaking, the user interface (UI) relates to design of an experience. Brand experiences rely heavily on design to communicate a certain message and value, in order to make consumers feel a certain way about the brand. UI design can often make or break your brand experience, and how your brand looks to consumers.
In contrast, user experience (UX) refers to a journey a customer must go through to reach the ultimate destination with your brand, which is purchasing it. Customer experience requires seamless UX for it to do its job properly.
The average person is exposed to more devices and channels than ever before. For the brand experience to succeed, customers must be able to seamlessly navigate across all of them. In today’s omnichannel landscape, traditional channels like TV, advertising and the physical shop floor alone are insufficient – you must also factor in increasingly popular online mediums such as websites and YouTube videos. Both types of channels must be well-integrated to deliver a complete, consistent brand experience. Confusing, poorly executed brand experiences could result in low customer satisfaction. You could end up losing both current and potential customers.
Louis Vuitton is a leader in luxury fashion partly due to its effective branding. Even its website’s design is engineered around a very particular image; these brands are very image driven, and they must project a certain kind of luxury around that. If you head down to its stores, you will find that every aspect there has to portray a particular look and value befitting the brand name. When experiencing the brand through the store or website, customers are made to feel that they’re worth it by being taken on a premium, out-of-this-world journey.
International trade marketing is also growing in size and importance within organisations. During my recent trip to Singapore, I noticed its world-famous Changi Airport was being utilised as a major channel for brand communication. Travellers have a lot of time to spare while in transit – surely, they’d love being pampered in a fancy, luxurious store like Louis Vuitton’s.
This method of brand communication recognises that it’s not just about showing or telling anymore. Beyond simply projecting value or experience, brands are reaching out to customers and spending more time to understand their wants, needs and preferences. For today’s brands, different channels serve different purposes – some do best at portraying their desired image, while others go deeper to engage and interact with consumers.
In most organisations, the marketing and customer service departments are perceived as separate. I would strongly argue otherwise. Indeed, brands heavily lean on their marketing, advertising and communications strategy – the aim is to conceive an experience, then promote it. Without any awareness, it’s almost impossible for customers to interact with your brand experience. Creating awareness is most important, because it is the launch pad for organisations to bring in new leads, create opportunities and ultimately motivate customers to purchase.
Yet all these can’t be sustained without customer experience, which relies heavily on service for success. Customer service must be present throughout every touchpoint of the consumer journey. Just like hunting for pearls in the ocean, you want to deep-dive into the consumer journey for the moments that matter. Your customers should be able to find service and guidance quickly and effortlessly; only then will your brand win them over.
Take German engineering brand Bosch as an example of quality customer service. It does not heavily spend on TV, radio or billboard advertising and occasionally engages in below-the-line communication like targeted and direct marketing. However, it is known for its expertise stemming from its German engineering heritage. Bosch has managed to incorporate the cultural expertise of Germans into its brand, and it mainly performs below-the-line store-level interactions with its customers. When customers go to its stores, staff will happily interact with them and highlight the quality, features and uniqueness of Bosch products.
For a brand like Bosch, installation becomes an important part of the brand experience, which it needs to maintain at this stage of the consumer journey and beyond. Suppose a customer calls and says, ‘I need the product installed by tomorrow, because I am hosting guests. Therefore it needs to be installed quickly!’ In this situation, would you swiftly grasp the importance of the call and aim to resolve this customer’s particularly urgent request? By doing so, you make the customer feel important and you can make this entire service a stream of revenue for the company.
It’s important to keep in mind that most services today are offered for free. Customers are moving towards two- or three-year subscriptions and are offered discounts and greater convenience if they sign up for an extended period with the service. While this is one method to attract customers, it can be marketed more effectively through premiumisation.
For instance, once you sign up for Netflix, you’re offered a trial period, but you’re also invited to purchase their Basic, Standard and Premium streaming services at the same time. Netflix understands that when you want customers to pay for your service, you must enrol them at the exact moment where they’re installing your product. That’s the moment where customers are highly involved with your brand - after they start using your service, it simply becomes a mundane, day-to-day aspect of their life. You’ve got to strike when the anticipation of using the product and the excitement of purchase is at its peak. By doing this, you can capitalise on your customer experience beyond the brand experience.
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Global Lead, Consumer Insights (Food & Nutrition)