What is Brand Experience Design?
It’s no secret that the nature of B2C business has changed in recent years. Not least because of the pandemic, which expedited the global shift away from brick-and-mortar to E-commerce and digital storefronts. But, the reality is: this trend isn’t anything new.
Modern consumers have more options and choices than ever before, and the cost of shifting to alternative providers has never been lower. From this, comes one universal truth; for as long as businesses have needed to adapt to their buyers’ needs for net-new business, they’ve also needed to do it to retain their customers.
Today, businesses need to be more tuned in to how their prospects are feeling. They need to be well-equipped to act on buyer feedback, responding well to what they expect, and how they want it.
According to a recent study by Forrester, just 39% of business decision-makers say their brand effectively resonates with prospective buyers. If customers can’t connect with your brand, or if your brand doesn’t evoke positive thoughts, reactions and emotions, you’re far less likely to retain them.
In order to retain customers and continually reap the benefits of consistent retention, business leaders are turning to brand experience design and management – which, According to Forbes, is the believed differentiator for 70% of organizations when it comes to brand awareness.
In this blog, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about designed brand experience, and how it can play a role in your business’ successes moving forward.
What is Brand Experience?
Brand experience is a holistic, emotional connection between a business and its people. It’s better described as a tangible, sensory impression that customers and employees share with your brand, including thoughts, feelings, perceptions and reactions to everything released under the business’ name.
Experience typically combines elements of user experience, customer experience, employee engagement and brand identity – all rolled into one. It encompasses all the connections customers have before, during and after interaction with your brand. In the long-term, it’s an emotional connection built with consumers over a prolonged period, through product quality, perception or any other lasting impression.
Modern businesses rely on every customer touchpoint to develop a convincing brand experience. Whether online, in-store, through digital marketing campaigns or else. The journey may differ from customer-to-customer but the designed experience should stay the same – or at the very least, have the same objective: to create memorable, engaging interactions that lead to conversion and customer loyalty. Whatever that may look like for the business in question.
It’s equally important to note that brand experience is a diverse concept. While the intended outcomes may be similar, the “designed experience” will vary from business to business. It’s the nature of the buyer to be subjective. Individual people will always respond differently to your efforts. In theory, this means that no matter how carefully curated your brand experience is, there will always be customers who respond negatively. Therefore, brand experience should be seen less as a “universal experience” and more of an experience that resonates positively with the intended audience.
Why is Brand Experience Design Important?
Brand experience design is important because it facilitates conversions and consequently, long-term relationships with consumers. Positive experiences provoke deeper connections, stronger influence and advocacy, inspiring satisfied customers to share experiences and spread one of the most influential forms of promotion: word of mouth.
Consistency is the foundation to strong brand experience – the most valuable brands in the world know this. Brand experience can’t be all things to all people. Attempts to capture every prospect or buyer will ultimately be unfruitful, and undermine specific, niche elements that loyal customers favour. Historically, brands have indirectly taken the approach of “sell and forget”. A product or service was sold, the customer walked out of the door and the relationship between business and consumer was all but tied up. Today, most modern brands aim instead for continuous engagement with their audiences. Brand loyalty is critical to business growth – and this is more apparent than ever.
People remember how you make them feel. Orchestrating a chosen brand identity and message creates a sense of appeal, from which comes a customer expectation. That expectation is tied to business success; it’s the reason why that specific customer has chosen to invest their time, effort and potentially, hard-earned income, into your business.
The importance here is in the alignment. When your brand experience satisfies what the customer expects – whether through promotions, marketing, advertising or even their own presumptions – you create something memorable that will perpetuate positive emotions, engagement and potential advocacy from your buyer. That initial experience – and then the consequential repeat experiences are what build brand loyalty.
Therefore, by investing in brand experience, businesses create long-term qualitative and quantitative returns, with huge potential in terms of additional revenue, stronger brand resonance and customer satisfaction.
How do you Create Brand Experience?
Creating a convincing brand experience isn’t a simple plug-and-play task. It takes genuine strategy, preparation and critical thinking to understand how key audiences need, want and expect to be engaged with, and how this aligns with a business’ KPIs and financial metrics.
Now more than ever, people expect personality. Neutrality is rarely enough to induce engaging interactions. Equally, neutral impressions are just as problematic as negative impressions. If a customer is driven-away from your brand without showing any clear incentive, there’s next to no problem identification available.
