How Changing Customer Expectations Have Redefined Branding in the Digital Age




The rise and growth of digital has had a major impact on CX. The positive or negative experience customers receive across multiple touch points is what now defines an organisation’s brand.

Previously, traditional advertising such as TV broadcasts and newspaper listings consisted of a one-way communication where a company would enforce their brand’s personality upon their customers. Digital media has changed the way we communicate with brands, allowing us to discuss, engage, challenge and thus develop a better picture of a brand’s true personality. With their ability to talk back, customers will gladly tell you, and each other, if a brand does not live up to their expectations. This can be a scary challenge for many brands, however it also provides businesses with a world of opportunity.

This change in brand interaction has contributed to an alteration in the meaning of “branding”. According to Rowles, digital branding can be defined as “the personality of an organisation created by the sum of all experiences that an individual has with a brand”. This still includes traditional offline brand elements, such as a logo or a strapline, but it now includes digital touch points, such as online reviews and social media interaction.

Consumers are looking for more digital interactions and are more likely to abandon a brand for a variety of reasons. An increase in the number of consumers joining social media, product evaluation pages, and assessing online reviews has facilitated this abandonment.

Brands have less control over consumers in the digital age, who have the freedom to decide their pre-purchase journey.

Turning Challenges Into Opportunities

In order to build a brand that stands out from the competition in the digital age, companies face a number of challenges. They must find ways to gain trust from consumers, offer compelling and differentiated content and create online loyalty in an environment in which many brands are trying to do the same thing.

Consumers have more choice than ever before and organisations must satisfy their expectations through offering them a seamless customer experience across multiple touch points in an omni-channel model.

SEE ALSO: Omni-Channel vs Multi-Channel – Understanding the Crucual Differences to Help You Meet Rising Customer Expectations

The balance of power has shifted and consumers are now exploiting the opportunity to use information to their advantage. According to Neubaue, an average, customer access four information sources in their digital research. And a study by Carpenter found that 70 per cent of consumers read online reviews before purchase and 41 per cent compare prices and products. Digital is moving quickly and in order to be successful companies must keep up with the growing customer demand.

Companies can turn these challenges into opportunities. A strong brand will now be determined by the customer’s experience and relationship with an offering and firm respectively. Therefore, in order to create a brand that stands out from the competition, companies must utilise the rise of “big data” to understand their target audience and improve the customer experiences across multiple touch points. The use of big data through analytics and digital marketing tools as part of your business decisions has been proven by Uverland to lead to a competitive advantage.

Grasping the concept omni-channel will be key in creating and maintaining a strong brand. Omni-channel is about understanding that although they have similarities, every consumer is different in regards to their journey and their expectations are higher than ever. Organisations must ensure that the customer experience is consistent across the right channels, whether that be online or offline.

Leaders must ensure that firms have an understanding of their audience’s expectations for products and services. In other words, have an understanding of what they value, narrow down the common journeys and ensure that they are providing them with a consistent and seamless experience, which will undoubtedly help build brand trust and equity.

Organisations that go the extra mile will see the rewards.

Case Study: ASOS – Champions of the New Definition of a Brand?

One organisation that has built a strong brand based on their online customer experience is ASOS. Offering customers a seamless online experience across multiple touch points is a major determinant of ASOS’s success. They outline their target market as young, digitally savvy consumers and form their digital marketing strategy around them. The products are shown using clear images, can be seen through multiple angles and are also displayed using videos so that customers fear of not seeing the item before purchasing can be reduced.

ASOS have created a number of channels to engage with their target customers. The Fashion Finder platform is a specific section on the ASOS website, which allows users to build their own outfits, seek fashion advice from others and shop from third party retailers. The brand has managed to differentiate itself from more established competitors by fully exploiting the rise of social media. They are active on the platforms that are highly popular amongst young consumers, such as Instagram and Snapchat, positioning themselves as “a global online community for fashion lovers”.

Across all platforms they promote discussions by answering comments and tweets, and they design targeted competitions to keep customers engaged.

Coulter highlights that ASOS.com is the world’s most visited fashion website for 18-34 year olds. The quality of the content communicated on their social media platforms has been one of the major ingredients to this success. Having a good balance between commercial and non-commercial content and creating value is crucial in order to keep customers engaged. ASOS manages to balance their commercial content with fashion trends, beauty, lifestyle and celebrity related content, which the target audience values. This means customers start to use the brand for inspiration, a building block for engagement and trust, which keeps them coming back.

ASOS creates advocacy among the most loyal fans. These fans are selected based on how active they are in sharing ASOS content. The AccessAllASOS programme provides selected members with exclusive content, discounts, and event invitations. The idea is to reward the “extreme consumers” in order to encourage them, as well as others, to continue to promote the brand.

The loyalty programme was extremely successful, as Traacker reported it increased mentions of the ASOS brand by 600 per cent and increasing online traffic from referrals by 26 per cent.

Conclusion

Organisations must place emphasis on the importance of creating a seamless experiences across multiple touch points, because the end result will determine their brand equity. The rapid growth of digital has, and will, continue to present challenges for organisations, but those who turn them into opportunities will be the winners.

Consumers have more choice than ever before and one bad experience is enough to lower their perception for a lifetime. Organisations must use their data to understand their consumers, their journey to purchase from online to offline and engaging with them to try and level the playing field in a competitive marketplace. Leaders can learn from the success of companies such as ASOS, exploring new ways to build loyalty, by providing an exceptional experience at all touch points.