What do you get when you add memorable emotions and sensations to the Customer Experience? The Brand Experience is one of the most important levers in marketing that a brand has at its disposal to involve and attract its customers. Provided it’s done in the right way.
When it comes to marketing, you can’t ignore the Brand Experience.
Brand experience, Customer Experience, Customer Retention, User Experience: these are just a few examples of the expressions that every “marketer” must know, especially in the era of digital transformation. After all, it is starting from digital transformation that many brands have begun to realize how important it is to put the customer back at the center of their business, radically rethinking the type of experience that they will offer customers.
On closer inspection, in fact, what a consumer buys is as relevant as the way they buy. As we will see later, the two things are often related and one aspect is able to influence the other. After all, it is also based on the specific Customer Experience offered that a consumer decides to buy one product over another.
But that’s not all. There are other levers that act on the individual and influence their choices between two products: one of these is the Brand Experience.
However, even before going into the subject, one thing must be made clear: Customer Experience and Brand Experience are not the same thing, even if one is in a certain sense the premise of the other but let’s go in order.
The Customer Experience
The term Customer Experience means “the sum of the experiences, emotions and memories that a customer has gained in his interaction with the company in all phases of the customer journey. It is the result of how the customer perceives his overall interaction with the company.” (glossariomarketing.it).
According to Professor Bernd Schmitt, each type of experience offered by the company involves the customer in five different ways, involving five specific sensory areas:
- sense, stimulating sensory perception;
- feel, involving feelings and emotions;
- think, stressing cognitive learning processes;
- act, pushing the consumer to take certain behaviors;
- relate, based on social interactions and relationships.
A single product experience, if well done, is able to cover all these areas and to satisfy the customer from different points of view.
The benefits of the Customer Experience
Satisfying a customer always brings considerable advantages to the company.
A satisfied customer is a more profitable customer for the business. In fact, there is a link between Customer Experience and retention (business2community.com). If the experience has been positive, every consumer tends to repeat it and each time, they are more likely to purchase again. Among other things, a satisfied customer is also willing to pay up to 16% more than the basic price, being more willing to make more frequent and expensive purchases than a new customer.
The second advantage is that an excellent Customer Experience represents a competitive advantage for the company, since it is able to make its product stand out compared to that of competitors, thus making it more desirable. This happens because the consumer usually tends to associate the characteristics of the Customer Experience with the product he or she is going to purchase: consequently, the more positive the purchase experience, the better the customer’s perception of the product.
Another advantage in terms of perception is the way consumers perceive a company, which largely depends on the type of shopping experience offered to them. In this sense, it is important that they feel at the center of the Customer Experience, have the impression that they can play an active role within it and feel that they are experiencing something unique and designed specifically for them.
It is no coincidence that personalization is one of the main pillars on which many companies are building their purchasing experience: by putting the consumer at the center, the customer experience becomes more relevant and, consequently, so does the company.
From Customer Experience to Brand Experience
These aspects concern the most rational and functional component of the customer experience, which therefore meets the “pragmatic” needs of each consumer. Not surprisingly, an integral part of the Customer Experience is customer care, i.e. the help and assistance service offered to customers before, during, and after the purchase of a product.
However, although a shopping experience can be conceived in a practical and effective way, to become truly relevant and memorable, it certainly cannot stop there. It is necessary, in fact, to also touch the emotional part, to move the irrational part of each consumer, which represents a formidable engine of choice.
It is precisely at this moment that the Brand Experience marketing comes into play.
A game of emotions
When a company succeeds in integrating purely functional aspects with more emotional ones, then from customer experience turns into a brand experience.
After all, it is only with a correctly constructed brand experience that one can really transmit corporate values, so that they are made evident and, in some way, internalized by the consumers themselves, who will decide to buy not only because of the product characteristics, but also because of what that product represents or how it makes them feel.
On the other hand, when making a purchase, a customer doesn’t just seek to immediately satisfy his practical needs, he expects something more. If all phones now allow you to communicate, take pictures, and surf the Internet, why do most people prefer to buy an iPhone? If you only need a T-shirt and a pair of tennis shoes to play sports, why do people turn to Nike before they get started? Why for an important event, would people turn to Giorgio Armani or Salvatore Ferragamo for their outfit?
The examples are endless, and they all lead to the same point: if the technical characteristics make you choose a product, then it is the emotions and feelings that the brand conveys that make you buy it.
It is a matter of priority
This is quite understandable if you look at Maslow’s pyramid, also known as the “Pyramid of Needs,” which shows the hierarchy of different needs that push man to act and progress.
