In order to survive today’s brands must be informed, proactive and fearless. To flourish, brands must have a deep understanding of their customers and actively respond to their needs and desires. 

Long gone are the days where brand promise just lived through logos, products, and advertising. Today’s brand promise is delivered at every single touch point – each contact with a customer. Each touch point is a massive opportunity, yet opens brands up for scrutiny and criticism across the social waves the moment they fail to deliver on expectations. 

Today’s consumers are no longer brand loyal. They’ve been hit hard by the financial crisis and are happy to shop around for the best deal. The astute, brand-savvy, millennials have already changed the brand landscape and now Gen Z is about to make an even bigger impact. Serial multitaskers, the curious, future focused Gen Z will become the World’s largest consumer group by 2020. Preferring bite-size visual information, the sharp-eyed Gen Z will give brands less time to impress and will hold them accountable, should they get it wrong at any point. 

Changing demographics mean brands have to do more than ever to remain current and connected to consumers. However, the value of brand is also higher than ever, providing companies with an exciting opportunity to put the customer at the heart of their business, to differentiate their offer, connect with customers, gain trust and prove themselves a brand worth loving.

Brand Promise and Reality

Brands live through their materialisation: the tone of voice in a tweet, the ease of navigation of an app, the personality, and knowledge demonstrated by a staff member within a store – each, in turn, building a picture of your brand, values and everything it stands for. Creating either the 'best-in-class' or 'most mediocre' experience a customer could ask for. 

Whatever your business – leisure, retail or automotive - it’s more important than ever before to have an in-depth knowledge and understanding of your customer journey. In doing so brands arm themselves with a tool for building customer trust, competitive advantage and ultimately equipping themselves with key customer knowledge for the future. 

Today’s customer journeys are not simple or linear. Technology, changing demographics and consumer behaviour mean that customers should be able to interact with brands wherever, whenever and however they want. The traditional transactional customer journey is dead, but physical spaces remain important. Even the big online retailers have invested in physical spaces. These spaces are no longer for the sales of goods and services, but instead, allow customers to experience your brand in the richest, fullest sense. 

When mapping a customer journey consider both the physical and emotional aspects. Ask the questions; what is the customer thinking? What is their emotional state? How does the customer feel? How is the customer behaving? What is influencing or hindering that experience? We consider every part of the journey, analysing the micro-connections to create a big picture view. 

Most journeys begin with an online interaction. Brands should present themselves consistently across all platforms, but be prepared to adapt as consumers and technology moves forward. All online applications should be quick, seamless and capture attention immediately. Social media strategy should allow customers to engage with a brand when and how they want. It’s a great place for conversations and exchange of knowledge. A powerful tool if utilised in the right way. The complete online experience must seamlessly merge into the physical one – a surefire way to begin the accrual of trust.

Physical spaces should be carefully and sensitivity designed with a holistic wayfinding strategy. Whether a patient in a hospital, student at university, or customer within a shopping centre consideration of different customer missions and the physical touch points at each point in a journey are key to ensuring seamless experiences. 

University of Northampton Wayfinding
Wayfinding concepts at the University of Northampton.

Technology equips us with new, exciting products every day, we now have the power to tailor adverts by demographic of the viewer of a digital screen and capture their data at the same time. As tempting as it is, digital should not be used for the sake of it. Technological investments have the greatest payoff when used to enhance your customer’s experience - to give a richer experience of a product or service or to remove tiresome paperwork from a process.

Underpinning the whole experience are your staff, who can make or break a customer’s journey – leaving them with a lasting impression, positive, negative or indifferent. However, it really is quite simple - engaged staff think and act positively and investment in people is worthwhile. Ensuring staff are engaged with brand and values is vital to ensuring customers have a positive experience. 

Waitrose staff
Employee-owned Waitrose invest in staff and see the resulting benefits for customers.

Brand journeys continue far beyond a visit to a store or purchase of a product. Creating genuine opportunities for continued engagement with brand – be it social engagement or creating a reason for bragging rights - could gain repeat business or even a place in customers’ hearts. 

Once brands have a clear picture of customer experience and their journey is mapped, they have the opportunity to take ownership and control. To become aware of challenges and obstacles encountered, informed of opportunities for improvement and differentiation. Ultimately an understanding of customer journey equips brands with the understanding of whether or not they are delivering on their brand promise. 

A holistically designed, seamless customer journey, with brand consistently applied at every touch point, creates authenticity and brand integrity – which in turn generate trust, brand affinity and increased sales. Go forward, understand your customers and keep your promise.

Can Integrity help you?

If you need any help with your customer journey, whether it be mapping and analysis, elevating your experience or just a chat about where you’re at right now please drop us a line or pop in for a cup of tea. 

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