Customer Experience today is a given. The future, however, needs to be about Customer Purpose
Great customer experience is a minimum requirement that modern customers think companies should live up to, in every interaction they have with their brands. Customer experience is something that every company needs to consider as a given, because the pioneering of this era is over.
When every company has access to the same technology, the same innovative ideas, the same customer expectations, the same markets and customers what will then differentiate them from competitors, other than the speed and cost of delivering that customer experience? Nothing! That is why we need to find new ways of building loyalty, that differentiate our brands from others.
Let’s reconsider the term loyalty
Loyalty has traditionally been about how companies get their customers to spend time on their products and services after an initial purchase. It is, however, obvious that this measurement of success (KPI) does not hold any longer. We see that marketing spend is on the rise and the actual buying is heading in the opposite direction*. Competition amongst available brands online is really on the up, and price erosion is too evident.
A more modern way of looking at loyalty could be: How much time can we get our customers to spend in our channels, interacting with our brand, talking to others about our brand or even lending their networks to allow us to reach their friends and followers (organic reach). Now, here I mean “truly” lend their networks to your brand, not paid for.
From a business perspective, this would surely decrease the cost of building brand awareness (thanks to sharings) and at the same time increase the brand preference (because to get them to do the above, you need to engage them in something more substantial than discounts, and that normally constitutes towards preference). This extra effort would, in other words, contribute towards building a stronger brand-following, which is the first step in building a brand community**. But only if your customers think it is worthwhile or that it is for a cause they believe in. You simply need to offer them a greater reason beyond the reason of consumption.
Going beyond the beyond!
Taking such a route would mean that your brand needs to evolve to include more than just sellable products and services (even if these are delivered frictionless, using the absolute latest technology, and gives the customer the best experience ever).
In other words, your brand needs to include more than just great products, services and experiences. It needs to include something that engages the customers on a deeper level, beyond the buy itself. And we need to engage the customers in a purpose, so that customers are prepared to spend that extra time with you in your channels, going that extra mile - talking about your brand as if they were a part of it.
And as a next step, we then need to take it even further. We need to start involving the customer to be a part of the continuing evolution of the brand, the activities, the buzz and more profoundly, the purpose.
The whole essence is to find common grounds that bind customers and brands into forming long and fruitful relationship. This common ground is what I call the “Customer purpose”. No matter how small the reason for a joint customer purpose, if it is done right with the right people, it will gradually grow into something powerful that in the end can engage a whole brand community.
Customer Purpose is the reason why customers will engage and give their time, lend their networks, recruit new followers for you and contribute in building your brand community***, and will in the end make people stand up for your brand (also known as Brand Advocacy).
Of course, figuring out which customer purpose will be right for your brand and customers is a tough one. So I will borrow a quote from Beth Comstock, Vice Chair, General Electric:
Every company needs a bit of a lab approach, constantly testing, learning and experimenting.
*Garnet Market Spend Survey US & UK Report
**see Vardagspuls, GymShark, and many other examples of brands built on Social Media using the passion and energy of the followers.
***interactions and committed time between people (facilitated by a brand and/or brand followers) due to a common purpose.