Brand experience research and best practices


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Eighty percent of companies think their brands have superior experiences. Unfortunately, only eight percent of their customers agree.

It’s time for brands to tackle the experience gap – the gap between how consumers want to experience brands, and what brands are actually doing.

It’s not just a marketing imperative; it’s a business imperative. That’s why we’re proud to share our latest research looking at what drives the best brand experiences around the world.

Best Experience Brands includes
• Insights from a study of 4,000 consumers in the US, UK, Australia and China
• Consumer stories of good and bad experiences, with particular focus on retail, automotive and insurance
• The 5 principles of great brand experiences

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Brand experience research and best practices

  1. BestExperienceBrands2013A Global Study by Jack Morton Worldwide
  2. /2Best Experience Brands 201330-Second SummaryExperience has become a familiar businessbuzzword, widely used if casually understood.High-level executives and marketers alikeagree that experience is an important area forinvestment—yet often lack the data and insightneeded to make informed decisions.To help fill that void, Jack Morton Worldwidehas for the second time sponsored BestExperience Brands, a study that addresses theimpact of experience on consumers in the US,UK, Australia and China. (For the earlier study,see Best Experience Brands 2011).The research strongly endorses the view that thebrands that will lead in the 21st century will beexperience brands, because people are• More likely to consider brands that promise better experiences• More likely to recommend brands based on good experiences• Willing to pay more for brands they associate with superior experiencesAs in the earlier Best Experience Brands study,consumers were asked about the drivers ofbrand experience—good and bad—and abouthow these vary by industry. Through theiropinions and stories, we get a clear picture ofthe most impactful ways brands can improvetheir experience. (Spoiler alert: they should startwith their own people.)Additional insights from the Best ExperienceBrands study may be requested by contactingJack Morton.
  3. The experience gap / 4 About the study / 5 Key insights from the research / 6 5 best experience principles / 9 Stories of experience brands / 10 Experience drivers and opportunities / 14 3 steps to better brand experience / 20 Learn more / 21 /3Best Experience Brands 2013What’s inside
  4. /4Best Experience Brands 2013The experience gapJosh McCallI’m not here to declare, sky-is-falling style, thatexperience is a lost cause—far from it. Yes,the experience gap is a real and significantchallenge. But for those marketers brave enoughto take an honest look at how their experiencesare performing—and ambitious enough to dosomething about it—there’s hope.There’s also a return on investing in experience.Studies suggest people will reward brands thatunderstand their experiences as differentiatorsand that invest accordingly. Forrester research,for example, reveals a correlation betweengood customer experiences and likelihood torecommend, repurchase and stay loyal to brandsacross 14 industry sectors.For all these reasons—the importance ofexperience to customers, its connection to brandsuccess, the gaps between expectation anddelivery—we at Jack Morton continue to investin research that helps clients understand not onlywhy experience is valuable but how to makeit better. This year’s Best Experience Brandsstudy, like our earlier research, represents ourcommitment to providing data and insights thatwill help companies close that experience gap.We believe in experience brands—and we aimto make more of them. I hope you’ll find thepages that follow not only interesting but usefulto your experience planning. Let me know whatyou think, and look for more Best ExperienceBrands findings and studies in the months andyears to come.Josh McCall is Chairman & CEO ofJack Morton WorldwideThere’s an experience gap today.Experience is important to customers—and socommon sense suggests it must be to brands,too. But study after study reveals that brands justaren’t living up to customer expectations.Some years ago, for example, Bain & Companysurveyed customers of 362 companies.According to the Harvard Business Review,“Only 8% of them described their experiencesas superior, yet 80% of the companies surveyedbelieve that the experience they have beenproviding is indeed superior.” From an 80%assumed superiority to 8% actual delivery:that’s some gap.More recently, in 2012 Forrester asked customersto rank 154 large North American brandsaccording to the strength of their experience.Only 8% fell into the “excellent” experiencecategory. Almost two out of three (61%) offeredexperiences that customers considered “okay”,“poor” or “very poor”. Again, that reveals a bigexperience gap, with the majority of brandseither failing to differentiate or disappointingcustomer expectations.Only 8% ofexperiencesare rated“excellent”.
