Innovate or die, the (already written) destiny of brands

Camilla Bottin
Content Manager @ THRON

It's late. I feel a vague tiredness that causes me to imperceptibly press down on the gas pedal; my house is still far away and I'm in a hurry to get there.

A violent flash comes from the car that I meet in the opposite direction. My brain immediately makes the connection: a police checkpoint!

I slow down and, in my heart, I thank that kind motorist who has warned me to avoid getting a fine. Thank you, unknown savior, whoever you are!

I have subsequently found that same complicity in Waze, a GPS navigator with a strong social component. It is great to be part of a giant community in which it is possible to track real-time information on traffic statuses, accidents or speed cameras shared by other users like me.

Now, I can no longer use the "traditional" navigators; I want a service that "fits perfectly" with my travel needs.

Will I be able to find services that will increasingly satisfy my expectations?

 

Innovator or imitator, where do you stand?

 

We are witnessing a significant change in the psyche of the consumer, a phenomenon called "expectation transfer" where the exceptional performance of a brand sets the benchmark, or better, the crossbar, for everyone else. Companies are therefore "captured" in an ever-increasing vortex of customer expectations.

"People do not know what they want until you show it to them." (Steve Jobs)

The time to change your company's vision has arrived: how important is it to transform the customer experience into an imperative?

This is the crossroads that brands are experiencing: they can change the rules of the game in an innovative way, with an increasingly customer-centric perspective and the risks associated with investments that focus on the customer journey, or they can become followers, vanishing into the "me too" darkness.

This phenomenon is called "the connected experience imperative". Innovator or imitator, where do you stand?

 

Improving themselves to satisfy expectations: a virtuous circle to support competitiveness

 

Never before have brands been subjected to such pressure: constant improvement is becoming part of the "routine" of this new economy of expectations.

Optimizing the customer experience should be the main focus for each brand. Yet, too often, companies are looking for excuses (lack of time, budget, etc.) without realizing that, by ignoring this aspect, they are causing serious damage to business.

The consumer who has experienced an unsatisfactory experience is a customer lost. To fill this "gap", there will be the most smart and innovative competitors, ready to serve an unforgettable one on a silver platter.

Monitoring customer expectations must become a fundamental component of your business. The term "expectation" is, in fact, among the six pillars that provide an exceptional user experience according to the research that the Customer Experience Excellence Center Analysis has carried out. This research was conducted over eight years with more than 1.85 million evaluations in multiple markets.

But what is the Customer Experience Excellence Analysis? It is an international think tank that helps companies transform global best customer experience practices into concrete business results.

Companies must be able to fill the gap that exists between customer expectations and those that the brand itself can develop. "The Connected Experience Imperative" report, produced in 2017 by the aforementioned think tank, highlighted the terrible state in which the consumer experience is languishing in the United Kingdom.

The research showed that most British brands were unable to build those internal connections that allow for its consistent development across all touchpoints, both digital and physical.

This underlying inconsistency has resulted in disappointed expectations and, consequently, in a loss of business and difficulty in retaining customers. When compared with the situation in the United States, British companies are "still" in 2012.

At this point, we can use the example of QVC UK, the British brand that has positioned itself at the top of the ranking compiled by the report for its excellent management of expectations. This is due to an integrated organization in which the front and back offices are connected and aligned, with the common purpose of satisfying the customer.

The real capability comes in knowing how to sell expectations: we cannot touch, feel or smell the products they sell, but they manage to create such an anticipation on how they will feel once we use or wear them. 

QVC stands out in the retail sector for having the highest retention rates (its customers are the most loyal in the world!) with a percentage of 93%, particularly women. The secret of its success lies in the fact that it exploits what consumer psychologists call "para-social relations", developing a sort of "remote intimacy" where experts that the customer sees as "imaginary friends" present the product in live on-air transmissions. There is a community of real QVC employees!

The presenters’ suggestions, accompanied by photos or videos sometimes taken from their personal lives, are presented in an extremely captivating manner.

To give an example, Alex Kramer, presenter and mother of an adorable child, tells of the misadventure of a sofa stained by a marker pen. Do not panic! With Bissell's SpotClean, a sort of portable vacuum cleaner, the evil mark comes away, with photos of the before and after.

With such a captivating presentation and attention to everyday life, conversions are assured! 

 

To become architects of experiences: for a to-do list, take a cue from the events that occur in the customer's life

 

Innovation is an important priority for companies, but it can also turn into a source of continuous frustration. In a volatile market like the present one, with big changes on the horizon, few companies feel at ease to become leaders of innovation.

For many of them, the best solution is to perfect the creative ability to meet the customer's needs even before the customer realizes what these needs are. Companies like QVC and Hilton have become "architects of experience".

This process arises from an understanding of the events that occur within the client's life and the problems that could arise. First of all, what is an event? An event is something important that occurs in the customer's life and provides the "trigger" for the journey that the customer undertakes to achieve a goal.

The real key to innovation lies in solving problems. Events, in fact, are a deep reservoir from which to draw in order to gather indications on the customer's future behavior. This is useful to create a to-do list so as to meet their expectations. These "jobs" become the fuel for new and innovative customer experiences.

Here is an example. The famous hotel and resorts chain Hilton, despite its 98 years of honorable service, manages to remain relevant in today's market thanks to its ability to surprise and delight customers. 

 

Hilton's understanding of the events

 

Let's take the example of the Hilton mobile app: the "Hero" version brings together 5000 hotels and their customers, allowing people to digitally check-in and check-out. Guests expressed great satisfactions for not having to lose their time at the reception, with an app that turns your smartphone into a digital key and shows you the exact location of a room in a map, all accompanied by a live chat for a fully personalized experience.

In order to understand (and therefore satisfy) the needs of its clients, Hilton has worked hard to read their thoughts. Starting from the understanding of the steps that make up their customer journey, Hilton began to draw up a "to do" list to improve user experience. Did it get any results? Without a doubt!

A good hotel service implies respect of the stated requirements, but an excellent hotel service must take a further step forward, in an intelligent way, in order to guess the needs of its customers and offer remarkable customer experiences. The ability to innovate, which comes from an excellent management of expectations, is one of the many aspects that make for an unforgettable user experience. To find out what are the other fundamental elements, we recommend you a in-depth reading of "The connected experience imperative". 

"We see our customers as invited guests to a party and we are the hosts. It's our job every day to make every important aspect of a customer experience a little bit better" (Jeff Bezos)

 

Download the report
The Connected Experience Imperative

Download