Customer experience: Defining and delivering the X-factor

How should businesses adapt to put experience creation at their core?
04 August 2021
sparkly experience
Simon Colthorpe

Organisation Performance Lead

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Experience isn’t a new term for brands – and yet, whilst it has lingered in the halls of business lingo for quite some time, many businesses are still denigrating experience creation to simply “adding a bit of experiential” within their activation plans. Indeed, Kantar’s UK BrandZ database shows that only 4% of brands in the UK are felt to deliver an exceptional experience that acts as a driver of brand value.

Now, we need to work with a different set of rules. We must wholeheartedly embrace experiences; not just advertising, ecosystems; not just storytelling, behaviours; not just attitudes, precision and salience; and not just people and speed. At their core, we must ensure that our businesses are focused on selling experiences rather than just products, and that we work ‘future back’, rather than ‘product out’.

But what do we need to consider in order to unlock the X-factor?

Remember ‘future back’

Take the time to design the optimal experience for your target audience. Consider following Airbnb’s lead and bringing together a group of “fire starters” (illustrators, semioticians, storytellers) to design the future experience. Then, working backwards, apply a deep human understanding to get a true picture of what people are currently experiencing and, consequently, the gap you need to fill to get to that ideal future state.

Hardwire your purpose

Responsible brands behave differently. They not only create physical experiences, but also emotionally enriching ones that are meaningful, authentic, and unique. Truly successful brands and businesses are those that work from the ‘inside out’: these are what we call “apple brands”, because they have a strong set of values at their core. They focus not only on ‘the work’, but on ‘why people work’ and use a deep-seated employee experience to drive their consumer experience.

Know the power of context

Deep insights can be used to foresee how people will react to the experience. Understand where emotions are most intense and remember that we need to focus on moments, not just memories – recognising the importance of establishing the defining moment of the experience.

Infuse experience

Experience should sit at the heart of your business/marketing philosophy, influencing everything you do from insight to planning – and, crucially, metrics. Build a dashboard that allows you to explore each important moment in isolation, as well as the overall experience, tracking the journey from impression (previous interaction with the brand) to exposure (does the brand live up to its expectations).

Each of the points above require businesses and brands to consider how they might:

  • Re-frame their marketing philosophy and encourage positive behaviours both internally and externally by leveraging the power of enriching experiences, to bring their brand purpose to life.
  • Re-skill teams to create cross-functional capabilities across the entire marketing funnel, allowing for the creation of content and community through omnichannel experiences that draw on both culture and context through collaboration, creativity and an internal ‘beautifully dissatisfied’ team culture that doesn’t accept the status quo and thrives on debate.
  • Re-set their processes to support experience creation at scale; for example, embracing new ways of working like agile planning.

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