If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a thousand times, brands today must go beyond traditional thinking and marketing. And at the top of this out-of-bounds thinking requirement is optimizing the customer experience. At every touchpoint, at every purchase, and every moment of your brand’s existence.
So, what exactly is a touchpoint?
A brand touchpoint is any point of interaction or exposure your customer has with your brand. These touchpoints are typically “crafted and constructed by the brand in order to engage their customers, giving them the best brand experience they could possibly have.”
Imagine this. You have a mobile dog grooming brand that serves a large area. Your customers find you through a variety of ways: a billboard ad off the freeway, brochures in local vet clinics and pet stores, or via Facebook and Google ads. When a customer books with you, they are greeted most often by you, the owner. When your recognizable grooming van pulls up to their driveway, you continue the personalization and put them at ease with the process. Afterward, you return their dog to them with a branded bandana and goody bag for the owner, complete with a coupon for a return visit.
Within that scenario, there were over half a dozen brand touchpoints. The brand interactions that can turn a two-dimensional brand into a multi-faceted experiential one.
Examples of touchpoints
Touchpoints run a wide gamut—from advertising to direct marketing to live events. Common examples include TV and internet ads, direct mail, email, business cards, brochures, events and tradeshows, and media stories. Touchpoints are also important when it comes to your brick-and-mortar shop. Within a store, everything from the decals on the front window to your employees’ uniform (and attitude) to your packaging is considered a touchpoint. But don’t forget that word-of-mouth recommendations are also touchpoints that can impact your brand’s legitimacy and loyalty.
Overall, the idea is to keep consumers coming back for more.
Why customer experience matters
Think of your customer experience as the bread and butter of your marketing strategy. After all, if you don’t have customers it’s only a matter of time before your business dissolves. The fast-paced digital world only increases the need for well-rounded customer experience. Your customers are keeping tabs on changes in trends and technology, so it is your job to make sure “that when the world changes, we move with it.”
Beyond this, having a solid customer experience helps your brand to “stand out from the competition.” Recent statistics show that 89% of companies compete based on customer experience alone. Yet of the 80% of companies believing they deliver a “super experience,” only 8% of customers agreed. This means that brands have room to grow and flourish in the market––that is if you work on your customer experience now and from every touchpoint.
Customer experience capitalizes on customer interaction and connection, which in turn increases brand loyalty. In the smartphone era, customers “only care that they can connect with you, the way they want to connect with you, and when they want to connect with you.”
How to create and optimize the experience
So what are the best ways to create a customer experience? First of all, keep in mind that your particular brand experiences and touchpoints will vary depending on what type of product or service you offer. That said, optimizing your experience involves certain elements that every good brand should have.
Customer experience management (CXM)
What may be the most essential element of the customer experience is customer experience management (CXM). CXM helps to ensure that, at each brand touchpoint, your brand can “deliver personalized experiences that drive brand loyalty and increase revenue.” For this role, your brand can and should utilize consumer research, marketing technologies and techniques, and behavioral data to manage the customer experience.
The key here is to manage, not micro-manage. The customer experience should still feel authentic and flexible. What worked in the past may not work in the future. And it’s up to your brand to adapt.
Brand purpose and promise
The idea of having a brand purpose should not be a new one for you. But having a purpose beyond profits also contributes to your overall brand experience. Besides, you want to make sure that your customer experience lives up to your brand promise. According to a 2020 AdAge piece, by “investing a portion of your marketing budget in the education and brand alignment of the teams that bring your promises to life, you can enjoy a bit of insurance for your marketing bets.”
Ensuring that your customer experiences align with your brand promise and purpose can increase brand loyalty and awareness. Brands that live up to their promises via their touchpoints like BMW with “Ultimate driving machine” and Apple with “Think Different” are consistently on consumer’s minds.
Once you’ve established your touchpoints, you can optimize them by making sure they are user-friendly and hassle-free. When an online or offline experience is straightforward, consumers “are more likely to stick with you and your products to the very end of their journey.” If you are integrating an online experience––be it an app or your website––make sure it’s fast, usable, and pleasing both to look at and use. If you are hosting an in-person experience, make sure the process is similarly recognizable (via signage, etc.) and enjoyable. Whichever outlet you choose, make sure to keep the experience consistent with your other brand messaging.
Examples of experiential brands
Experiential brands are becoming the norm. These brands understand that every point of interaction with their customers is important and informs the overall brand experience and perception.
Southwest Airlines is a brand that embraces its brand purpose and makes sure it trickles into every facet of the customer experience. Their warrior spirit, servant’s heart, and fun-loving attitude values are noticeable in everything from their staff to their marketing campaigns. The Southwest Airlines heart logo further symbolizes the brand’s promise, and reminds employees of the brand’s expectations at each touchpoint.
The Austin-based dating/friendship app is about finding meaningful connections. The company creates a lot of buzz (pun intended) with its print and television ads that play on its mission to build meaningful and empowered relationships. But Bumble took this a step further with an in-person “Hive” at South by Southwest in 2019. During the event, the brand encouraged people to gather, use their products, and participate in speed mentoring “and breakout sessions focused on dating, friendship and business networking.”
Red Bull has always been about giving its customers wings. This quirky tagline has carried over from every touchpoint since it began in 1987. From the feeling of flight the drink itself gives to their work with Red Bull TV, the Red Bull Air Race game, and their use of social media. Perhaps the most incredible example of this is Red Bill Stratos, a campaign that partnered with an Austrian skydiver “to set the world record for highest skydive” –– 128,000 feet to be exact. The company is continuously reminding its consumers, through touchpoints, to take flight.
Keeping it dynamic
Optimizing your customer experience takes consistency, time, and keeping up with changes in trends and technologies. To be a competitor in the market today, your brand has to be willing to engage your customers through a variety of platforms and experiences. Remember: keep it dynamic and make it memorable.