There’s a power shift happening in the customer journey, wherein audiences rather than brands are in control. Brands are operating in an environment where trust in corporations, advertising, and political leaders is diminishing rapidly. This puts customers in the driver’s seat—giving them power over which brands sink or swim. Getting to the truth has never mattered more—and customer experiences may be the solution.
The Evolving Needs of Customers
Customers have access to more choices than ever before. Traditional marketing methods can be effective, but recent research has shown that consumers now desire more compelling experiences. A good example of this research is Salesforce’s “State of the Connected Customer” report, which found that 70% of consumers now claim that technology has made it easier than ever to take their business elsewhere—bouncing from brand to brand to find the experience that matches their expectations. To win back customers’ loyalty, a different approach is needed—one that helps you deliver on their needs and wants.
Effortless is Underrated
Many brands focus on random-act-of-kindness tactics that can be considered bribes—which can be seen as unauthentic. Expecting something in return is more of a transaction than a good deed.
Time and convenience are the ultimate luxuries. If you’re the easiest to do business with, you will make customers want to do more business with you. In the same Salesforce report, half of the consumers also said they are likely to switch brands if a company doesn’t anticipate their need. Valued brands will avoid boring and useless tasks and remove roadblocks on the path to purchase. Consumers also expect that when they come back to a business they will receive the same level of quality and experience as they did the first time. Worthwhile engagement is the goal, built on trust, consistency, and seamless experiences.
Cut Through the Jargon
Many brands that were once household names are now being challenged after becoming complacent in a fast-changing market. Today, brands need to be fully engaged and actively involved. Gathering data can help to understand customer language and learn how to better interact. The success factor lies in utilizing AI, analytics, and other technologies to help you listen to customers carefully so you can personalize your message to them. Marketers can incorporate all forms of data—including linguistic, visual, and numeric data sets.
Wherever there is a conversation, you can tie it to a potential customer experience. This includes social media, customer reviews, forums and communities, customer center calls, and emails. By discovering the “voice of the customer,” you can connect to them emotionally in a real, relevant way, and create the experience that they desire.
It’s Not Your Brand, It’s Your Behavior that Counts
It should be clear by now that marketers need to move from “selling things” to “creating experiences” for their audiences. This demands they earn trust and loyalty through behavior. Customers don’t want companies to hide the truth. Great brands are authentic, transparent, and aware of their customers’ needs. You don’t have to be perfect, just real.
For example, KFC recently handled an embarrassing situation–it ran out of chicken—with aplomb. The company turned a huge crisis into a positive by facing it head-on. While scrambling to get the situation under control, KFC made a public announcement in a full-page ad. The advertisement included a powerful image of an empty bucket of chicken lying on its side with a play on the letters KFC, and a sincere apology for being “a chicken restaurant without chicken.” Responses to the ad appeared largely positive and appreciative of the use of humor.
Building on that point, Patagonia, an outdoor retailer made a very public statement that “The president stole your land.” It was a bold move by the retailer but was quite contextually relevant to its target audience. Patagonia has long been an active participant in the fight to protect the environment. The campaign focused on the cause and not the brand—with no expectations of anything in return. They made it effortless for the audience to make their own statement with prewritten social media posts, hashtags, and illustrations of the monuments directed to the appropriate legislation contacts.
Is there an experience you could enable that you haven’t yet? If you can put your customers in control and deliver on their expectations, it’s a win-win. The wonderful thing about creating a branding experience is that it doesn’t have to be complicated. If anything, “quick and easy” will make customers feel valued and generate powerful emotional moments that can last a lifetime. By turning every customer journey touch point into an experience, you can earn a place in their hearts and minds.