  5. About the studyBest Experience Brands is based on a surveysponsored by Jack Morton Worldwide andconducted by DB5 in late 2012 (November 16-27). Respondents were aged 18 and older, andwere equally distributed by gender, age andincome. Findings are statistically significant at a95% confidence level.We spoke to 4,000 people in four markets:• United States (1,000)• United Kingdom (1,000)• China (1,000)• Australia (1,000)Survey respondents were provided thefollowing definition:Experience can include your interactions with theproducts, employees or people who representthe brand, anything you learn from that brand’smarketing, word-of-mouth, recommendationsfrom your friends, colleagues or social media./5Best Experience Brands 2013x1000x1000x1000x1000
  6. /6Best Experience Brands 2013Key insights from the researchLiz BighamThese findings are consistent with earlierresearch—ours and others’—that correlatesbetter brand experiences to loyalty andsatisfaction. In 2011, people told us that overallexperience with a brand is the single biggestfactor driving purchase (60%). In 2012, Forresterresearch correlated good customer experiencesand likelihood to repurchase and stay loyal tobrands across 14 industry sectors.If eight out of ten people said they’d bemore likely to consider your brand based onexperience, wouldn’t you invest in making yourexperience the best in your industry?And if six out of ten people said they’d even bewilling to pay more for your product based onoffering a better experience, wouldn’t you makethat investment a top strategic priority for yourorganization? Well, get ready: experience is adetermining factor for how people feel aboutand behave toward brands.According to the results of our latest BestExperience Brands research, that’s exactlywhat people all around the world think aboutbrands and the experiences they offer. Betterexperiences correlate to higher considerationand premium pricing:• Over eight in ten people (80.4%) are morelikely to consider brands with differentiatedexperiences (fig.1).• Nearly six out of ten (58.1%) will go so faras to pay more for brands with thosesuperior experiences (fig.2).Fig.1I’m more likely to consider a brand if I know Iwill have a great experience (percent agreeing)Fig.2I’m willing to pay a premium price if I know thatI will have a great experience (percent agreeing)US78.7%UK74.9%AUS74.2%China93.8%Overall80.4%US60.6%UK58.4%AUS49.5%China63.7%Overall58.1%Good customerexperiences correlateto repurchase, loyaltyand recommendation
  7. /7Best Experience Brands 2013Some groups, however, are markedly moreinfluenced than others (fig. 3-4). These includepeople aged 25-34, the age group that isconsistently most likely to consider, recommendor pay a premium price based on a betterbrand experience. The biggest generationaldivide, in fact, occurs between these olderMillennials and their Baby Boom-era parents(consumers 45+) over their willingness to pay apremium for experience: older Millennials are 16percentage points more likely than their parents’generation to pay more for brands that offergreat experiences.Better experiences also drive the most powerfulform of advertising: personal recommendation.The research reinforces that great experiencesfuel the most highly trusted form of advertisingaround: word of mouth. Almost nine out often people (87%) say they are morely likelyto recommend a brand based on a superiorexperience.Again, the Best Experience Brands findingsparallel earlier findings connecting experienceand word of mouth. In 2012, for example, ourNew Realities study found that 79% of peoplewill only advocate brands following greatpersonal experiences—meaning that for them,experience isn’t just a spark to recommendation;it’s a prerequisite.Experience influences everyone—but especiallyolder Millennials and consumers in China.On the face of it, the promise of a betterexperience is influential across all demographicgroups. Regardless of age, gender orgeography, all groups are positively influencedby superior brand experiences.Experience isn’tjust a spark torecommendation;it’s a prerequisite.Fig. 3I’m more likely to recommend a brand ifI’ve had a great experience (% agreeing)US87.6%UK85.5%AUS84.1%China90.9%Overall87%
