It’s officially the holiday season, which means that everyone is receiving a deluge of marketing messages from brands via seemingly endless channels like email, online and social ads, in-store and mail. This presents marketers with an interesting challenge — how can they win the attention of customers that are being bombarded with competing content from every direction? Often the view of CX begins and ends with a purchase, but every touchpoint with a customer is critical to their experience, especially during the holiday season.
To deliver a great experience brands must take ownership of the entire customer journey and view it as an opportunity to deliver a consistent, branded experience that aligns with the values and identity of the business. The journey should be designed as a direct reflection of the overall brand, and each step in the customer journey must be considered and optimized. By delivering on this, brands can build consistency in customer expectations and create loyal customers far beyond the holiday season.
The Branded Customer Journey
When it comes to creating a superior customer experience that fosters loyalty and advocacy, one of the most important factors is the customer’s perception of the brand. When you think about brands that consistently impress customers names like Amazon, Starbucks and Sephora come to mind. These brands share the common trait of a strong brand identity. In other words, customers can easily identify the brand’s core values and know what experience they can expect when interacting with the brand. For Amazon, this means a data-driven, personalized experience, fast service and delivery and the ability to easily shop for a large variety of products in a single place.
Branded customer journeys enable businesses to take this a step further and make sure that identity is embedded in every single touchpoint with a customer. When executed well, the brand identity and customer experience meld together — the customer associates a positive experience with the brand’s identity — a vital factor for success. To excel in today’s increasingly competitive environment, especially around the holidays, brands must accept this and strive to implement better branded journeys.
Sephora consistently ranks highly in customer experience surveys and excels at weaving the brand identity into the customer journey, especially during the holiday season. Positioned as “a leader in global prestige retail, teaching and inspiring clients to play in a world of beauty,” the company embraces this identity at every customer touchpoint. Stores have been designed to allow customers to easily try products and learn from beauty experts.
They’ve also been integrated with technology that matches people to the right products and seamlessly connects and syncs the in-store, online and app experiences. A well-incentivized loyalty program retains customers that could purchase the same products in many other places, and the company’s overall presence across channels stays true to its identity.
While a few top performers stand out when it comes to understanding that their brand is contingent on the customer experience, many are still struggling with customer journey basics, and revert to old-fashioned mass marketing and email campaigning – and the ever-decreasing returns these techniques deliver.
This does not have to be the case, but it requires a shift in mindset more than anything else. Customer experience should be core to the brand, how it is perceived and its success, so customer journeys must be seen as more than a marketing tactic— they are a central facet of the brand’s identity.
Creating the Branded Journey During the Holidays and Beyond
How can companies take the next step and ensure their customer journeys are branded, especially during the competitive holiday season? They must first identify the core components of the brand identity they want to convey. From there they can map out journeys that align with and ideally embody these brand values during every interaction with the customers. This, of course, cannot be done in a vacuum, because spitting out on-brand messages in a tone-deaf manner will not result in success. Brand messaging must be implemented in a manner that prioritizes customer experience.
This means that channels need to be utilized in coordination to deliver the right message, to the right customer at the right time. All of the basic principles of good customer journeys still apply, but need to be elevated to also convey the brand ideals. This may seem complicated, but if brands think about these principles as the basis of their customer journey program they will be well on their way to success.