It’s a brand new world, or better yet, a new world for brands. The goal hasn’t changed, but the rules of engagement have. Customers are savvy to marketers’ gimmicks, and increasingly expect a frictionless journey that delights at every point of interaction. To say it plainly, the objective is to deliver an amazing customer experience (CX).
Developing a top-notch CX is about two things: empathy and friction. Empathy helps you understand your customers through their perspective, their identities and their motivations for behavior. The narrative of the experiences you provide become exponentially powerful when you employ this type of design thinking. Similarly, reducing friction during the buyer’s journey creates the same effect. An intuitive and seamless experience means customers will enjoy giving you their time and money.
Sound difficult? It is.
Leading brands are just that – leaders, because they have managed to build noteworthy customer-centric experiences. They have created strong narratives that integrate everything they do (across physical retail, online retail, mobile, and social) into ownable experiences that create an emotional relationship and personal connection between the brand and the consumer.
Nike has moved beyond a “maker of shoes” to become a brand that “empowers people to achieve.” Instead of just making fitness apparel, they also provide a full ecosystem of services and tools to support customers in their athletic pursuits. The story they’re telling is about more than just the product; it’s about a lifestyle. The Nike Running App is just one example of how Nike looks across the full spectrum of opportunity to create meaningful experiences that extend beyond the purchase. Consumers that use the app to complement their run will associate those workout endorphins and victories with Nike. When they see that familiar Swoosh online or at the mall, they feel a connection beyond the product.
Apple’s minimalist aesthetic – from marketing to retail – strikes a stark, theatrical tone that inspires feelings of wonder in their audience. Their tech is simple enough for even your great-grandparents to use, a story reinforced by everything from slick, simple packaging, to ads that inspire the artist in all of us. It’s about what you can do with their product, which you can try first hand in their stores, an experience that people now seek out. Apple Stores don’t just sell better stuff, they sell that stuff in a better way. While in an Apple store, you can test products, consult a technician at the genius bar, and immediately checkout with an iPhone toting sales associate. Their new support app saves disgruntled customers from having to come into the store to complain, which helps protect the coveted in-store experience that Apple has worked so hard to build. This very smooth and very Zen approach to interacting with their customers is a major reason the brand enjoys a cult following.
JetBlue lets their customers know through their digital storytelling that they understand the pain points of flying, and they offer sensible fixes to those potential hiccups. Their innovative solutions and acknowledgment of the reality of flying sets their airline apart by giving customers a smoother ride from start to finish. In 2015, JetBlue was at the top of the Temkin Group survey that evaluated customer experience across 10,000 consumers. Earlier this year, they announced free WiFi on all flights, for all passengers, gate to gate. Just recently, the New York-based airline teamed with tech start up Gladly to create a unified thread for all your support contacts with the airline, meaning you won’t have to repeat yourself when you’re trying to book that connection. These little details add up and help make the JetBlue name pop when consumers are comparing a dozen flights on discount websites.
USAA takes extra steps to emotionally connect with their audience, despite being an industry that is typically seen as being aloof and all about the numbers. Insurance companies are typically horrible at CX. Good at making money, not so great at engaging customers. USAA approaches their mission a little differently than their competitors by focusing on a customer-centric strategy. The brand communicates that it understands the commitment and sacrifice made my armed forces members and their families. For example, they recently started testing Amazon’s Alexa skill that allow its customers to get answers to important FAQs in a timely and simple way. They also have some inventive programs in place to instill empathy in its workforce. How many insurance companies do you know that put their employees through boot camp, complete with drill instructors and early morning wake up calls, so the people that park themselves behind a desk all day can better understand the plight of active duty and retired armed forces members? USAA was named a “best-in-class” brand, according to Forrester’s U.S. Customer Experience (CX) Index.
Amazon’s success is a testament to their continued innovation and laser-like focus on a seamless customer experience. It’s all about speed. Everything they do is designed to reduce friction in shopping to less than nothing, from Amazon Prime, to cashierless checkouts, to their acquisition of Whole Foods to bring high-quality groceries to more people, faster. They make shopping simple with search suggestions and shopping history, and they make it easy to access past and present orders in a snap. They just launched a try before you buy system via Spark, which will impact retail the same way their free shipping created a shift in customer expectations when shopping online. Amazon clearly understands the power of putting their customer first while simultaneously racking up huge amounts of data to understand customer behavior. These touch points now extend to Alexa, Prime Video, and Amazon Go stores. They’ll also be in full effect for their first clothing brand, Find. Oh, and not to mention, they even have an entire jobs page dedicated to Customer Experience. Seriously.
Check our blog for some kick-ass ways brands are using AR & VR to dazzle customers.
The game has changed. It’s time to take an honest look at why and how brands interact with customers. For too long companies and agencies have focused on what consumers interact with – the content. Content is still (very) important. But it is no longer king. The audience is king, and context is everything. Technology continues to reduce the level of friction consumers will tolerate, just as the proliferation of media through that tech further fragments and fights for consumers’ attention. For brands to survive and thrive in the years to come, understanding your audience and reducing the friction at every point that connects with your brand is essential.
At Uptown Treehouse, we’ve developed a solution that focuses on creating a tailored, end-to-end customer experience that treats your audience like people, not stats. If you’re looking to earn attention and build stronger relationships with customers that produce longer-lasting ROI, then you may want to take a peek at CX Intelligence (CXI). You can learn more about CXI on our website or do some deeper reading on the subject via our blog.