Brand Experience: highlights from the 2011 Best Experience Brands Global Study

I have read the Best Experience Brands report published by Jack Morton Worldwide and want to share the highlights with you.  For the purposes of the report and this post a ‘Brand Experience” is defined as “any of the interactions (direct, indirect) you have with the specific company or its products and services”. The findings of the report are based on 1,603 consumers (USA, UK, Asia, Australia) completing an online survey during Aug/Sept 2011.

Which brands deliver unique experiences?

It is probably no surprise to you that Apple comes at the top of the list.  Who else is on the list?

  1. Apple
  2. Disney
  3. Google
  4. Microsoft
  5. Mercedes
  6. Coca-Cola
  7. Sony and IKEA
  8. BMW
  9. Amazon
  10. Louis Vuitton

I find it interesting that this list is made up of such a diverse range of companies: industries, business models, value propositions etc.

Three key insights emerge from the research

I doubt that the key findings are any surprise given that research study after study points towards the same direction:

  • The brand experience drives consumer purchasing decisions.  60% of consumers agreed with the statement “My overall experience with  a brand is the single biggest factor in whether I decide to purchase a product or service” – only 5% disagreed.
  • Consumers will pay more for unique experiences.  44% of consumers agreed with the statement “I am willing to pay a premium price for a product or service if I know that I will have a unique experience with that brand in some way”. Not surprisingly the consumers that have more money (are the least affected by the recession) are the ones that are more willing to pay this premium: 58% of consumers in Asia v 28% of consumers in the UK.
  • There’s a big gap between what matters to customers (in terms of the brand experience) and what brands provide in terms of unique experiences. Only 26% say that their past experiences have been unique; 62% are looking for that unique experience.

What are the top experience drivers?

Given that customers have jobs to do / get done (including elevating their status or looking cool) and that is the primary reason that they interact with companies it is not surprising that the product/service  should be the top experience driver.  What are the other experience drivers?  Here is the most important experience drivers:

  • Products and services that meet your needs
  • Understands your needs
  • Continues to serve and engage you after you’ve become a customer
  • Exceeds your expectations
  • Makes it easy to find information and buy their products, wherever and whenever I shop.

What is interesting is that the experience drivers that deliver a UNIQUE brand experience are somewhat different:

  • Initial impression the brand makes on you
  • Continues to serve and engage you after you have become a customer
  • Understands your needs
  • Differentiates from similar products
  • Employs people who anticipate your needs

I find it interesting that consumers do not want to be forgotten (or taken for granted) once they have become customers -they want brands to continue to serve and engage them.

Which experience categories matter the most?

The report subdivides the “Brand Experience” into categories: Product Experience; Shopping Experience; Customer Experience; Discovery Experience; Community Experience; and Digital Experience. If you put the experience drivers into categories and then look at which ones matter the most to customers (listed earlier) then it becomes clear that the Product Experience, the Shopping Experience and the Customer Experience categories are the ones that matter the most.  Lets take a closer look at each of these three categories – specifically what they are made up of and how highly they are rated by consumers.

Product Experience

  • Products and services that meet your needs (6.1 out of 7)
  • Invents new ways to enhance their products or services, after you have become a customer (5.6)

Shopping Experience

  • Makes it easy to find information and buy their products wherever and whenever I want to shop – store, online, mobile  (5.8)
  • Provides an efficient shopping experience (5.8)

Customer Experience

  • Understands your needs (5.9)
  • Continues to serve and engage you after you have become a customer (5.8)
  • Exceeds your expectations (5.8)
  • Educates you about how to use their products and services and become a smarter customer after you have become a customer (5.6)
  • Employs people who anticipate your needs (5.3)

Other key highlights

If you have read my posts you will know that I am of the view that there are important differences between women and men when it comes to needs and wants.  Here is what the report has to say on that and other demographic differences:

Women are more responsive and receptive to experience.  Women are more likely to agree with the statement that the experience influences their brand choice.  They are also more likely to be willing to pay a premium.  Furthermore, women rank some experience drivers much higher then men: “Understands your needs” (73% v 65%); “Continues to serve and engage you after becoming a customer” (71% v 62%); “Exceeds expectations” (72% v 60%).

People over 55 are a less willing to pay a premium for brands that offer a unique experience.

Affluent consumers value experiences more and are more willing to pay a premium for unique experiences.  The experience drivers that particularly important to these people include: “Understands your needs”; “Continues to serve and engage you after you have become a customer”; and “Educates you about how to use their products and services and become a smarter consumer, after you have become a customer”.

