Why brand experience matters more in a digital age

digital age updated ratio v2

The sharp transition in 2020 to a digital-only relationship has not stabilised to one that is now resolutely digital-first for brands. Senior Strategist Alfie Boyle explains why that makes a unified brand experience more important than ever.

In 2019, 70% of companies had a digital transformation strategy or were working on one, but only 7% of them had fully implemented them. We all know what happened next. 

Suffice to say, 2020 saw both businesses and consumers pivot to a digital-only existence out of necessity, and timescales collapsed. Even before then, complementary megatrends such as urbanisation fuelled the acceleration of digital.

Our relationship to digital may now be more intense than ever, but it has also matured. We have, for the most part, become naturalised. It is perhaps this increased level of comfort, combined with the acceleration in the digital transition, that has encouraged consumers to experiment with new ways of accessing products and services. Broadly, brands can be understood as having been ‘born digital’ or ‘become digital’. ‘Born digital’ brands can sometimes lack brand depth, remaining overly transactional and more prone to substitution. ‘Become digital’ brands have the benefits of legacy in terms of brand strength, but also the disadvantage of sometimes cumbersome and poorly integrated channels, systems and operations.

While each faces different challenges, transformation is levelling the playing field. In an age of digital dexterity, customer and user experience have become essential pillars of business strategy. Whoever you are, a focus on creating a unified customer experience that spans all touchpoints, channels, platforms and mediums should be mandatory.

In Deloitte’s words, customers want a ‘single source of truth’. However, its research found a profound disconnect between customer expectations and the reality of their customer experience. Some 75% of consumers said they expected consistency in their interactions with a company, but 58% said they ‘felt they were communicating with separate departments and not one company’.

Digital transformation becomes digital acceleration

Consumers now use multiple digital touchpoints throughout a non-linear buying journey. There are new points of sale, such as mobile and social commerce, during purchase. So, perhaps naturally, the conversation on bridging the gap between customer’s expectations and the reality of their experience has often revolved around digital technologies, data, and processes. After all, without strategies, intelligence and systems in place to align departments and create cohesive internal operations, how do you create transformation?

In our view, any conversation that isn’t firmly rooted in brand misses a vital part of the equation that could explain the disconnect. Brand is the ‘single source of truth’. And that is what will create value in both a unified and differentiated experience, one that is more brand than bland.

What is brand experience?

There’s a lot of talk about customer experience (CX) and user experience (UX), which have led digital transformation for many businesses. We find roughly 70% of businesses have a digital transformation strategy. But what about brand experience?

Customer experience (CX) focuses on the experience people have when interacting with a company overall (i.e. customer service online and offline, ease of purchase, etc.) User experience (UX) focuses on the experience people have when interacting with your product/service (i.e. website design, signing into a platform, etc.)

So why is it important to focus on brand experience? First, your customers are demanding brands to offer exceptional experiences across the board. Ultimately, customers expect you to be on the channels that they use, but they don’t exactly care about the channel – they care about the experience.

‘Brand experience focuses on how both employees and customers judge your company as a whole.’

Either you or the customer has to make the effort to integrate experiences across different channels. We feel that the burden of that work is better done by the brand than being left to the consumer. So, whether we talk about customer, user or brand experience, we’re really just talking about experiences that are good, rather than hampered by the tools and devices we use to get things done.

CX and UX aren’t new and have become the norm (and expected by customers). This is why you’ll find most businesses now tying them into their digital strategy. To differentiate, you need to focus on brand experience to set you apart. With only 15% of companies prioritising digital transformation, you’re at an advantage to set your brand apart with your BX strategy.

Designing advantage

We work with ambitious global brands to deliver brand experiences that are relevant and meaningful to their audience.

The challenges of digital transformation and the move to omnichannel have experienced unprecedented acceleration. Huge focus has been given to areas such as technical and systems integration to join everything up, but this needs to go hand-in-hand with brand. As we’ve seen, sometimes a focus on the small things can make all the difference. Sometimes what is required is no less than a revolution. What is vital is that brand experience oversees the whole so that decisions are jointly informed.

We call thinking through and designing BX in every aspect of a customer’s user journey, ‘Designing advantage’.

It’s harnessing the power of design for strategic advantage. You need a brand partner who has this holistic perspective and can champion the customer to deliver your brand in every channel, touchpoint and every interaction. This needs to work across every aspect of brand experience including communications, community engagement, product design, distribution and customer support.

AlfieBoyley 2022 v2


Alfie Boyle

Senior Strategist

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