When creating a brand strategy the competitive landscape audit is an essential part of the process. You must know your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses, and understand consumer perceptions in order to effectively differentiate your brand and create a compelling brand experience. A competitive audit of your immediate competitors only tells half the story.
Your Real Competition Is The Last Best Brand Experience Your Customer Had
While your customers will always compare your products and services to your direct competitors, they’re also constantly comparing the experience they’re having with you to something else: the brand experiences they’re having in other parts of their lives. Or, as Paul Papas from IBM Interactive Experience once said: “The last best experience that anyone has anywhere becomes the minimum expectation for the experiences they want everywhere.”
It can be argued that this has always been true, but in recent years, technology, advances in logistics, and the ability to craft increasingly more personalized, relevant, and need-predictive brand experiences has raised the bar on what defines a ‘great customer experience.’
It’s Not A Single Facet Of The Experience—It’s Multiple Facets
Here’s an example that may resonate with anyone who has raised children over the last couple of decades. The other day I walked into my kitchen to find my normally even-tempered college-aged daughter glaring at her laptop.
Attempting to lighten the mood I asked: “What’s up?”
She replied: “Remember that field bag I bought online? The one that took over two weeks to arrive? It’s fine, but they sent the wrong size and it took me half an hour on the chat bot to get them to issue me a return authorization. Now I have to print the label AND pay for the return. Can you believe anyone still does business that way? I’ll never buy anything from them again.”
In her (and perhaps my) defense, she is not spoiled or high-maintenance, but she is a Digital Native. She expects the brands she chooses to ship as quickly as Amazon, deliver Zappos-level customer service, and create products that are as easy and intuitive to use as Apple’s are.
The younger generation not only expects more online, they also expect excellent brand experiences in-store. And these expectations aren’t limited to a single generation. Gladly’s 2021 customer expectations report found that 63% of consumers fall in love with brands because of great service; 62% will recommend a brand because of great service, and 45% will never shop with a brand again after two bad service experiences.
Customer Experience Is On The CMO’s Radar
Today’s CMOs are well aware that customer experience is a critical differentiator: 75.3% of all CMOs surveyed in the 2021 CMO Survey ranked ‘Strong Customer Experience’ as one of their top three investment priorities for 2021.
How can CMOs and their teams influence customer experience? Here are some suggestions to get you started:
Map Every Touchpoint
Build a 360° map to identify where your customer interacts with your brand. Include every step of the customer journey, from awareness, to consideration, purchase, billing, delivery, installation or first usage, ongoing usage and maintenance, independent troubleshooting or problem solving, and live support. Next, determine where the most important interaction points are along the customer journey. Focus there first.
Compare And Apply What You Learn
As previously mentioned, your brand’s competition isn’t your direct set of competitors—it’s the last best brand experience your customer had. This is beginning to emerge in the consumer health care market. One Medical realized that individuals in urban areas had come to expect a higher level of service than was being offered by traditional medical groups. In response, One Medical implemented online appointments (possible inspiration: Open Table; Apple Genius Bar Reservations); the ability to have an online dialogue with one’s medical team via email, etc. The net result: One Medical patients were overwhelmingly more likely to stick with One Medical, and recommend the service to their friends.
Question…Innovate…Challenge The Status Quo
Look for opportunities within your industry to disrupt the status quo when it comes to the expected experience. Case in point: Alamo Drafthouse movie theaters. If you’re unfamiliar, Alamo Drafthouse provides a premium movie experience: reserved seats, tasty food, drinks delivered to your seat. It’s an experience designed to appeal to people who were frustrated with the status quo movie experience (bad food, uncertain seating)—and in doing so, Alamo created a new standard for the urban movie-goer. This is but one example of how a company looked at what was missing, and subsequently attracted fierce brand loyalists!
If you’d like to chat more about our approach to creating brands and customer experiences, please reach out. Emotive is an Oakland-based brand strategy and design studio.