Table of Contents
What is a brand experience?
What it is
Brand experiences are simply the experience that consumers receive and perceive when they interact with your company in any way during their consumer journey. (When they look up your website, purchase from you, contact customer support, and so on). Often, companies map out their consumer journeys to determine the exact steps users are taking to complete a variety of tasks. This allows them to make those experiences better and take advantage of the opportunities these journeys reveal.
The significance of brand experience
The brand experience has become a major focus of today's companies. It is commonly understood that now consumers not only buy products for the price, quality, or enjoyment of the product, but they also buy experiences they can identify and interact with. A company that can create an enjoyable, on-brand, and loyalty-inducing experience can keep customers even when competitors have superior pricing and product. Significantly, this means that consumers now are assuming the price of goods and services includes the experience and they are willing to pay more for the added value. However, it also means consumers are more motivated to go elsewhere when they've had a bad experience. Brand experience has begun to become as important as what you are actually selling.
Detecting problems in your brand experience
The most comprehensive way to detect issues inside of your brand experience is to map out your consumer's journeys. These can be difficult to map out because they require necessarily detailed data for an accurate evaluation of your processes. However, the process is made simpler by following a few written rules (down below).
Nothing is Perfect
You will never stop finding ways to improve your brand experience. Some company owners can become obsessed with perfecting their experiences. Generally, it is accepted that as long as your consumer journey is efficient, adds value, and is accessible, your consumer's brand experience will be good.
However, good doesn't necessarily cut it all the time. If you are struggling to retain consumer loyalty- the chances are that your brand experience isn't wrong, it can just be made better. For example, you can have a meeting in 15 minutes that covers everything you need to know about this client, their goals through your company, and their budget. That sounds great and user-centered. However, it would likely be even better if you could have them fill out a single form on their own time instead of asking them to schedule another 15 minutes of their day for you. If a change adds to the value of the brand's experience, is within your budget, or if the change maintains the same value and cuts expenses, you know it is the right call to make.
On the other hand, major problems with your brand experience are easy to find. In fact, you would know about them if you have any. Consumers complain about these openly and they're pretty obvious to your employees. Major problems would include experiences that cause:
wasting the user's time
However, if you really do want to find the changes that will make a big difference on a little budget, it is worth hiring a user testing professional to do user testing research on your consumer journey. Using data, analytics, science, and marketing knowledge, user testers are able to see even the smallest bumps in an otherwise smooth experience and suggest optimal solutions.
Balancing convenience with value
Adding more stuff doesn't mean it adds value
A consumer's journey is the best chance a company has to create a perception of added value for the consumer. However, it can be easy to get lost while trying to provide as much value as possible to your clients. If you are adding so much to your brand experience that it takes the consumer far longer to purchase something from you, perhaps you are neglecting one of the most valuable things in the Western world: time.
Respecting your consumer's time can be more valuable than adding personal, complimentary consultations or free samples. In fact, science shows us that a quick, uninterrupted path to purchasing products/services leads to the highest conversion rates. So, how do you add value without creating an inconvenience? It's in the details. (See below).
Work with the Most Efficient Process Possible
(Please note we are discussing that the purchasing journey, not necessarily the product and services you offer. For example, you may not want to rush a spa day service. However, you certainly want them to be able to purchase that spa day quickly and easily.)
Begin with making your process as efficient as possible to ensure you get rid of major time wasters. After that, you just fit value into what you already have and, occasionally, you may have room to add something not directly in line with the most efficient A to B pathing of your process since you have made it super-efficient anyways.
For example: sending an email to your clients so that they don't have to spend another 15 minutes on the phone isn't just more efficient, it gives them more value by giving them time. Additionally, linking all your materials in the email gives them more time, adding value. Using a friendly tone gives them a positive feeling and value without adding any extra time to your process. Attaching any relevant documents and specifying they are there for the user's convenience and that the user does not have to open these documents also adds the value of a complete package without adding time. All of these options still allow you to have efficient A to B pathing while adding value.
However, to be able to find the opportunities to add value, you should have a solid grasp of each step your consumers interact with your company. What steps decrease value? What steps will increase value? Would a different form of interaction work better here? Perhaps shortening the consumer's journey is necessary because it is clearly too long. All of these steps are opportunities to add value to your company. It's worth looking at what your consumer's journey is.
Brand alignment inside of the brand experience
Above all, your journey should align with the brand. Does the experience fit the feel, values, style, and priorities of your brand? Perhaps, if you are an expensive car dealership, you should have a classy waiting room with a waiter, Lazyboys, and free drinks of choice. But, if you are a second-hand car dealership, these elements in your user journey would be unnecessary and off-brand. Worse, if you were a luxury car dealer and your clients felt you were not treating them special and luxuriously, you are really off-brand.
Companies that value efficiency should have efficient processes. Companies that value luxury should have luxurious processes. Companies that value personalization should have highly personalized processes. It is simply really: Does your experience reflect your brand or not? If it does, your customers are more than likely going to be satisfied with the services provided.
The double-edged sword
It is important that you create your consumer's journey not only for consumers, but for employees, and your own company. Adding a single detail to an experience can create more responsibilities for the employees.
For example: Say you have added a form to your experience so that your client's information is readily available for reference. Well, now someone has to make the form and send the form. Perhaps you need to train your customer service staff for any questions that might arise from the form. If the form doesn't automatically update to your database, someone has to manually punch the information in and double-check that it has been inputted properly. If the form does automatically upload to the database, your maintenance crew needs to add protocols to ensure that the forms are properly uploaded to the database at all times. This goes on and on.
You can begin to see how a change to your brand experience causes a chain reaction, especially if you have a larger company. Does this mean you shouldn't change it? No, it simply is another factor to be taken into consideration before you decide. Processes should always be fine-tuned but be prepared for the changes, don't just implement them.
More sophisticated companies will often look at their user journey from all angles (the consumer, the brand, and the employees) and then find solutions that add value for all involved. While it may take some extra time, it certainly can be worth it. Cutting costs while increasing value for the consumer. This can get more difficult to do. Normally, a user tester becomes phenomenally useful at this point. Their expertise can be a very powerful thing and less expensive than trial and error methods.
In the end, the brand's experience matters. It can add or take away value that is perceived to be very real to your consumer's subconscious. If you neglect it, the experiences you are having might even take away from your company's value. But, if you take the time to go over your experiences and add value where you can: it will always pay off.