Digital is forcing brands everywhere to rethink how they do business. Across industries, one thing remains the same – the experience must be centered around the customer. Brands can no longer afford to deliver siloed experiences around web, mobile, or brick-and-mortar – it is vital that they address the entire customer journey, across channels. Part of the challenge is taking into account the plethora of different device platforms and varying customer demographics while optimizing experiences on a consistent basis.
Customers that fall into the category of Gen Z (those born after 1995), for example, will usher in a big shift for brands ‒ a much larger demographic of people will be fondly attached to their smartphones, overly familiar with social sharing and extremely digitally savvy. At the same time, brands will encounter the challenges of catering to older demographics, parents and kids.
Is it possible to earn customer loyalty and create a seamless user experience for everyone? From my perspective, here are three brands that are nailing it ‒ and why.
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Knowledge is power: Understand the user and how they want to engage
Getting direct feedback from users is the most effective way brands can gauge interactions in the real-world, and better understand the totality of customer needs. What channels do customers prefer? When do they use them? Why do they use these channels? These questions are becoming critical ‒ more than ever before. At the core of this understanding is the target audience, and what their priorities are.
Consider the retail industry ‒ TJ Maxx compared to Michael Kors. To an untrained eye, both offer women’s and men’s clothing, bags and accessories, and would appear to have similar websites. However, the two brands seek to attract a very different target customer, and from beginning to end, they cater specifically to those users.
These different strategic approaches can be observed both in-store and online. With numerous racks of different items and the tagline “Discover a stylish selection of the latest brand name and designer fashions all at a great value,” TJ Maxx seeks to attract a bargain shopping customer who appreciates good value. Alternatively, Michael Kors offers “Lifestyle for the consummate jet setter that is as sophisticated as it is indulgent and as glamorous as it is modern,” catering to more of an audience whose primary goal is to wear modern fashion for the season, despite the cost.
Understanding the user helps brands cater to their particular needs, but that won’t happen in a lab environment or through marketing test groups. I believe there is massive potential for brands to connect with their target audience and today, most brands aren’t taking the right steps to get there.
Focus on the experience: Digital innovation can be a force multiplier
It may come as no surprise that good experiences are key to the success of a brand. However, even more successful brands innovate around those experiences; and find ways through digital to amplify it.
Take Disney World ‒ “the most magical place on earth” ‒ that has created a captivating journey for all ages and experiences, with an innovative digital experience at its core. The MagicBand accessory and the associated online platform, MyMagicPlus, is a brilliant cross-channel way to cater to all audiences. With it, children can easily swipe onto rides, parents can plan and personalize their time at the park and park-goers can reserve a meal or order food in advance, all while Disney is able to pinpoint their location at all times. To be fair, Disney has the benefit of larger-than-life movie characters, but they are a great example of a multi-pronged approach that is all-digital, and all about experience.
Brands like Disney don’t consider a one-size-fits-all approach when mapping out the customer journey through digital. Customers know and expect Disney to have a quality and flawless user experience ‒ and that’s simply why it works.
Dare to be different: Earn customer loyalty by delighting them
Of course, not every brand has the ability to create such an experiential empire like Disney. But, today, brands aren’t even close to delighting their customers along the journey ‒ the reality is that the basics of digital don’t work.
A recent report on Business Insider reveals U.S. online shoppers often abandon their carts during the payment phase, on both desktop and mobile platforms. The reason? Friction and lack of usability, leading to cart abandonment. Brands can have a direct impact on retaining customers through the basics, so what if brands went the extra mile? It all starts by thinking about how to not only solve these friction issues, but also create an exciting, one-of-a-kind user experience.
Consider Amazon, a brand that has extended their on-demand, personalized and seamless customer experience across many platforms. Through Amazon Prime, Amazon Fresh, PrimeNow and others, the company redefines what an excellent shopping experience should be again and again. In his annual letter to shareholders, Jeff Bezos explains why Amazon continues to be so successful: “Our focus is on customer obsession rather than competitor obsession, eagerness to invent and pioneer, willingness to fail, the patience to think long-term, and the taking of professional pride in operational excellence.”
Even when they don’t yet know it, customers are looking for the next best thing. To delight customers, brands must be leading edge on their behalf. Offering little “extras”‒ whether that’s free two-day shipping, or one-click checkout ‒ is what helps the consumer see just how indispensable that brand is.
Ultimately, brands today ‒ regardless of size or audience ‒ are rethinking how they present themselves to customers, considering the interactions a customer has from beginning to end. At the forefront of this restructuring is a focus on an intuitive, pleasing and clear user experience. Feedback must be built into the development lifecycle and constantly evolving to stay ahead of consumer requirements, then beyond.