In today's hypercompetitive market, emotional branding has become an important part of a brand's ability to win loyal customers. Technology advances and saturated markets have made many products and services interchangeable. And competing solely on price is an unreliable strategy.As the economy shifts from production to consumption-driven businesses in the digital era, consumers are increasingly making buying decisions based on how they feel about a company and its offer. This reality is playing out across numerous industries according to Forrester Research.
In the research firm's latest U.S. Customer Experience Index, Forrester analysts polled about 46,000 adults about their customer experiences across 18 industries such as retail, financial services, and health insurance. Financial services firms and digital-only retailers engendered the most loyalty through their customer experiences. On the other end of the spectrum were health insurers, TV service providers, Internet service providers, and the federal government.
USAA and Amazon--companies known for their customer-friendly services--once again took the top spots in their respective categories. Notably, many of the other high-ranking brands like JetBlue Airways and Zappos also invest in employee training and resources to support the brand image of putting their customers first.
"Effectiveness and ease are necessary dimensions of the customer experience for winning and retaining customers," writes Vice President and Principal Analyst Megan Burns in the report. "But they aren't sufficient on their own...the emotions that an experience elicits influence loyalty more than effectiveness or ease [for most industries].
Ray Wang, chief executive officer and principal analyst at Constellation Research, agrees that brand promises are a key business differentiator. "It's not enough to just sell products or services anymore; customers require businesses to deliver authentic experiences and outcomes," Wang says. "We're moving from selling products to keeping brand promises."
Wang pointed to Disney, Fox News, the Mayo Clinic, and Virgin America as examples of companies whose brand messages resonate with consumers.
However, not every company can provide exceptional customer or brand experiences and that's fine. In fact, elevating a poor customer experience to one that is okay is sometimes more profitable than going from okay to excellent, according to Burns. This doesn't mean that businesses should only shoot for mediocre experiences, but it can help put things in perspective as companies assess their customer experience strategies.