Experiences are the new brand currency. Our experiences define us and shape our relationship with the world.
Sometimes those experiences are negative: the restaurant you won’t go to because of that one bad meal, or the airline you’ll never fly again because they lost your bag.
At the same time, you long to relive your best experiences, the ones that stay with us long after they happen. They have the power to bring us right back to that moment and set the standard for what we expect in the future.
Why is Customer Experience so Important for Brands?
Brands that work to create amazing customer experiences at every touch point will be the ones to rule the future. Those brands will effectively cut through the clutter and noise that fight for our attention as an audience.
Brands that create memorable moments for customers will set the standard for improved customer experience, and customers will expect all brands to treat them just as well. And brands that can’t keep pace will slowly lose ground and slip into irrelevance.
What Makes a Good Customer Experience?
There are four major factors that affect customer experience: Convenience, choice, entertainment, and utility.
Customers place a premium on convenience. Case and point, when visiting the supermarket, customers will pay more for onions that are already chopped up for them. Amazon Prime is the clearest example of how providing convenience can push people to convert. Amazon introduced us to two day shipping with their Prime membership. And, once consumers got hooked on Prime’s two day shipping they began to expect the same customer experience from other retailers.
Not having to wait a whole week to get an order is now the norm. That meant brands who still offer five day shipping are no longer providing the best experience for their customer, and could see their conversion rates suffer. Now Amazon has made it even more convenient because we can get what we want the same day we order it. That’s convenience, and Amazon’s success highlights the importance of customer experience when measuring a brand against its competitors.
Being able to choose what you want is key to a good customer experience. The brands of the future will give you choices and use your selections to improve the customer experience of every potential consumer.
Those brands will use data to anticipate their customers’ needs and deliver on products or features their customers may not even know they wanted. In addition, those brands don’t trap you in a bubble like today’s recommendation engines. People have ad blockers because they didn’t choose to see your ad. Now they choose to block them.
People love to be entertained. People hate commercials, but they love content. Consumers actually seek out the experience of an entertaining commercial, and watch and share that content organically. Geico consistently does this well with their TV commercials.
The brands of the future will entertain consumers with their digital content, TV spots, packaging, and products, and actually build a relationship with consumers through prioritizing customer experience.
There is a reason why “funny things to ask Siri” gets 1,320,000 million searches a year. Siri, Apple’s virtual assistant, was built to be useful, personable and entertaining: the ultimate customer experience.
Utility is one of the most powerful ways to create amazing customer experiences. HelloFresh uses their packaging to offer content that’s truly useful and relevant to their primary value proposition as a brand. For example, they surprise you with facts about knives.
Those knife skills will help you cook better, which will make the HelloFresh service more useful and valuable to you as a customer. Brands who create useful and valuable content for their customers will win them over in the end.
Google is now an actual verb because it is our go-to place to find information. Utility is built into the DNA of the product, and day by day Google updates their search engine to make it easier for us to get information: to improve their user experience.
Every Google update and new universal search result type is an example of Google’s continuing mission to make itself more useful and valuable to its customers. That experience ensures that people will keep coming back to Google to find what they’re looking for.
Capturing Attention and Creating Memories with Great Customer Experiences
Consumers are bombarded with ads, content and products, and they have learned how to block out the noise. Brands can’t just focus on getting consumer attention anymore. They have to focus on getting your attention and making you remember them through customer experience.
Two core questions that brands need to think about are.
- Are consumers aware of us?
- Will they remember to choose us?
Focusing on amazing experiences will make customers say yes to both. Here are two examples of how brands have used customer experiences as currency that funded great success.
Re-evaluating Their Customer Experience: Starbucks
Starbucks‘ rise to prominence resulted because they offered customers a combination of choice, convenience and utility. This brew allowed Starbucks to build a business that focused on making high quality coffee easy to find. They provided a welcoming “coffee house” experience and gave their customers a range of coffee choices.
- The Challenge: During their ascent to the top of the coffee industry, Starbucks lost its way. In a How I Built This interview with Guy Raz, Howard Schultz Starbucks founder and CEO explained the painful details that almost destroyed the company.
They strayed from a laser focus on providing a great experience around coffee to trying to be everything to everyone. They served stale breakfast sandwiches, sold things online, and ended up with stores that smelled like old grilled cheese.
- The Solution: Starbucks has taken note of these mistakes and recently decided to return to its roots. They are closing their ecommerce store, cutting out some of the food services, and are going to focus on creating amazing retail experience in all of their locations.
In addition, they use technology to improve the customer experience. Their mobile app allows you to preorder coffee and pick it up in the store. This cuts down on the lines, rewards people who utilize the app, and creates a better in store experience for all.
Building a Brand New Customer Experience: Warby Parker
Warby Parker built an ecommerce business that allows you to try glasses on at home before buying them online. They use convenience, utility and choice to help create a fantastic experience that transcended their online store bringing their brand into your home.
- The Expansion: When they opened their stores, they extended this ethos to the in-store retail experience. They wanted to make it convenient for people to access their eyeglasses both on- and offline. They opened stores that were more like show rooms than high-pressured sales driven environments.
Customers could learn about the brand and have a wonderful in-store experience with out being forced to buy. According to Warby Parker’s co-founders and co-CEOs Neil Blumenthal and Dave Gilboa their first few shops were generating nearly unmatched sales figures–$3,000 per square foot. This helped Warby Parker make $230 million in sales.
- The Future: Warby Parker is not stopping there. They are looking to use convenience and utility to create a better customer experience around eye exams to drive their next level of growth. They recently launched their prescription check app to make it easier to get an eyeglass prescription.
Brands will continue to use customer experiences as currency to grow their businesses. Understanding what your customers want and how they behave is key to successful customer-first marketing online, on-site, and in all other ways your customers interact with your brand.