  8. /8Best Experience Brands 2013Men are slightly more likely than womentohave higher consideration, and significantlymore likely to pay more based on experience.Conversely, women—ever the socialconsumers—are significantly more likely torecommend brands based on experience.Consumers in China are without fail more likelythan all others to be influenced by experience.Over nine in ten Chinese consumers surveyed(93.8%) are more likely to consider brandsbased on experience (versus an overall averageof 80.4% worldwide); and over nine in tenChinese consumers (90.9%) are more likely torecommend brands based on experience(versus an overall average of 87% worldwide)(figs.1-2).Fig.4Demographics of experienceI’m more likely torecommend a brandif I’ve had a greatexperienceI’m more likely toconsider a brand ifI know I will have agreat experienceI’m willing to pay apremium price if Iknow that I will havea great experience18-24 25-34 35-44 45+GenderAgeAll85.1% 89.8%81.4% 86.5%61.8% 66.7%87.0% 87.4%80.4% 82.8%58.1% 61.5%88.5% 88.6% 84.6%79.6% 85.7% 73.7%55.1% 62.0% 50.4%
  9. /9Best Experience Brands 20135 best experience principles4. Create community.Beyond fueling recommendations and referrals,experiences should be designed to connectpeople around brands—to leverage the few toinspire the many.5. Make it useful.It should go without saying: any experienceshould add value to people’s lives.Best Experience Brands definitively demonstratesthat experience matters to consumers—but whatconstitutes a great experience?Looking at qualitative inputs from this andearlier studies, as well as years of best practicesby leading experience brands, we believethat great brand experiences follow five coreprinciples—across all kinds of audiences,touchpoints and media:1. Invite participation.Great brand experiences are design-driven:simple, accessible, easy and inviting tothe participant.2. Build around users.Brand experience learned it from the web:people want their experiences to be relevantand feel customized to their needs. Evendelivered at scale, experiences should “fit”the user.3. Make it shareable.Experience sparks recommendation; experiencesshould be designed to tap into technology aswell as our primal human desire to share.
  10. /10Best Experience Brands 2013Stories of experience brandsFollowing are direct quotesfrom some of the 4,000participants in the BestExperience Brands studyin answer to open-endedquestions about “great brandexperiences” as well as “trulybad experiences”. We askedpeople to tell both about theirshopping experiences (howthey were treated by brandsas they shopped) and theircustomer experiences (howthey were treated after theybought). Some trends emergefrom the thousandsof verbatim descriptions.
  11. /11Best Experience Brands 2013Honesty andtransparencyare valued1“[The] benefits of the product are exaggeratedduring purchase, but claim settlement is complicatedand slow… We [had a] very bad experience andwill hardly choose this company again.”(China – Insurance experience)“The rep greeted [me] warmly from the door.The rep was very attentive to my needs…asked [me] a lot of questions and answeredall of mine…. The rep called me weeks after Ipurchased my phone to see if my service andphone [were] working correctly.”(US – Retail experience)“The sales staff were knowledgeable andhelpful [in] understanding my needs andaspirations. They were also prepared to providebetter prices and throw in extras.A great and pleasant experience.”(Australia – Automotive experience)
  12. /12Best Experience Brands 2013“One dealer in particular inquired more aboutmy personal needs to help look for what Ireally needed. He showed me the features andbenefits of each car. Asked if overall price ormonthly payment was more important. Tookme for a test drive and also told me I couldreturn it no questions asked in 30 days”(US – Automotive experience)“Treated me with respect and talked to me (notmy husband) when I was buying a car.”(US – Automotive experience)“As I was shopping online with them I messagedcustomer service for some help and they wereable to advise me on everything I needed.”(UK – Insurance experience)“When they put your name and number intoa computer system and you have a differentperson calling you back every day for weeks,it’s rude and completely impersonal”(US – Insurance experience)Individualtreatmentand respectare expected2
  13. /13Best Experience Brands 2013“Above andbeyond”experiences areremembered(so are theiropposites)“I was kept fully informed throughout thesales process and my wife even receiveda large bunch of flowerson delivery day.”(UK – Automotive experience)“I was in the show room looking at thevehicles and no one would approachme. So as I walked past a desk I tookdown the phone number. Then I calledthe number to get [the salesperson’s]attention... You should have seen his facewhen I waved to him.”(US – Automotive experience)“She sent me a thank you cardmentioning something I had said while Iwas there. She actually listened.”(US – Retail experience)3
