76% of consumers say that it is easier than ever to switch brands.
76%...more than three quarters.
If that is not a wake up call for brands, how about the fact that 51% of consumers surveyed by Salesforce say that brands are failing to meet their expectations.
Failed expectations, lots of options, and consumers who have now been trained to believe that brands can make it work even when faced with challenges never before seen. The status quo is no more, it is time for brands to place a little more emphasis on delivering against consumer expectations.
Where specifically should that emphasis be placed? Perhaps surprisingly, it is often not the products that entice consumers to switch, but rather the overall experience with a brand, from discovery, to purchase, to loyalty. In many industries, there is a great deal of parity among products, and the differentiators are not enough of an incentive or deterrent for consumers to switch from a brand they are comfortable with, or to step out to try something new.
Experience, on the other hand, can make or break a brand’s reputation and value proposition. Make it difficult for a consumer to buy from you, and they probably won’t be coming back.
Improving the customer experience not only makes the customer happier, but it creates value for the brand and its products. 83% of Gen Z buyers view online as an experience, as opposed to merely a transaction. The experience becomes part of the product, and as such becomes a point of parity, for better or worse.
There are a wide variety of creative and effective ways brands looking to enhance the customer experience to succeed, many of which can be grouped into three overarching attributes that make the experience worth coming back for:
Make It Personal
The technology behind targeting consumers is changing, and new privacy laws will continue to challenge the ways in which marketers have accessed and leverage consumer data. However, that does not mean that brands are off the hook for providing personalized experiences. Rather, it is a call to create an experience that engages shoppers in ways that encourage the development of an ongoing relationship, where shoppers are willing to provide information in exchange for a better experience.
Personalization can expand beyond names in emails or an ad following shoppers around the internet, it doesn’t even have to always be 1:1 communication. Making a customer feel like they are receiving a personalized experience can drive as much engagement as a personalized offer, as long as the experience delivers value. Leveraging data to understand how your customers found you, what they are often looking for, and how your products fulfill their needs can drive the direction for how to effectively engage shoppers in semi tailored experiences before ever collecting any personal information.
Once the customer has seen value and desire for more is created, the opportunity for more traditional approaches to personalization can be realized.
Make It Interactive
The average US adult spends over 3.5 hours per day on their digital devices; that’s nearly 50 days per year. To say that they see a lot go across those screens would be an understatement. If brands are looking to stand out among the digital noise that consumers face every day, a static experience probably isn’t going to cut it.
Instead, brands have the opportunity to create interactive and immersive experiences that engage the consumers’ attention and deliver value beyond what a static image or description can. Even video, which has shown to drive higher engagement than images alone, can be amplified with the addition of more immersive elements. Many brands are turning to 3D and augmented reality to achieve these more experiences and showcase the features and benefits that make them the best fit for shoppers.
The option to customize, configure, or view products in new environments can also drive additional sales, as shoppers find and evaluate products tailored to their exact needs. By allowing customers to more closely interact with the products, it creates a sense of ownership and increased desire, which ultimately increasing the value of the product, particularly instances where the consumer is making design and feature selection
Make It Consistent
The challenge for many brands is to not only deliver an exceptional experience in store or on their website, but to ensure that the experience is consistent and strong across all branded touchpoints that consumers interact with, both digital and physical. Brands that started online must be able to translate what made their digital experience exceptional to a physical space if they expand into brick and mortar, while brands who primarily relied on physical retail must consider their existing and potential customers’ needs when designing the digital storefront.
Consider a bike manufacturer who is known for their unique designs and variety of colors available. They have created a unique experience online where shoppers can view all of the available models and their recognizable designs in high quality detail. The brand has made sure to build consistent representation of their products across all of their digital channels, and provided ways for customers to always view their trademark design. Now, the brand has expanded with a physical retail partner, and their space is limited for showcasing the bikes. The manufacturer may choose to only bring its top three sellers, but for consumers who are used to the flexibility of viewing all of the bikes, or who have heard of the experience based on the brand’s reputation, this experience may be a let down.
Instead, what if the brand took steps to bring the best elements of their digital experience to the physical space? Using a 3D configurator and AR, it would be possible to showcase all of the designs in detail, with shoppers experiencing the bikes in both the physical world and digitally through AR and 3D. The experience is more engaging for the shopper in store, and maintains the high level of quality that the brand has built its reputation on.
Customer experience has become a make or break element for brands, with consumers demonstrating the need for better experiences through both direct feedback and where they choose to spend their time and money. To be visible and available is no longer a viable strategy for the majority of brands. Now is the time to shape how consumers will perceive your brand in light of their evolving needs and expectations.