Experiential branding is still a relatively new concept for many South African businesses but is a logical extension of mass personalisation, as consumers now expect much more than a homogenised shopping experience.
"They want to be drawn into your business and exposed to something new and surprising. They want to feel a connection with your brand and your story and, when they do, you will reap the reward of brand referrals - both online and in the real world," explains Craig Perry, Head of Sales at DMX Africa, an integrated provider of in-store customer experience solutions.
As online shopping becomes easier and more convenient for South Africans, businesses must consider every aspect of the customer experience. "Consumers have so many options nowadays, which means factors such as best pricing or best selection are not enough to differentiate the offering. It's necessary to build stronger connections with customers because if you are not able to create a reason for them to come into your store, they will simply purchase the product online instead."
This can be achieved through experiential design, which gives consumers interaction and an experience they cannot get online or from a competitor. Experiential design is the integration of every aspect of the customer experience, with each element working together to convey your distinct brand personality and enhance your brand strategy. The company helps brands connect with customers by providing customised soundtracks, digital signage, on-hold messaging, scent, integrated audio-visual and interactive mobile marketing solutions.
In South Africa, this has evolved into experiential solutions for clients such as Truworths, @Home and KFC. "We work closely with clients to brand sites in line with their marketing objectives and consumer demographics. We are able to create a 360-degree sensory branding experience and deploy the same offering to as many sites as required throughout the country, ensuring brand consistency. On the back-end, our content management system allows retailers to track the success of their digital marketing and to make necessary changes quickly and effectively."
There is a growing understanding of the need for a shift towards a smarter, integrated and digital approach to consumer interaction. "Experiential branding pertains to the overall look and feel of a brand. It is more than simply putting on a CD or an iPod. It usually takes years to give a store a makeover; this can instead be done virtually and incrementally in a shorter space of time across all stores, creating a virtual makeover."
Many smart brands now also have an online option, but when customers are in store, one has a unique opportunity to expose them to new products and to get them engaged with your brand. Technology's creep into almost every aspect of our lives presents retailers with new in-store tools and methods to interact with consumers.
Location based marketing
Take the mobile phone and social media, for example. People walk around with their smartphones in their hand. Many of them have social media accounts. It is an opportunity to create location-based marketing solutions, sharing branded content and bringing mobile advertising in-store where it matters most. However, Perry cautions that bombarding consumers with interruption advertising is not effective. "Instead, businesses need to harness the growing marketing power of social media and interpersonal connection to attract and keep customers. When done well, businesses can successfully turn customers into free brand ambassadors."
Ultimately, the aim is to give consumers a story worth telling. "Create a story, do something different, have a unique feel or culture around your product. Pay attention to subtle details chosen by design and with creative intent. The whole of an experience is greater than the sum of its parts," he concludes.
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