  14. /14Best Experience Brands 2013Experience drivers and opportunitiesFocusing on the shopping experience and thecustomer experience reflects another experiencegap: in this instance, between the extent towhich consumers highlight these as the brandinteractions that have the highest value forthem, and the frequency with which consumerscite dissatisfaction with how brands actuallyperform during shopping and after purchase.For consumers, these are clear areas of priorityand need.In the current report, we focused on theshopping experience and the customerexperience and asked consumers to identifythe strongest drivers of success and satisfaction(fig.5). Although these drivers varied across thethree industry sectors we studied (automotive,retail, insurance), key trends emerge.“Brand experience” isn’t a moment in time; it’sa state of mind. Experience brands work tobuild sales and loyalty at moments in time andthrough relationships over time—inspiring peopleboth opportunistically and holistically.Brands that have strong experiences striveto understand experience as an ongoingcommitment, and to think holistically across thevaried journeys their people—customers, partnersand employees—have with their brands. Often,they must assess hundreds of touchpoints withina given area of experience; a study by FedExidentified 200 individual customer touchpoints,and John Deere Financial identified 529.Building on earlier insights from the 2011 report,in the current study we sought to add depthto our understanding of experience within twodistinct phases of experience:• The shopping experience—interactions with abrand when a person is in market and assessingdifferent options.• The customer experience—interactions with abrand when a person has already purchased theproduct or brand.“Brand experience”isn’t a moment in time;it’s a state of mind.
  15. /15Best Experience Brands 2013Fig.5Brand experience drivers by sectorShopping Experience: Stated DriversCustomer Experience: Stated DriversAutomotiveAutomotiveRetailRetailInsuranceInsuranceGives you opportunities to test drive their carsat the dealershipOffers discounted maintenanceOffers you free delivery or shippingCustomer service staff who treat you wellSales staff who understand your needsCustomer service staff who treat you wellSales staff who treat you wellCustomer service and maintenance staff whotreat you wellSales staff who treat you wellOffers customer loyalty rewards and incentivesOffers to match or beat competitors’ pricingCustomer service staff who understand yourneedsSales staff who can tell you about productsand pricingCustomer service and maintenance staff thatunderstand your needsGives you opportunities to try out productsCustomer service staff who understandyour needsSales staff who treat you wellOffers discounted pricing on additionalpolicies and coverageAllows you to return a car if you’re not satisfiedSends you information about caring for your carSales staff who understand your needsOffers discounted maintenance for your purchasesSales staff who educate you about the bestcoverage for youSends you customer rewards and incentivesSales staff who understand your needsSends you customer rewardsSales staff who tell you about productsand pricingDoes something special to make you feel rewardedSales staff who tell you about productsand pricingSends you information about new offers
  16. /16Best Experience Brands 2013reveals that brands still have the opportunity todo better—a lot better. Judging by one factor, thedegree to which people perceive their experiencesto be unique, brands are not breaking through.Median uniqueness for the specific brandssurveyed by category (fig. 6) is as lowas 29% (in the insurance sector). Even inthe sector where brands score the highestlevels of uniqueness—retail—about half ofthe time brands aren’t differentiated fromtheir competitors. In every instance, brands’experiences are perceived to be slightly moreunique during shopping versus after purchase,suggesting an opportunity for brands to standout with customers by truly focusing on howthey’re engaged even after they buy, whetherthrough special incentives, regular added-valueengagement or timely information.Judging by how people rank brands’ performanceagainst key experience drivers (fig. 7), the gapbetween expectations and actual performanceremains a significant challenge. In a limitednumber of instances, people