The following article was published in The Autumn Edition 2012 of Pure Prestige magazine. Founding member of TFOL Barny Macaulay, discusses how digital can help build a better in-store experience for customers.
“Two of the great buzz-words in marketing over the last 5 years have been community and engagement. With the rise and rise of social media they have never been more relevant. People want interesting things to enjoy. They then want to share them. And this has been as true for online experiences as it has for the traditional in-store experiences. However, with the development and accessibility of the Internet (especially mobile), we can now bring the two closer together.
There was a temptation to share a set of examples of tactical campaigns that have driven footfall, but for me, though some have been great, they are short term and don’t combat the underlying principles of creating a closer relationship with your customer.
In my opinion, the focus should be on creating the ultimate customer journey. It’s long term and it’s about building relationships – people are participating with your brand, not just consuming it. This means you need to be participating too. And this is where digital can really play its part. Assuming you know who your customers are and where they hang out, you need to think about how you are presenting yourself, what you are saying through your brand messaging and what you can do to bring a smile to your customers’ faces. From there you need to make sure that everyone in your business is signed up to thinking in the same way, so that whether customers are using your product online, or in your store, they get the same emotional experience. You might think me wildly off track to suggest Apple as a brand that the beauty sector can learn a lot from but they share many of the same attributes. Like Apple’s product range, beauty products are innovative, creative and consumer driven. Both strive to make our lives feel more beautiful. Apple have created the benchmark for great customer journeys, from the people that you meet in their stores to the applications that you can use while enjoying their hard-ware products. Applications such as iTunes and their operating system iOS give you a brilliant customer experience that reflects a playful, fun and interactive off line experience. When previously you reticently went into a computer store to get your computer fixed, now it feels like a pleasure, and a cool event to look forward to, knowing you are tapping into the zeitgeist. And this emotional take-out is an objective that beauty brands should strive for too. Brands like Apple that do this will see real long-term growth.
The second way to create an engaging customer journey is in simulating offline experiences in the online virtual world, so that the sort of experience I might get in-store is mirrored online. Thanks to SEO and advertising/affiliate programs, it’s now much easier to find your target audience. Simulating experiences serves many purposes, not least educating prospective new customers about your products and services. A good example of this is the virtual manicure service Marks & Spencer created on their website, allowing users to try on the whole nail polish range on their own hand. They could then share their pictures through their social channels, increasing the ability to expose M&S to a previously untapped market. It also acted as a teaser to the launch of a new in-store experience at their new M&S Beauty departments. It’s a bit gimmicky, but gimmicks are good on the web. Like in-store experiences where a little light playful relief can make you stand out, this tool is unchallenging and not time consuming.
I think for me the thing to remember is that you put amazing detail into the development of your product and brand and this should be replicated in your customer service and the brand experiences you offer. And lets also remember that technology is just the vessel and that it’s as much about the old-fashioned values of a great experience that express your brand’s DNA. And these experiences need to be easy and quick for customers online, like they are in store.”