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We live in an era of mass personalisation. Go to Nike, you can choose the colour of your shoes. At Mini, you can mix and match practically every part of your car. You can even get personalised smartphone covers.
Times have changed for retailers because consumers now expect a lot more than a homogenised shopping experience. They want to be drawn into your business and exposed to something new and surprising. They want to feel a connection with your brand and your story, and when they do you will reap the reward of brand referrals – both online and in the real world.
As online shopping becomes easier and more convenient for South Africans businesses’ must increasingly consider every aspect of the customer experience. Consumers have so many options nowadays, which means factors such as best pricing or best selection are not enough to differentiate the offering. It’s absolutely necessary to build stronger connections with customers because if you are not able to create a reason for them to come into your store, they will simply purchase the product online instead.
This is achieved through experiential design. It gives consumers interaction and an experience they can’t get online or from a competitor. Experiential design is the integration of every aspect of the customer experience, with each element working together to convey your distinct brand personality and enhance your brand strategy.
Although experiential branding is still a relatively new concept for many South African businesses, there is a noticeable growing understanding of the need for a shift towards a smarter, integrated and digital approach to consumer interaction. Experiential branding pertains to the overall look and feel of a brand. It’s more than simply putting on a CD or an iPod. It usually takes years to give a store a makeover, this can instead be done virtually and incrementally in a shorter space of time across all stores, creating a virtual makeover.
Many smart brands now also have an online option, but the fact is that when a customer is in store, you have a unique opportunity to expose them to new products and to get them engaged with your brand. Technology’s creep into almost every aspect of our lives and present retailers with new in-store tools and methods to interact with consumers.
Take the mobile phone and social media, for example. People literally walk around with their smartphones in their hand. Many of them have social media accounts. It’s an opportunity to create location-based marketing solutions, sharing branded content and bringing mobile advertising in-store where it matters most. However, bombarding consumers with interruption advertising is not effective. Instead, businesses need to harness the growing marketing power of social media and interpersonal connection to attract and keep customers. When done well, businesses can successfully turn customers into free brand ambassadors.
Ultimately, the aim is to give consumers a story worth telling. Create a story, do something different, have a unique feel or culture around your product. Pay attention to subtle details chosen by design and with creative intent. The whole of an experience is, after all, greater than the sum of its parts.
Image: Ross Pollack via Flickr