agree that brandsactually meet core requirements—for example,consumers are relatively satisfied that most carThe most important driver of experience can besummed up in a single word: people.Across sectors, the experience drivers thatconsumers say matter are most often connected tostaff and service—both as they are shopping andafter they become customers of a brand. People-related drivers are the highest ranked categoryof driver in every sector and at every stageof shopping and customer experience, with asingle exception: during the automotive shoppingexperience, people place a huge value on factorsconnected to trying out the product.The clear emphasis on people as experiencedrivers also comes through in participant verbatims.When we asked for open-ended stories of greatexperiences, people and service were cited 37%of the time, unprompted, more than any otherfactor. People are also behind bad experiences:42% of all industries and over half (51%) of theunprompted stories consumers told us about badretail experiences stemmed from poor service.The biggest opportunity for brands is stilldifferentiating based on experience.As in earlier studies, Best Experience Brandsbrands do a good job of providing opportunitiesto test drive and informative staff interactions indealerships. Yet in most other instances, acrossall geographies, sectors and demographics,more often than not consumers still rate brands’performance as falling short of expectations.Fig.6How differentiated are brand experiences?CarsCarsRetailRetailInsuranceInsuranceUnique Shopping ExperienceAverageAverageMedianMedianUnique Customer Experience29%29%33%34%40%46%43%51%39%39%46%48%
  17. /17Best Experience Brands 2013Fig.7Experience drivers: expectations vs. performanceAutomotiveShopping ExperienceRank RankDriver DriverPerformance PerformanceCustomer Experience 4 Allows you to return a car if you’re not satisfied 21.0% 5 Sends you customer rewards 18.0% 11 Does something special to get your attention 23.0% 9 Allows you do comparison test drives of their cars and their competitors’ cars 25.0% 7 Offers you incentives to recommend your car to friends and family 21.0% 8 People you know recommend the brand to you 28.0% 10 Invites you to special events 24.0% 5 Sales staff who understand your needs 36.0% 8 Offers incentives to test drive newer models 25.0% 2 Sales staff who treat you well 45.0% 6 Educates you about fuel efficiency and environmental impact 30.0% 13 Provides mobile/digital tools to help you compare offers 21.0% 13 Gives you mobile tools/apps to recommend your car to your friends and family 19.0% 12 Invites you to special events 24.0% 12 Offers new mobile tools/apps that enhance your driving experience 20.0% 7 Sends you discount offers 25.0% 11 Does something special to get your attention 21.0% 10 Gives you opportunities to test drive their cars at locations other than the dealership 29.0% 1 Offers discounted maintenance 25.0% 6 Speaks to you about fuel efficiency and environmental impact 37.0% 9 Invites you to special events where you can test drive newer models 26.0% 3 Sales staff who can tell you about products and pricing 53.0% 4 Sends you information about caring for your car 31.0% 1 Gives you opportunities to test drive their cars at the dealership 57.0% 3 Customer service and maintenance staff that understand your needs 37.0% 2 Customer service and maintenance staff who treat you well 41.0%
  18. /18Best Experience Brands 2013Fig.7Experience drivers: expectations vs. performanceRetailShopping ExperienceRank RankDriver DriverPerformance PerformanceCustomer Experience 11 Invites you to special events 21.0% 8 Rewards you for telling friends and family about your shopping experience 17.0% 9 Offers unexpected in-store experiences 23.0% 13 Provides mobile/digital tools to enhance your shopping experience 26.0% 6 Sends you information about caring for your purchases 21.0% 10 Does something special to get your attention 27.0% 5 Does something special to make you feel rewarded 22.0% 6 Offers you incentives to buy in a particular place, for example in-store or online 32.0% 12 Offers new mobile tools/apps that enhance your product experience 23.0% 5 Sales staff who tell you about products and pricing 35.0% 2 Offers customer loyalty rewards and incentives 25.0% 3 Gives you opportunities to try out products 23.0% 7 Offers incentives to try out newer items 19.0% 12 Provides mobile/digital tools to help you compare offers 24.0% 4 Offers discounted maintenance for your purchases 20.0% 1 Offers you free delivery or shipping 27.0% 10 Invites you to special events 21.0% 4 Sales staff who understand your needs 31.0% 13 Gives you mobile tools/apps to share your experience with your friends and family 22.0% 8 People you know recommend the retail company to you 33.0% 11 Does something special to get your attention 24.0% 7 Sends you information about upcoming sales 36.0% 9 Creates a customer profile to make shopping with them easier and faster 29.0% 2 Sales staff who treat you well 38.0% 3 Customer service staff who understand your needs 31.0% 1 Customer service staff who treat you well 37.0%
