In a world in information overload, it’s not through rational stimuli that we can grasp our audience’s attention. It’s only through leveraging an emotional reaction, an instinctual connection and a feeling of familiarity that we can connect with our customer.
This is in a nutshell what experiential branding is. The question is how to obtain it? Moreover, in an industry like the fashion industry, which is focused on lifestyle rather than utility creating a stirring emotional effect on consumers seems particularly challenging.
Other industries may have an easier life in achieving an emotional connection with their audience. According to Maslow’s pyramid of needs, in fact, humans fulfil their desires following a certain order. At the bottom of the pyramid, we find physiological needs and primary needs, like security and safety, whereas the top we find the need to reach our full potential and self-actualisation. The fashion industry sells social equity, and as such fashion products tend to be located in the higher tiers of this architecture.
In short, making the purchase of a garment a matter of life and death is not simple. Yet, some brands are able to do just that.
However, such goals cannot be achieved overnight. On the contrary, it’s only through a process of continuous optimisation that a brand can develop a pyramid of value which peaks in the delivery of the aspirational values.
In this post, we are going to discuss how to approach the creation of a signature brand experience through a managerial step-by-step process.
Before embarking into this journey a fashion brand needs to design a have a clear communication focused on what the brand does and how it helps its customers.
Once it’s clear what your firm does and how it serves its customers then you’re ready to follow the brand experience blueprint discussed in the following sections of this post.
In this post we are going to discuss:
- Starting from the tangible: create a perfect customer experience
- Designing your bespoke brand experience is a mix of quantitative and qualitative management
- Develop aspirational values and embed them into your brand
1. Starting from the tangible: create a perfect customer experience.
The first stage towards building an emotional reinforcement to your brand is starting from actually delivering practical help. Service efficiency is the first, unavoidable step in reaching your goals. Examples of how your firm should be doing this are listed below:
- Save time. Create systems to allow your customers to experience your brand in a time-efficient manner. Time is the biggest luxury of all and as such, it should be managed responsibly.
- Simplify processes. You need to make your customer’s life easier. Which processes can you implement to make sure your clients don’t have to do ‘all the hard work’? At least, is there a reward for those who ‘go the extra mile’ to buy your products? These are some of the questions you may want to think about.
- Reducing efforts. It’s so difficult and expensive to get a customer in the door, that the only effort they should have to do is decide how they want to make the purchase. Everything else, capable of interfering with the checkout process should be avoided. It’s the simple things at times that make the most difference, like the popular ‘large blue bags’ at IKEA. It’s clear that achieving this first milestone relies on the two sides of contemporary fashion retail: technological factors and human factors, which will be discussed in section three.
- Omnichannel distribution. Maximum efficiency is achieved by blending the digital and physical components of the retail experience. Simple functions such as ‘reserve in store’, ‘store locator’ and ‘check sizes and availability’ make a huge difference in managing efficiencies both inside your business and in relationship to its customers. For more information on this topic, we suggest reading this post: Flagship Stores and the Future of Fashion Retail where we look in more depth at the initiatives pursued by prestigious brands when attempting to merge the tangible and intangible to foster a new dimension of retail management.
- UX Design. The growth of the e-commerce segment has given brands the opportunity to directly connect with their customers. This needs to be done with the awareness of the overinflation of advertising and commercial content we, as consumers are exposed to daily. Digital experiences have become an avoidable part of your brand and as such, it needs to be looked after, with the same – if not more – attention to detail that is put into a physical store’s design.For more information on this topic, we recommend reading this post: Use Mobile Commerce UX Design to Grow Your Business. In the post, we look at the way customer journeys (or their purchase-decision process) has been fundamentally altered by digital and mobile technologies, both in the way they collect information and how they get to experience the brand through social media.
As you develop the technological infrastructure that sustains and supports your brand you will start to access data. This is essential to develop the next step in our strategy, which will be discussed in the next paragraph.
2. Designing your bespoke brand experience is a mix quantitative and qualitative management
Before discussing more operational aspects of how you can develop an emotional connection to your consumers, let’s see what KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) are positively affected by an experiential brandingemotional branding strategy.
