The internet has changed the way consumers engage with brands. In today’s digital world, a brand experience is the most powerful way to attract, influence and offer customers something unique. Managing Director of Brand Dimensions Kris Willand shares his thoughts.
Consumers are increasingly turning to the internet to complete the research and browsing phase of their shopping cycle.
Being promptly connected to the web means people can browse products and services at their leisure – on their laptop in the comfort of their own home, via their smartphone while on the go or on a tablet during their commute home on the train. They no longer need to visit a physical store to peruse items of interest.
And while a lot of consumers are also going online to make purchases, it doesn’t mean brands have lost the opportunity to connect with their customers in person.
Brands can engage through live events and experiences in ways that the internet will never be able to.
Experiences offer customers meaningful encounters with brands and puts the focus on the way people feel and interact. This level of engagement triggers a genuine connection to a brand, generating long-lasting loyalty and association of a product or service.
Brand experiences are personal
Beyond offering an interactive or intimate atmosphere, brand experiences give customers the chance to be part of something personal.
For example, a luxury handbag brand can easily sell their products online but they will struggle to sell the luxurious experience of purchasing that same product in-store because the bags presented on a website all look the same.
However, when a customer visits the physical store they are welcomed by a grand entrance, an immaculate store design and beautifully displayed products, hosted by a charming consultant with real interest in their needs and who may even offer a cup of coffee while demonstrating the latest range. The customer enjoys the lavish space while touching and trying on the handbags, forming a connection with the product. Already, the customer has developed a much deeper relationship with the brand through the in-store experience than would ever be possible online.
But the brand could take the experience one step further by hosting a VIP evening in-store with only 50 customers, including a handful of celebrities, who are welcomed with champagne, shown an exclusive new-release bag ahead of the general public and offered a discount on any purchases made at the event. The exclusive involvement of these customers allows the brand to connect with them on a personal level while the event plays the role of positioning and adding value to the brand’s strategy.
Brand experiences are influential
Experiences drive purchases.
When customers are pleased with a purchase, they’ll become an advocate for it by word of mouth and through positive reviews, allowing others to evaluate and consider the brand. If the relationship between a customer and a brand becomes strong enough, they will likely enter an ‘experience-advocate-purchase’ cycle and skip the ‘consider and evaluate’ phases entirely.
In this way, brand experiences have proven to be more influential, most likely because they involve the customer directly.
A 2015 Event Track survey showed that 87% of respondents agreed that live experiences were more effective than traditional television advertising in influencing their purchasing decisions. The same respondents also agreed that live events helped them to understand products and services better than a TV commercial.
Brand experiences go beyond the product or service
Experiencing a brand will stay with a customer much longer than if they simply view it.
Brands now have the opportunity to offer their customers experiences that allow them to go beyond the product or service.
For instance, the traditional car showroom has run its course. It’s not enough for car brands to only offer customers the chance to sit in the car, smell its interior and eventually move on to a test drive. Customers want to experience products in new and interesting ways, and they are keen to understand the story behind the brand and immerse themselves in it. A culinary experience paired with a fashion show, reflecting the nationality and culture of the brand, allows the car brand to tell its story in a far more powerful way. It gives customers the chance to experience the luxury they would feel when driving the car and create a lasting memory of the event which they will associate with the car brand.
Another example is Apple’s retail store. While customers can browse Apple products via their website, they get to touch, play with and customise the products in-store. Apple have made it their prerogative to offer the best service available through the Genius Bar, setting a benchmark in IT consultancy. This gives people the chance to experience the brand in its entirety before making the purchase – not something that can be done online. The in-store brand experience therefore offers extra value.
The power to connect
Experiences are the way forward for brands who want to remain competitive in the digital age. The objective has to be to give the consumer something to blog, tweet, post or write about.
Physical retail stores and showrooms no longer play the role of being the information provider because people are researching and comparing brands online.
But people want to be engaged, entertained and included in experiences because they desire personal interaction.
Brands that recognise the value of connecting with their customers through experiences will be able to create long-lasting relationships with them. And that is truly powerful.
Do you need help with creating a unique event for your brand?
Contact Brand Dimensions to find out more.