These 3 Brands Are Tapping Into a Powerful Differentiator — and You Can, Too

Posted on by Fang Cheng

Today’s customers are less loyal—and for good reason. Alternatives are everywhere, and brands that built their differentiation on price or product are finding it difficult to stay afloat in this competitive marketplace.

customer experienceRising consumer expectations and increases in advertising expenses are driving the cost of customer acquisition and conversion through the roof. In fact, one study found an average increase of 65 percent in the past five years. This makes it tougher to compete, as it often means a net loss on the first order, and many customers never return. In order to stand out and strengthen profit-boosting customer loyalty, modern brands are turning to value-added services and automation to create an exceptional customer experience.

Seventy-three percent of consumers identify the customer experience as an important factor in purchasing decisions, but less than half of shoppers in the U.S. think companies are providing a good experience. Of course, some are better than others, and a handful are charting exceptional performance in spite of the challenges. Take a page from these three brands that are turning the customer experience into an art form and redefining the rules to win by.

Best Buy

As the e-commerce revolution took over and left many brick-and-mortar retailers out in the cold, Best Buy was written off as another casualty. Because large online players in the electronics space could easily optimize based on price, Best Buy needed to stand out in a meaningful way to earn lasting customer loyalty.

The brand investigated how people research and compare products and then looked at how it could improve the customer experience to make it a continued relationship instead of a one-time transaction. The resulting insights paved the way for new store layouts, employee training, and value-added services like in-home assistance. Posting a strong increase in revenue between July 2017 and August 2018, Best Buy is thriving.

Best Buy figured out how to provide additional services to customers, made those services easy to access, and continues to offer more than competing alternatives do. By creating superlative customer experiences that focus on convenience, personalization, and timeliness, Best Buy has tapped into the major drivers of customer satisfaction and created a loyal following.

Taking a leaf out of Best Buy’s book means looking beyond how a customer purchases products and taking a broad view of how that product is used in the context of the customer’s life. This can provide insights into services that could be automated and offered both pre- and post-purchase, highlighting opportunities to provide new, loyalty-building value to customers.

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Emily Weiss, CEO and founder of Glossier, is well-known for her customer-centric vision. She’s a firm believer that there aren’t enough companies that fully leverage the expertise of their customers. It’s no surprise, then, that Glossier’s novel approach to product development and customer engagement makes fans feel like a part of the brand instead of just customers. The strategy is working—the online beauty retailer was valued at $390 million just five years after opening.

Some brands have experimented with a “surprise and amplify” approach in which they go above and beyond for a customer and broadcast the details across social media. In contrast, Glossier has reinvented the concept of customer care to make customers a vital part of every aspect of the business by creating new communication paths and engagement opportunities. The company reimagined customer service, referring to members of the “customer experience” team as “editors” and empowering them to integrate learning and sharing in a two-way model with customers, even sometimes using FaceTime to chat with customers about product feedback.

Glossier’s approach gives it a competitive advantage against its many rivals, and the value-added nature of how it engages with and provides service to customers creates unforgettable experiences and products that are just right for customers. Brands can learn from this approach by expanding the role of customer care and integrating it more holistically into marketing, e-commerce, and product planning and execution. Creating two-way communication with customers and providing value-added services to help them get exactly what they need is the winning recipe for this fast-growing, digitally native brand.

Sur La Table

As the “largest nonprofessional cooking school” in the country, Sur La Table has redefined what a brand experience can be. Delivering exceptional experiences—not just great products—is core to this brand’s ethos and fundamental to its growth and customer loyalty. As CEO Billy May explains, “The experiential piece is really about how we get customers in, and it’s our opportunity to get customers back.”

Digital is a huge part of what makes Sur La Table’s experiences successful. It invests in a broad base of content production, value-added education, and assistance with product selection. For example, Sur La Table completely revamped the way consumers search for products on its site. The company did away with complicated jargon in product descriptions and revised them to include phrases that potential customers might actually use when discussing the product. It also employed filters to help site visitors more easily find what they’re looking for.

While some brands might baulk at the idea of extending their businesses into adjacent offerings, brands like Sur La Table are literally building their businesses on them. And the differentiation they establish serves as a defensible competitive advantage that’s hard for competitors to keep up with or replicate. The lesson here is that there is no limit to how far value-added services can go.

Brands can no longer bank on competing on price or product alone when a customer experience built on value-added services is a new and potentially significant differentiator. Capturing a customer’s loyalty (and a long-term share of her or his purchasing power) is a matter of continuous engagement and delivering experiences that are seamless and immediate. To set your brand apart, focus on providing value-added services and elevating the customer experience by making these services more accessible, convenient, and timely for customers. Do so, and you’ll cement their loyalty and boost growth.
Fang Cheng is the CEO and co-founder of customer care automation platform Linc Global.


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