At the base of the pyramid there are the most elementary needs, those that are easier to satisfy. Precisely their satisfaction is the necessary condition that pushes men to pursue a new, more sophisticated need.
This is further accentuated by the digital transformation that has undoubtedly increased the expectations of consumers, who have become even more demanding about what they are looking for and what they want.
Also for this reason, the classic forms of advertising are no longer sufficient to reach customers, excite them, and ensure relevance so that they stand out from competitors. In this sense, building an effective Brand Experience is the only strategic marketing approach that can be chosen and that really guarantees results.
But what characteristics must a successful Brand Experience have?
The six pillars
A 2017 KPMG report tried to answer this question, analyzing 2,500 consumers of more than 140 national and international brands (kdocs.kpmg.it).
What emerged was that, in order to have a meaningful and memorable brand experience for customers, you need these six features:
- personalization: if the brand offers a unique experience for each customer, it is easier to create a strong and lasting bond with them;
- integrity: It is essential that consumers feel confident in trusting the brand, as it appears credible and trustworthy;
- expectations: to create a meaningful Brand Experience, the company must take into account the customer’s expectations and at the same time it must feed new ones (which it obviously knows it can satisfy);
- resolution: Even the simplest experiences provided by the brand must appear accessible, relevant, and memorable;
- time and commitment: the consumer must have the clear feeling that his time for the brand has value and that therefore when he decides to spend it with the brand, the brand will ensure that its processes are simple, fast, and without waste or repeated actions;
- empathy: a brand must understand and know the expectations and feelings of a customer in order to create a deep relationship with them.
Obviously, aligning all these characteristics is not easy, so each brand must carefully design its strategy, exploiting its physical assets as much as new digital solutions.
Starting from digital solutions, the technological innovation of these years has not only increased consumer expectations, but has also given companies the opportunity to use new means to enrich the brand experience offered.
Many companies have used the most innovative solutions guaranteed by digital technologies to enrich the experience offered to their customers, making it unique and desirable.
For example, Nike has been able to build one of the best brand experiences in the world. Using the tools of digital transformation, Nike has transformed some of its stores into points of purchase with a strong emotional charge.
An example is the store in Soho, which thanks to digital technology, is able to offer an engaging and memorable experience to all consumers. Those who come in know that they will not simply buy a pair of shoes, but rather immerse themselves in the world of Nike (futurestores.wbresearch.com).
For example, the customer will have the opportunity to personalize their sneakers, just like all the great sports champions; they will be able to access special digital content by framing some specific images with their smartphone; they will even have the opportunity to try the shoes they have chosen inside a real basketball court and read all the statistics related to their performance. In other words, everything that can be done inside the store, from trying on the shoes to the purchase, conveys Nike’s values, makes them tangible, and brings them to life for every customer, who finds himself at the center of a brand experience capable of harmoniously combining physical components with digital components.
The physical tools
Although Nike’s brand experience is at the forefront, since it fits perfectly into the new category of phygital, it is possible to be equally effective in engaging consumers emotionally, even if only by exploiting the characteristics of one’s own physical stores.
This is what happens, for example, in Apple stores, where every piece of furniture is designed to convey the brand’s values.
The simple and pragmatic displays, the design locations often in strategic and exclusive points of the city, the minimal and hyper modern architecture: all this amplifies the brand values — essentiality, design, creativity, innovation — and, consequently, the product that users will buy.
When the Brand Experience becomes a campaign
Among other things, Apple Stores have been the center of a particularly successful campaign called “Today at Apple”, which has transformed all Apple stores around the world into creative hubs where events, courses, and lectures are hosted. In this way, the store has become a multifunctional place where consumers can learn, get excited, and create: actions that, on closer inspection, summarize the storytelling developed by the company in recent years and that contribute to enhance its image in the eyes of customers, who in these moments, almost forget they are in a store that sells earbuds and smartphones.
However, Apple is not the only company to have created innovative advertising campaigns to highlight brand values by creating memorable experiences. Vans, Netflix, and Desperados are just a few examples of brands that have understood that the brand experience can be strengthened and brought to life through special events, perhaps of limited duration, but with great impact on customers.
Whether it is the reproduction of a diner from a famous TV show or the creation of a fully customizable digital event, all these events work exactly in the direction indicated above, i.e. involving the user in an experience that makes the product and the world of values and emotions that it implies.
In this way, the customer gets to adhere to the proposition of the brand, to the point that he chooses to buy certain products for what they represent, for the lifestyle with which they are associated, and the customer becomes an ambassador.
And through the customer, the Brand Experience continues.