Think about your favorite song or artist and consider why it’s your favorite. Do you remember when you first heard it? Does it transport you back to a certain time in your life? It may not be the ‘best’ song you’ve ever heard on a technical level, but it means something unique to you because of the way that you experienced it. If you happened to be listening to a different song frequently at that important time in your life, perhaps that one would be your favorite instead.While we interact differently with art than we do with brands, there’s no doubt that our personal experience with a brand plays a more important role in where we shop than any name, logo, or marketing materials. That personal experience is often a reflection of the brand’s overall commitment to the customer. The consumer’s interactions with employees, trust in the company, quality of service, ability to get what they need, when they need it, and so many more factors shape a consumer’s experience with a brand. If the experience isn’t there, then the consumers won’t be either.
The most effective brands understand that the experience is what matters most to consumers, and that brand loyalty can evaporate instantly if the experience no longer delivers what the consumer is seeking. If you want the consumer to be loyal to your brand, then you need the brand to be synonymous with the experience that it represents. Making that happen takes work, because loyalty must be earned, and the process of earning loyalty never really stops.You don’t need me to tell you that Amazon is the behemoth of online retail, or that it offers an experience that is hard for many brands to replicate. For most of us, the Amazon experience is very familiar and is constantly associated with the brand. The selection of products, prices, diverse services, convenience, marketplace and innovation of Amazon is the experience. If you’re a loyal Amazon customer, then that experience is likely what drew you in and keeps you coming back.But what about small, mid-sized, or chain businesses that have nowhere near the clout of Amazon? Why do you buy your hardware, automotive supplies, food, or anything else you need at one local store instead of another? So often, it comes down to the quality of the people, and the small, meaningful connections that you build with the brand over time. If a smaller business remembers you, caters to your needs, makes you feel welcome, stocks your favorite items, and helps you find what you want in a quick, convenient way, then it’s creating an experience that earns your loyalty.
In fact, don’t even be satisfied with an excellent experience. Always look for new ways to make your brand more valuable to consumers, and never take their loyalty for granted. The experience can always be improved, and there will always be competitors working hard to earn the loyalty of your customers. If you don’t adapt, they will.“every consumer is a micro-influencer, because ‘everyone influences someone.’”Ultimately, the experience is what defines your brand, and not the other way around. Consumers are simply too savvy. They read reviews, compare their experiences with others, and they’re not afraid to speak up when the experience is substandard. This makes every consumer a micro-influencer, because ‘everyone influences someone.’Warby Parker is a great example of experience defining the brand. Its product is not the best, BUT it is good enough… because the experience is outstanding in every way. It is not simply a company that ‘gets’ the OmniChannel experience, it exercises the concept of being OmniPresent… be where your customers are, and be prepared to deliver and communicate in the way they prefer. The store shelf is now wherever the consumer wants it to be.The good news is that, when the experience is a consistently positive one, consumers are willing to speak up about that, too. Smart brands understand the influence that each consumer wields, and work to create an experience that causes consumers to use their influence in a positive way for the brand. A referral alone isn’t close to enough to build brand loyalty, but it does provide the opportunity to show one more consumer why your experience is worth their loyalty.This first appeared on Ted Rubin.