True customer loyalty, much like any relationships is built on trust and when it comes to brand, trust is only gained from great brand experiences.
Everyone is familiar with the phrase, ‘the customer is always right’ and although an argument can be made for both sides, the reality remains the same. A customer’s insight is invaluable and that’s why every element of the ecosystem that makes up the brand experience needs to be customer centric, which means thinking about the customer in everything that you do.
Customer centric not business centric
Many people have a different interpretation of what brand experience is or should be. Whether you are a business owner, marketer or advocate for a brand, it is easy to assume the reasons why people choose your product or service and subsequently assume they are receiving a positive brand experience.
We often find ourselves getting caught up in our business strategies, schedules and plans that we sometimes forget to appreciate what people actually want or expect from these experiences. To avoid this from happening, I think one of best methods is to think of brand experience as an ecosystem that surrounds a brand and that every element within that ecosystem has a part to play in encouraging customer loyalty.
The ecosystem that surrounds a brand can be described using the following 7 Ps of the extended marketing mix:
Product – The product or service offering needs to be relevant to the consumer and most importantly, match what they expect.
Place – Whether the store is on the high street or online, the location should be ideal and conveniently located for the consumer.
Price – The price should take the target audience into account and should be perceived as value for money, regardless of the expense of the product or service.
Promotion – Advertising and promotion need to be consistent and communicated via the most relevant channels for the consumer, such as social media or email.
People – Every person that represents the brand, from the admin assistant through to the Managing Director needs to be the right fit.
Process – The process, from the consumer finding the store to receiving the product or service needs to be as streamlined as possible.
Physical Evidence – The consumer needs to see tangible evidence of their purchase, whether it’s the physical product or the end result of a service.
If each element of the marketing mix is carefully considered and executed effectively, then customers are more likely to have a positive brand experience, which strengthens customer loyalty.
A demonstration of the ecosystem
About five years ago, I stepped into a Hotel Chocolat store for the first time. The first thing that I noticed was the elegant black and white signage, banners and packaging that surrounded the store.
Surrounded by the aroma of chocolate, I looked around at the product range and soon realised that each selection was well-designed, unique and incredibly creative. In the next instance, an employee approached me with a tray of chocolates and asked me whether I wanted to try one of their new creations and proceeded to tell me what it contained.
For me, the luxury element of the store justified the pricing, but the free sample removed any dwindling reservations I may have had. I thought the sample was a nice touch and later discovered that they did this for every customer that entered the store. I reserved a pack of the chocolate that I tasted, and the employee informed me that it would be ready for me at the till when I had finished looking around.
I ultimately had a very positive brand experience at the store and within a very short space of time. The result is that I have made many purchases since my first visit and have told this story over a dozen times over the course of five years. They made me an advocate for the brand, and we all know how valuable word of mouth can be.
This positive brand experience shapes what we do at Hotbox. We are looking forward to opening our first Hotbox Hub in London this month which will showcase our brand values and allow you to experience our brand at first hand.