- Lead generation. A memorable experience is something you talk about. We all talk a lot about meaningful experiences we’ve had in our day and memorable purchase experiences are no exception to this rule. As we talk about what made an impression on us, we become propagators of the company’s message and unaware advocates of the brand. This undeniably resorts into a process of lead generation, through word of mouth (WOM). This is one of the most effective ways our brand can reach new customers as it comes from a personal recommendation and validation.
- Frequency of shopping. The indulgence and gratification we get from shopping create an addiction. Addiction alters our behaviour. Fast fashion retailers, because of their low prices are able to provide a strong emotional stimulus. Their constant refreshment and replenishment of shelves create a sense of contingency that pushes customers to visit stores multiple times a month. The stronger the emotional connection, the more shoppers will be likely to return consistently to the store and make new purchases. This will increase their LTV (lifetime value) and make a firm profit more from each acquired customer.
- Customer Retention. A strong track record of positive experiences will create a lock-in in customer behaviour favouring retention over longer periods of time. As we all know retaining a customer is always cheaper than acquiring a new one.
Now that the benefits of creating a bespoke and emotional brand experience provide unquestionable benefits lets see how this can be achieved.
How do you create emotional memories for your customers and attach them to your brand’s experience?
As we’ve discussed in this post: Experiential Branding and the New Horizons of Retail Management creating an emotional memory is all about creating an out-of-the-ordinary experience. We may not remember what we had to eat a month ago, but if we dined with a celebrity we’d surely remember every minute detail of it. In the popular words of Maya Angelou ‘people forget what you say, but remember how you make them feel’.
Rewarding your customers is a way to stand out of the ordinary. Better yet, surprising them is a great way to go, if you want to create a memory for them. The very idea of surprising your customers is very general and may need further clarification. Surprising means overdelivering on expectations. In order to understand expectations, we need to understand the particular customer profiles who interact with our brand. In this sense, building towards experiential and emotional branding starts with having a clear map of both who are our customers and what utility they draw from our products.
3. Develop aspirational values and embed them into your brand
Achieving this third step is about creating a personal, bespoke customer experience. Aspirational values delve deep into the particular ambitions of the individual and change from person to person. As such this step entails for mass personalisation.
On the one hand, a firm needs to approach a sufficiently wide market segment. This is the last stretch of your brand strategy, as it focuses on developing an customer relationship management system which is ultimately designed to make every customer an advocate of the brand.
In this stage, a fashion firm will need to create a connection between the technological and infrastructural assets of the company and the human component of the brand delivery.
Ultimately the brand’s experience is a synthesis of all the tangible and intangible perceptions developed by a customer during before, during and after purchase experience.
Let’s finish this post by discussing some advice we can bring to the workplace.
Here are a few take-homes we recommend if you want to make your brand less visual and more experiential:
- Creating a bespoke brand experience is a balance of rationality and creativity. It entails in many cases profound changes into the way a fashion firm is managed and requires an effort to put customers at the centre of any managerial workflow.
- The humanistic component relies on understanding your customer’s need and expectations, in order to consistently overdeliver and surprise him. The humanist component requires managers to always start with ‘Why’ and delve deep into customer behaviour.
- The scientific component of a brand’s strategy relies on managing data. The issue with data is that once you start collecting it, you find yourself overwhelmed with information which does not help you make decisions. Data science is the discipline which allows you to understand what sets of data really matter within the wider ocean of information which is flooding us.
- The human component is still an essential element of your strategy. Any perception, impression or expectation on your brand will ultimately be validated or destroyed by the brand ambassadors which will represent your brand.
Creating a healthy company culture and investing in training is a viable way to become a better employer and in the words of Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Media if you take care of your employees, they will take care of your customers.
If you’re interested in learning more about the Fashion Industry, don’t hesitate to take a look at our course “The Fashion Industry: Explained”. Our in-depth class covers a wide range of topics spanning from understanding fashion customers and markets to developing immersive retail experiences for your customers. Here’s a link to the course, if you use the discount code BLOG20 you can access a 20% discount. Enjoy!