Experience Branding" ? How to Survive as an Online Retailer
"Are You Experienced?" asked guitar player Jimi Hendrix 35 years ago. Jimi wasn?t talking about e-commerce ? but his question is appropriate to today?s economic climate. These days many retailers, including online retailers, are discovering that their business suffers if they do not implement an "Experience Branding" strategy. What is that?
"Experience Branding" is a way to describe a method of linking an identity to a business or product that involves customer interaction. In the long run, this method leaves a longer, and in most cases, LASTING impression on the consumer.
Here's an example:
100 years ago, a person would buy coffee beans and grind them himself. Then came along pre-ground coffee. Eventually, you could go to a vendor and buy a nice hot pre-made cup of coffee. Today, companies like Starbucks not only give you the hot coffee, but they provide you with a nice comfortable soft chair to sit in, a paper to read, music to listen to, and an eclectic setting to enjoy these things in. They provide an EXPERIENCE. This is why people are willing to fork over $4.00 for a cup of coffee!
An early case of this branding method put into practice was the Macy's Department Store Leisurama homes of 1963. Back then you could actually go to the 7th floor of the Herald Square store in New York City and see a full-blown house - completely furnished. You could buy the house there - then 3 months later move in (these were built in Montauk, New York). The finished house was furnished right down to the toothbrush and everything was included in one single price. This method of experience branding was so successful that, down to this day, the owners of many of these houses still own the towels, dishes, etc. that came with the house. They enjoyed the experience and wanted to preserve it.
Today, this method can be applied to anything - including web based businesses. An online vendor can give an experience to the viewer that will make a lasting impression. Some provide games for their viewers to enjoy. Most find that providing special information - an article giving the background of a given product presented with a human-interest slant ? is sufficient. Viewers can be invited to "register" - giving them access to an area of the site that the general public does not, where special information can be presented. This gives the viewer the feeling that they are part of something special - a private club.
One example of this method of online "Experience Branding" is WeightWatchers.com. A registered user has access to message boards and a special catalog of diet recipes. A registered viewer becomes part of a community. It's an experience that will keep them coming back!
"Experience Branding" is also helpful to non-profit organizations. JohnTaylorGatto.com, an alternative education resource, provides an online discussion forum that attracts teachers and parents, encouraging them to debate educational topics and share war stories. The Odysseus Group, the organization that owns JohnTaylorGatto.com, reports that interest in their web site skyrocketed when the forum was launched.
So what do we learn from this? Gone are the days of impersonal service. If you want to survive ? offer your customers an experience!
About the Author
Jake Gorst is a writer, film maker, and president of Exploded View (http://www.explodedview.tv), a new media advertising and design company. He also is a frequent contributor to various trade publications on topics related to Web site and architectural design psychology and trends. Previously, Gorst served as Vice President and Chief Creative Officer for E-Media Publishing, Ltd. and as an Internet content developer for Citibank and other Long Island based corporations.