  19. /19Best Experience Brands 2013Fig.7Experience drivers: expectations vs. performanceInsuranceShopping ExperienceRank RankDriver DriverPerformance PerformanceCustomer Experience 10 Invites you to special events 16.0% 13 Invites you to special events where you can learn and be educated 16.0% 6 Does something special to make you feel rewarded 19.0% 7 Rewards you for telling friends and family about the company 19.0% 12 Provides mobile/digital tools to educate you about financial planning 19.0% 4 Sends you customer rewards and incentives 20.0% 9 Does something special to get your attention 20.0% 11 Provides mobile/digital tools to educate you about being a smarter owner/renter 20.0% 8 Offers new mobile/digital tools/apps that help you access your policy information 22.0% 5 Sends you information about new offers 32.0% 3 Offers discounted pricing on additional policies and coverage 33.0% 2 Customer service staff who understand your needs 34.0% 1 Customer service staff who treat you well 36.0% 14 Invites you to events where you can learn and be educated 17.0% 13 Provides mobile/digital tools to educate you about being a smarter owner/renter 21.0% 11 Does something special to get your attention 22.0% 12 Provides mobile/digital tools to help you compare offers 22.0% 8 People you know recommend the brand to you 23.0% 10 Gives you information about competing brands 23.0% 2 Offers to match or beat competitors’ pricing 25.0% 6 Sends you discount offers 25.0% 7 Gives you side-by-side comparison of their policies with their competitors’ 25.0% 9 Gives you a strong understanding of what it would be like to be there customer 27.0% 1 Sales staff who understand your needs 33.0% 4 Sales staff who educate you about the best coverage for you 33.0% 3 Sales staff who treat you well 37.0% 5 Sales staff who tell you about products and pricing 42.0% 42.0%
  20. 3 steps to better brand experienceIt’s clear: brands need to raise their game when itcomes to brand experience. Across geographies,categories, categories and customer groups,brands can and must do better.Regardless of a brand’s stage of experiencedevelopment, a simple three-step approach applies:1. Map the overall brand experience.Assess all the touchpoints that add up to brandexperience to understand gaps, white spaces andareas for improvement. From a customer journeyperspective, this is an invaluable step toward“plugging the holes” at which people defector get distracted.2. Improve existing experiences.Do the work of elevating existing experiences,with particular attention on drivers with the highestlevels of impact, like customer-facing staff, partnersand other people that represent the brand.3. Invent and innovate.With so few truly differentiated experiences,brands have a huge opportunity to stand out andbe special. Look at the tremendously low currentperformance scores for the extra, discretionaryexperiences brands create—and take advantageof that white space./20Best Experience Brands 2013
  21. /21The C-Suite ProjectContact: Liz Bigham, SVP, Director of Brand MarketingE: liz_bigham@jackmorton.comT: +1 212 401 7212Read our blog at blog.jackmorton.comFollow us on twitter @jackmortonVisit us online at jackmorton.comAbout Jack MortonJack Morton Worldwide is a global brand experience agency with officeson five continents. Our agency culture promotes breakthrough ideas abouthow experiences connect brands and people – in-person, online, at retailand through the power of digital and word of mouth. We work with bothBtoC and BtoB clients to create powerful and effective experiences thatengage customers and consumers, launch products, align employees andbuild strong experience brands. Ranked at the top of our field, we earnedover 50 awards for creativity, execution and effectiveness last year.Jack Morton is part of the Interpublic Group of Companies, Inc. (NYSE: IPG).© Jack Morton Worldwide 2013Talk to JackTo read our earlier white papers, visit our Slidesharechannel at PAPERSJACK