Understand your Audience
As brands create new, or pivot their existing customer acquisition and retention strategies, they need to be more tuned in to their audiences. To bring substance to brand experience, business leaders have to walk in the shoes of their customers – but the truth is, many individuals at the C-Level aren’t even representative of a typical customer.
Nonetheless, these leaders have an obligation to do what’s necessary to truly understand the individuals they are trying to reach, and then understand what that audience truly needs. There are many market research methodologies that are supporting brands in doing so, from focus groups, customer intercepts to quantitative surveying.
Though, as established previously, brand experience can’t be all things to all people. Attempts to capture every customer in every situation is likely to engage far fewer and directly hinder experience-driven efforts. Make your experience efforts targeted, specific and direct over a one-size-fits-all approach.
To ascertain the target audience, a few helpful questions could be:
- What are your customers’ interests?
- What are their demographics?
- What experiences work for them?
Train your People and Encourage Participation
Businesses have a responsibility to prepare brand experience at all given touchpoints. Today, there are no bounds to where experience (or promotion) starts for the consumer. It may happen online. It may happen in a brick and mortar store. It may happen over the phone. All of these touchpoints are moments of truth for your buyer.
Brand experience starts at all-levels; from the C-Level to all of the frontline personnel.. The individual on the end of that touchpoint, now carries the weight of the intended brand experience on their shoulders – and the responsibility to take the opportunity, satisfy the need in front of them and drive a conversion. Employees need to be well-equipped with an understanding of the intended experience, in order to deliver a service that aligns with brand expectations. It’s equally important to reward, or at the bare minimum, recognize good and above-average performance. Only then can you see them as expectations.
Businesses should ensure to include knowledge transfer as part of their training that aligns with the promoted value proposition. That associate needs to be armed with the necessary insight, tools and information to drive experience alignment within their own piece of the puzzle, whether that’s a sales call, face-to-face interaction or even day-to-day advocacy. If the alignment is satisfied, there inlies the opportunity for conversion or prolonged relationship with a customer.
Measure Results and Capture Data at Every Touchpoint
Most organizations rely on data gathered on an ad-hoc basis that is outdated and irrelevant by the time they’re using it to make decisions. As markets move quickly and every industry has potential for various forms of competitive disruption, organizations need real-time, experience data to keep up with (and stay ahead of) the pace. Experience data – how your customers are feeling about your products and services in the moment – is what enables business leaders to get a real-time understanding of where their experience gaps are.
Identifying these experience gaps and understanding experience options or possibilities is the first step to improving brand differentiation. Yet more than 40% of business leaders say they are missing real-time experience data as part of their brand strategy, which is one of the biggest challenges in helping organizations create meaningful change.
Experience data (employee engagement data or customer experience data) helps leaders to identify gaps in their customer touchpoints. While there’s no prescribed metric, experience data should quantify how customers are feeling about products and services in the moment, creating a stronger understanding of where alignment, effort and resources should be prioritized. Identifying these gaps enables leaders to create more informed brand experience decisions that inspire meaningful change – rather than those rooted in guesswork, or what at best may be informed assumptions.
In order for businesses to truly listen to their customers, they need to have systems in place to capture the data across multiple touchpoints in the customer journey, and then efficiently understand the trends and behaviours that it signals. Typically, this will take the form of a post-conversion survey such as Net Promoter Score.
The challenge with numerical results like NPS is that organizations create accountability to a resulting score. It’s not the score that businesses should be chasing; it’s the impact of the score on the key performance indicators that are driving business.
Typically, store managers are held to account over their experience scores, and therein lies a mistake. The end-result is the measuring being seen as an exercise – rather than a direct business related activity. How do I make the score go higher? What does that include? This line of questioning should be taken seriously across the entirety of the brand – measuring every element in the customer journey, rather than just a sole member of the organization.
Looking to understand, improve or quantify brand experience? Service Evaluation Concepts can help. Our multi-national services support organizations in measuring, analyzing and refocusing what they expect from their designed brand experience.
Providing powerful and effective tools and resources, our custom-built solutions enable our partners to inspect, measure and analyze the designed human experience of their brands, in-line with their expectations across multiple channels, policies and geographical locations.
CEO & Managing Director of Service Evaluation Concepts. Dedicated to driving brand experience forward with the tools that ensure the reality in the the customer corridor is aligned with the promoted brand value proposition.