Ladies love Louis Vuitton, especially in Asia. However, based on my informal surveys by asking the audience when I conduct training and conference in US and Asia, most say they don’t enjoy, some even say hate, the shopping experience at LV retail stores. Though no one would deny that Louis Vuitton is a successful brand, it doesn’t seem that a good retail experience is being delivered. Yet, I’d argue that the bad retail experience is consistent and synchronized with all other touch-points in delivering the unique brand values to target customers, or simply put, an effective experience.
An effective experience fulfills two conditions: it creates positive emotions and memories to target customers; and, at the same time, it delivers target brand values.
To illustrate my idea, and for simplicity’s sake, let’s draw a stripped-down version of an Emotion Curve* for a Louis Vuitton retail store (Figure 1) featuring only five sub-processes—from entering to exiting the store. The sub-processes are ‘store outlook and interior decoration’, ‘product’, ‘price’, ‘service’, and ‘feeling of prestige.’ Louis Vuitton does an excellent job in advertising, public relations and celebrity events to create their luxurious and exclusive image, and the actual experience with store outlook and interior decoration, product and prestige feeling are synchronized with customer expectations and echoed through Louis Vuitton’s brand values**.
What is the ‘pain point’ at Louis Vuitton retail stores? Besides price, from the responses I received, it’s the ‘attitude’ of the salesladies—unless you’re a celebrity or dress and look like a ‘rich’ person—they usually ignore you. I’ve been told this is a consistent experience across the globe, not country or region specific. However, the pleasure peak is projected at ‘prestige feeling’, part of this feeling could be constituted by observing how the rich & famous are being served and how the normal customers are being ignored inside the store. None of us like to be ignored, but since the pain is so intense—the way we are treated is one of our critical needs—it’s strong enough to trigger our Psychological Immune System to rationalize our suffering for something of great value.
Kahemann’s Peak-End Rule told us we could remember only the peak and end moments during an experience. Though we’re suffering from being ignored, our pleasure peak is at the feeling of prestige; one of the most critical needs of Louis Vuitton target customers. This feeling is the key brand value—the Effective Memories of a Louis Vuitton retail experience are highly positive both to customers and to the brand. In this sense, Louis Vuitton is delivering an effective experience.
Most customer process cycles can be divided into three stages: prospecting, buying, and consuming. Again, for simplicity’s sake, we will simply locate the key touch-points in Louis Vuitton’s case, i.e. advertising, public relations, celebrity events, website, retail stores, products, and call center. We will assume marketing communications and product have done a great job in generating positive emotions, while website and call center are relatively weak. When we match the emotional feelings at each touch-point, we can derive an emotion curve for multiple touch-points as in Figure 2.
With Figure 1 and 2 showing the emotions curves of single and multiple touch-points respectively, we may think we’ve grasped a general idea of how well we’re performing in terms of delivering effective experience to our target customers. However, without taking into consideration ‘Importance‘ and ‘Brand Values‘, we may be misled by the X-VOC data or by people gaming the system in their self-interest.
Not every customer is equally important to you. Similarly, not every touch-point is equally important to your customers and to your brand. Thus, deriving the importance of touch-points (either stated by customers or implied by correlation or regression analysis) is necessary to justify and optimize resource allocation amongst multiple touch-points.
I believe most of us are familiar with the Importance-Satisfaction Quadrant Chart. The general idea is to maintain those attributes with high importance and high satisfaction, improve those with high importance but low satisfaction, spend less on those with low importance but high satisfaction, and minimize those with low importance and low satisfaction. It sounds logical . . . but it can be wrong.
If you survey the customers of Southwest, Amazon and Ikea, they will probably tell you these companies can improve by serving meals and movies or offering help-desks and reducing DIY tasks, all are critical needs (high importance) and yet poorly-performed (low satisfaction). Should these companies listen to their customers about such improvements, they’d no longer be the great brands they are today. Actually, they do listen. They listen carefully and perform superbly by focusing all their resources and energies on a limited few critical needs of their target customers—which are and should be identical to their target brand values—then they relax their approach to other needs or even Let Their Customers Suffer.
Figure 3 shows the projected positions of various touch-points based on the Branded Experience Index (BEI) and Customer Experience Index (CEI). The BEI and CEI are generated by aggregating the weighted ratings of the emotional feeling at the peak and end experiences (the effective memories) to brand and to customers respectively. There are three experience regions—Branded, Non-Branded and Un-Branded—each represents different degrees of experience effectiveness. Each touch-point is denoted graphically in circle with its size reflecting the degree of importance.
Customers may feel very positively toward your company but not relate to your brand unless you’re delivering your target brand values at the customer experience. This is the foundation of brand loyalty. On the other hand, customers won’t be attracted if the experience is solely working for the brand’s interest. If a touch-point is located towards more to the left (or to the right) of the diagonal (dotted line), it implies it’s too brand-centric and not taking enough care of customers and vice versa. The best scenario is to locate along the diagonal. Under the constraint of limited resources facing by all companies, and to ensure the delivery of consistent, positive and branded experiences, the ideal strategy is to locate the more important touch-points (bigger circles) in the Branded Experience Region; the less important ones (smaller circles) at Non-Branded Experience Region; and under no circumstance should you allow any of your touch-points to fall into the Un-Branded Experience Region.
By doing this, you are optimizing resource allocation, maximizing customer satisfaction and brand impact, in short, delivering effective experience.
*Emotion Curve is invented and first put into applications by Mr. Sampson Lee, president of G-CEM, in 2006. It is one of the experience assessment and management tools of the U.S. patent-pending Branded Customer Experience Management Method registered by G-CEM. Emotion Curve maps the customer emotions generated at each touch-point or sub-process, and links them to form a curve in reflecting the perceived experience across the entire customer lifecycle (covers all touch-points at stages of pre-purchase, at-purchase, and post-purchase), or at a specific touch-point (e.g. retail, call center, website, etc.). Unlike the conventional approaches focus on enhancing efficiency and are process-centric; emotion curve represents the genuine customer feeling by addressing emotions and five senses, in a natural time sequence from an experience perspective. It is a truly [customer-centric] experience assessment and management method. The statistic data of emotion curve is derived through substantial X-VOC surveys, from the experience ratings on each touch-point or sub-process, evaluated by different target customer segments. The definition and selection criteria of touch-points and sub-processes are based on vigorous and scientific research, method, and sequential steps. An Emotion Curve shows how customers perceive experience. It is an innovative and powerful tool for creating a branded customer experience strategy. Furthermore, through a simple curve, from CEO to receptionist, no matter in boardroom or post room, all people in a company could easily understand and communicate the customer experience levels, by using a common graphical language.
**Louis Vuitton’s chief executive Yves Carcelles once said: “Our brand is about reliability, quality, style, innovation and authenticity.” But that may not complete, according to Richard Wachman of London’s The Observer: “Louis Vuitton is also selling a certain idea of France… a brand that represents a mythical France, one of which neither the French nor the outside world can get enough.” In short, the essence of a luxury good is its exclusivity, i.e. not everyone can afford it, only a small group of people can enjoy it, and Louis Vuitton pushes exclusivity to the extreme.