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Every organization's goal is to boost sales through brand awareness but companies often forget to treat customers as more than just transactions. Moving beyond transactions to customer value takes work.
For companies to survive in today's age of the customer they must constantly display value to their customer bases. When a customer feels valued, he can become a "brand partner," or ambassador for the brand. Organizations seeking this kind of customer connection can achieve it only if they shift their strategies to creating "addictive experiences" that exceed customer expectations.
Despite the importance of a good customer experience for companies today, the majority are struggling with creating one, which is detrimental to customer loyalty and retention. A customer loyalty study by the Direct Marketing Association and Forrester Research analyst Tina Moffet found that 58% of marketers were dissatisfied with loyalty programs because of an "earn-and-burn mentality," or a program that centered on points redemption, Moffet said. The study also indicated that 52% of marketers struggle to understand customers across touchpoints and that personalizing offers, content, and experiences based on behavior is a "big challenge."
Brands that excel in fostering customer loyalty through a rich customer experience focus on identifying what their customers want and then over-delivering on those expectations with a diverse content and multichannel strategy.
Lululemon creates "addictive" experiences
Yoga apparel retailer Lululemon Athletica not only has a legion of loyal brand ambassadors as part of its online community, but its customers have taken things a step further by creating a host of fashion and fitness blogs and websites of self-described brand "addicts."
The company has incorporated its merchandise and culture into customers' lifestyles at a deep level. From its physical stores, social media pages, websites, mobile application, events and community causes, Lululemon presents consumers with numerous ways to become a part of their own brand experience.
In addition to its product offerings, the company provides in-store and local yoga classes for free, running clubs, online education and resources to get involved in retreats to what the company calls its "Metta Movement," a grass-roots community philanthropy program. Lululemon thinks beyond simply selling products and about creating a collaborative experience with its customers that caters to customer lifestyles.
"Each time customers co-create the experience with the brand, they are shaping it to their mood of the moment," wrote one blogger.
Lululemon also keeps customers coming back because constituents never know what new items they'll find. The company's products seldom go on sale, each store has low stocks of each item on the shelves and inventory is updated often, thereby upping impulse buys for fear the product could sell out quickly.
Its strategy is resonating with consumers, with the company recently reporting that net revenue for the quarter increased 10%.
Walgreens becomes part of the healthcare experience
Walgreens sees itself as more than a simple pharmacy chain or a place where people can buy everyday items, vice president for digital health Adam Pellegrini said. He wants Walgreens customers to have the company play a role in their "healthcare experience."
For Walgreens, it's all about having a seamless connection between the in-store and mobile experiences, focusing on providing its customers with the convenience of receiving care wherever they are. This approach is necessary considering that traveling to a physical store may not be feasible for sick customers.
Walgreens wants to be a digital healthcare destination as Pellegrini said the company's approach is to deliver a valuable mobile experience where a customer can access local care providers and other help via its mobile app. It's about delivering a digital health experience "on customers' terms," he said, as he envisions the company positioning itself as part of a customer's "virtual care team."
Walgreens CMO Sona Chawla summarizes the company's strategy by saying it is focused on what customers are actually doing and then aligning company goals to improve those actions. "We think about advertising as storytelling for our brand," she said, emphasizing a need for the advertising to be connected at every point of the customer journey and not just at the start.
"We use a very customer-centric lens to move from just managing channels to … delivering the right message to the right customer at the right time, through the right channel," Chawla said. "It helps build customer loyalty and spreads the message of who we are and what we care about."
The company's Balance Rewards program has 82 million members who can access it from the Walgreens mobile app. The points-based program rewards customers for making healthy choices and enables customers to track things such as their fitness regimens, weight management and blood pressure. Walgreens promotes collaboration among customers within the app, allowing them to chat and share health and fitness tips.
"It's really an extension of the store," Pellegrini said.
To create an "addictive experience" that keeps customers coming back, a company's strategy has to focus on the intersection of the physical (in-store) and digital worlds. Most important, there must be a shift in philosophy: Customers don't want only products from you; they want an all-encompassing experience that is valuable to their lifestyles.
This means figuring out what customers want, how they use your products and what they expect to receive from your brand. The answers to these questions must be included in an overall content strategy that isn't fixated on the products you sell but on other services and activities that will promote loyalty.
Keep these principles in mind when creating an "addictive experience" for your customers:
- Develop a culture of "brand partners." Once you look beyond the sale and start creating content that your customers care about, you can enlist an army of active promoters of your brand who will spread your message for you.
- Create easily accessible ways for customers and prospects to get involved and incorporate the brand into their lifestyles. Create an online presence on the channels your customers use the most and populate those channels with relevant content.
- Create reasons for customers and prospects to engage with you across every element of the marketing mix, including Web, physical stores, mobile apps and social media. If you provide exceptional value, consumers will be motivated to actively seek out your company because they will be rewarded with deeply relevant experiences.
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