In this articleÂ FUSE Managing Director of Experiential Aleena Mazhar,Â evaluates how customer experiences will overtake price and product as key brand differentiators in 2020 and how XM is positioned as one of the most viable tools to influence the marketing evolution.
Consumers are continually seeking brands that are in line with their ethics and beliefs, but effective CX still remains an evolving trendOpens a new window that marketers are paying attention to. Because once successful, it can influence a brand’s success and drive sales. About 65% of brands directly correlate sales to their events and experiential programs. In addition, 1 in 4 brand marketers rate XM as the top tactic for fan and customer engagement.
On this day and age of distraction, brands and retailers are challenged to find unique ways to connect with people. Our expectation as buyers has also changed â€“ we have more options than ever before on how we choose to shop. Convenience is king for many people, and technology has transformed the shopping experience for consumers. For example,Â your fridgeOpens a new window Â can order you milk, whileÂ your smart speakerOpens a new window Â can buy you concert tickets. So, if a fridge is making grocery decisions with the help of Amazon, where does this leave the traditional retailer?Â Â
The reality:Â the role of the retail environment has shifted for consumers. Shopping that was once a necessity and a ritual is now taken care of with a press of the button. From weekly groceries, to the monthly trek to Costco, and the seasonal trip to the Gap to update your wardrobe, there was a functional need to go to a â€œone stop shopâ€ to fuel our lives. Now, why even enter a store?Â
Our Need to Experience
Shopping isn’t just a functional experience, there are moments in life that require emotional connection and a human experience. When you’re shopping for a wedding ring, you are waiting for your gut to tell you â€œthat’s the oneâ€ to make an educated decision. When you want to buy a new car, you want to feel the engine rev and the excitement it gives you. Brands and retailers that are able to create an experience outside the function of their product have built an environment which adds value to shoppers in new and interesting ways.
Take Sephora for example â€“ this isn’t a store where you buy beauty products. Here, you can learn about makeup tips and tricks, or get your hair and makeup done professionally. You are encouraged to try, play, and ultimately, experience.Â
The Influence it Has on Purchasing
There are two key priorities for brands and retailers as it relates to the impact on product purchase: 1) creating a seamless customer experience and 2) allowing that experience to connect consumers with products in a tangible way.
1) Creating a seamless customer experienceÂ
This is a critical component to driving sales. Of companies that work to improve their customer experience,Â 84% reportOpens a new window Â an increase in their revenue. Also, 73% of companies with above-average customer experience perform better financially than their competitors. A seamless in-store experience requires brands to understand the needs of their customer and how they want to shop, buy, and receive service.Â
A retailerÂ like LululemonÂ knows its target customer inside out â€“ a health and fitness enthusiast that’s looking for good quality product. It’s created an environment and experience, both online and offline, that matches the needs of its customer and consistently adds value. From the free workout classes offered in its space, to complimentary clothing alterations, easy returns, and personalized digital experience, they understand how to cater to their specific customer.Â
2) Allowing that experience to connect consumers with products in a tangible wayÂ
On top of this, there’s the need to enhance the customer experience to allow for more tangible brand experiences. This is where experiential marketing comes in to create moments where customers can engage with brands throughout the instore environment.Â 65% of brandsÂ directly correlate sales to their experiential marketing efforts.Â Â
Let’s go back to Sephora. They have created environments where brands can sample and create micro experiences within their retail location, such as Benefit cosmetics and their brow bar, or branded in-store events exclusive for members. These experiential marketing efforts help drive brand engagement with 1 in 4 brand marketers rating it as the top tactic for fan and customer engagement.
Evolution is Critical to LongevityÂ
Retailers that haven’t evolved have failed to stand the test of time. A retailer like Pier 1 couldn’t compete with new digital entrants like Wayfair who make the furniture shopping experience easy and turn-key. Pier 1’s product offering is similar, more premium-priced, and less accessible than Wayfair. This is unlike retailers like Ikea or Structube who have carved out a niche, or aesthetic, for themselves that is different from a functional store like Pier 1.Â Â
We know that customers are looking to experience and that customers are likely to spendÂ 140% moreÂ after a positive experience than negative. Evolving the in-store experience to be customer first, and creating moments of connection through experiential marketing, are two ways that brands can remain successful in this competitive and distracting time.