It's time to create distinct, memorable experiences

by Mark Molenaar: Customer Experience Director, South Africa, Insights Division, Kantar.
Online shopping is booming in South Africa if the surge in delivery bikes on the road is anything to go by.  According to the 2023 South African Customer Experience Report¹, 88% of connected South Africans have shopped online, and the ecommerce share of the retail market is growing steadily. Apps are the preferred channel for regular purchases, while social media is becoming a key channel for finding inspiration and making purchases, especially among younger shoppers (62% of GenZ want to buy via social media app²).

But online shopping is not the only way customers interact with brands. Increasingly, customers use digital channels and social media for inspiration, discovery and evaluation before making a purchase, whether online or in-store. To compete effectively in today’s retail environment, brands need to create a comprehensive omnichannel strategy and capability, which means collecting and managing customer data across all sources of interaction, touchpoints, products and services. This will enable brands to personalise the experience and allow customers to choose how they want to interact at any point in the customer journey.

Since the pandemic, many brands have upgraded their CRM systems, supply chains, logistics and marketing stacks to deliver a connected and seamless omnichannel experience. However, this is only the start. To outcompete, brands need to go further and create distinct, memorable experiences that reinforce their brand identity. Kantar’s Crossmedia research³ shows that 75% of a brand’s predisposition comes from unpaid touchpoints, such as word-of-mouth, reviews, social media and in-store interactions. This means only 25% of a brand’s perception in the mind of the consumer comes from advertising and paid media. A brand’s strength and appeal is now overwhelmingly linked to the customer experience in an omnichannel environment. Creating a frictionless experience is no longer enough to differentiate a brand.

A brand needs to be Meaningful, Different and Salient to stand out and grow. Meaningful means meeting emotional and functional needs. Different means standing out as unique and leading the way. Salient means coming to mind easily when making a purchase decision. Kantar’s Brand Z4 analysis shows that brands that are strongly meaningful, different and salient have 5X the commercial brand value growth of brands that are not.

So what does this mean for ecommerce and the omnichannel experience? Once the basics are in place to provide a frictionless experience, brands need to focus on creating emotional engagement through a meaningfully differentiated brand experience. This means creating experiences for customers at any point in their journey that reflect the values and identity of the brand and creating lasting and distinct brand memories. This requires a shift in thinking from seeing customer experience as a mostly operational function, to one that is closely linked to brand strategy. Brand expectations frame the customer experience and in turn the experience feeds brand memories. The customer experience needs to not only focus on what is done, but also on how it is done. This means leveraging different touchpoints to complement each other at different points in the journey. For example, brands can craft retail outlets to create more experiential destinations for customers, while enabling online purchases. Brands can also be deliberate about the type of influencers associated with the brand, the style and tone of social media and other communication and ensuring consistency wherever the brand is experienced. Increasingly, AI can be leveraged to personalise the experience, but also keep it true to the brand.

Ultimately, brand owners need to be thinking about intentional brand experiences when customer interact with them and form a clear people, process and tech change plan to get there.

  1. 2023 South African Customer Experience Report
  2. Kantar eCommerce study 2022
  3. 400.000 touchpoint evaluations across 550 Kantar Connect studies
  4. Kantar Brand Z report

Useful resources:
Kantar is the world’s leading marketing data and analytics company. We have a complete, unique and rounded understanding of how people think, feel and act; globally and locally in over 90 markets.
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