US consumers (of all the consumers who took part in the survey) have the highest expectations around the “Customer Experience” categoryof the “Brand Experience” as defined in this report.

UK consumers are much less demanding than US consumers – they are much less likely to cite “Exceeding expectations” as an experience driver that motivates/influences their purchasing decisions.

Asian consumers are the ones that are most likely to say that the experience is the single biggest factor in brand choice and they are the ones that are most willing to pay a price premium for unique brand experiences.

My point of view

All research should be handled delicately.  Bias is present in most research in a number of ways some deliberate and some unintentional.  Also there can be a big difference in what say, what people do (and will do) and what people say they do or will do.

The research ‘supports’  my point of view that the most important lever for improving the “Brand Experience” and growing your business is to make/sell great products/services that create superior value for your customers – allow your customers to get their jobs done cheaper, faster, easier, better.  A little while ago I wrote a post titled The Missing Piece of the Customer Experience Puzzle – to point out that the product/service was being neglected by the Customer Experience movement.

What men and women want is different and women are more experience driven – the softer (caring) dimensions of the ‘Brand Experience” matter more to women.  I wrote a post on what matters to women: how to engage the female customer and deliver the right experience

“Exceeds expectations” is a key driver – which tells me that just delivering to expectations is not enough.  Does that mean that the ‘just get the basics right and forget about delighting customers’ school of Customer Experience is wrong?  I’ll let you make your own decision.

We do not need more research to tell us what matters to consumers.  What is missing is the Tops who are willing to act on what the numerous research studies tell us.

Posted on December 9, 2011, in Case Studies, Customer Experience, Customer Insight (inc VoC), Customer Service and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Hi Maz,
    You are right that we need to be careful about research, what it implies and what we do about it. But, I also think we need to be careful how we judge companies too and we need to be careful not to advocate for the creation of ‘experiences’ that do not fit with the overall strategy and value proposition of a business. Take, for example, some of the low cost retailers in the UK like Lidl, Aldi or Primark who are doing very well relative to some of the other high street players and have hordes of loyal customers. Why? Because they do what they do very well and their experience, one could argue, is very stripped back.

    Many of the companies lauded for their unique experiences in that top list are in the premium brand category. Does that mean that experience equals premium brand?

    Adrian

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  2. HEllo Adrian
    You and I are in complete agreement. My view is that the customer experience – as experienced by the customers that you are seeking to do business with – must match the value proposition (the promise that you are making).

    In these difficult times the likes of Lidl, Aldi and Primark are doing well because they have a value proposition that speaks to cash strapped customers. In my book that spells out the primary importance of the value propositon as the magnet that draws in customers. What is interesting is that for some brands a great customer experience is part of the value proposition e.g. Disney, Apple. And for other brands it is not: Aldi, Lidl etc.

    Maz

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  3. Hello Maz,

    Interesting research.

    What I wonder most is so what? Take for example you point that a unique brand experience is in part about “employing people who anticipate your needs”

    That is an interesting problem, how do you work through what peoples needs are likely to be and then give your staff the where with all to deliver that?

    I guess once you get started it isn’t too difficult, but I wonder how many organisations are focused enough to pick up that challenge and run with it?

    James

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  4. Hello James

    In a sense it is hard to anticipate customer needs and create an environment where your staff are in a position to meet those needs. We can argue that the frontline staff do not have ESP and thus cannot read customer minds. Thus anticipating customer needs is futile.

    On the other hand, one can argue that it is not that hard. Research shows that we have mirror neurons that help us to sense and feel what the human being opposite is feeling. And with that insight (usually at a intuitive level) we can modify our behaviour, including our language, to act empathically.

    The starting point is commitment. Are we committed to delivering a great customer experience? If we are then you can simply greet customers as they enter our store. We can do away with the barriers that seperate staff from customers – think Apple stores. We can hire staff and managers who have an affinity for people – they actually like serving customers. And if we are unsure we can simply ask customers how we can contribute. Companies like Zane’s Cycles and Zappos have done just that – anticipate and deliver on the uniquely human needs of their customers.

    There is no substitute for mindfulness. When we are mindful and have the freedom to act in accordance with that then we can better see which customer is looking confused and needs help. WE can see which customer is in a hurry and help make that happen.

    The real challenge is a willingness to make that happen. Here is thought experiment: imagine that the Tops had their lives at stake (or the lives of their loved ones) would they create an environment that allowed/encouraged the front line to anticipate and meet human needs?

    Maz

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