In the Amazon age, it is more important than ever for retailers to offer a branded experience to consumers.
Saying it is the easy part. Understanding what that sentence means and how to do it is the difficult — and essential — part.
Bridget Fahrland, head of digital strategy at Astound Commerce, spends her days, and probably some nights, thinking about customer experience. She took a few minutes to talk to us at this summer’s IRCE conference. In the video clip below, she shares some of the fundamentals for building a memorable branded ecommerce experience.
So, the bad news is a branded experience doesn’t just happen. Sure, we know them when we see them: the Apple Store, REI in-store and online, Patagonia, even Amazon. Each of those, and many other retailers, have a feel that customers sense — a powerful way to set themselves apart from Amazon, in its way.
But from the outside, we’re looking at the results; not the process for getting there.
As you heard, Fahrland boils the getting-there part down to presenting a purpose, mission and message. It’s clear from her advice that content is a huge part of creating the right experience: breathtaking photos, engaging videos, rich writing, reviews, how-tos.
- A clear branded experience is vital in the Amazon era
- Find your way by identifying your purpose, mission and method
- Don’t neglect old-school market analysis in building your brand
Still, not every experience is the same. In fact, they shouldn’t be. A differentiated experience gives a retailer a competitive advantage. And while many consumers might find beautiful photographs and literary writing appealing, others might be looking for streamlined efficiency or the bargain-hunting experience.
Retailers have to know what makes sense for their brand and for those who are most likely to be, or become, their customers.
How do you know what your branded experience should be?
So, how do you know? Off-camera, Fahrland said merchants need to ask themselves the questions they want answered.
“Some of those answers come from within,” she said. “What is your mission as a company? How do you want to talk to customers?”
But of course, seeking answers internally isn’t enough. Knowing the market and consumer preferences is important, too.
“What is resonating with your customers?” Fahrland said is a question retailers should ask.
Find out through A/B tests — yes, of digital sites’ features and functions, but also of branding content.
Doing good resonates with today's shopper, Accenture says:
Increasingly, a retailer’s mission extends beyond its mission serving customers to its mission serving society and the wider world. Millennials are increasingly looking to do business with retailers that take a stand on the environment, ethical sourcing of products and even political issues.
And while marketers tend to be obsessed with millennials, in many cases their habits and preferences are an indicator of where the larger population is headed.
And so, companies like Patagonia and TOMS shoes very publicly embrace social causes. The trick, of course, is to think strategically while acting genuinely.
It’s not always simple. A retailer might not hit on the answer in one go. But the effort is worth it and something consumers have come to expect.
If you’re interested in learning more about how successful companies have incorporated social responsibility into their brand experience, check out “Your Values Are Your Brand: The Impact of Corporate Social Responsibility on Ecommerce.”