I’m an Apple fanboy.
In Search of the Perfect Brand Experience
Apple goes to great lengths to keep me passionate and engaged. It hit me on a recent trip to the Apple Store to buy an iPhone 5s (no, not the gold version). There’s no retail experience like visiting an Apple Store. I can browse, try out any product for as long as I like and if I’m not in the mood to chat, I can make a purchase via the Apple Store app by simply scanning a barcode with my iPhone. No need to talk to a salesperson.
If I do need help, the experience is just as great. The Genius Bar has the experts who know their products and are glad to help. And if the geniuses are too busy, the customer standing next to me might have all the insight I need. Even the store’s high-end and modern layout is so distinctly Apple. It’s the perfect brand experience.
Contrast that to big box retailers. What you might gain in product selection you’ll lose on the other end. There’s no striking difference among brands; Samsungs, Motorolas and iPhones lined up side by side, with limited opportunities to be exposed to what’s great about any one brand. It’s a poor experience from the brand perspective, and one that you can bet brands are dying to change. While Apple surely appreciates the reach (and sales) provided by selling their products through channels like Best Buy and Walmart, it’s clear that these stores cannot match the integrated experience of the Apple Store.
What Marketers Can Learn from Apple
Delivering an integrated experience is what makes the Apple Store work. It’s a blend of the perfect brand experience for Apple products, combined with the support and general helpfulness of the Genius Bar, combined with the ability to quickly and easily purchase an Apple product.
Digital and brand marketers can learn from the integrated experience of the Apple Store. If your digital properties aren’t delivering inspired brand experiences, you’re missing an opportunity. Some sites are content rich, but lack connection to the community of users and enthusiasts who make a brand thrive. Some may offer a forum for comments and reviews, but that feedback is siloed from commerce offerings. Sites that have optimized for a great shopping experience may find that they’ve squeezed out their opportunity to develop their brand story in the same place.
Integrated digital experiences combine content, community and commerce, and the brands that do it best will gain the advantage. Content is the representation of your products and services in a way that amplifies your brand. Community is a place for your passionate fans to support and market to each other. Commerce is the ability to make it easy to sell your products and services within your brand experience.
Take Timex.com. With content that spans running, wellness, outdoor activities and style trends, Timex has created a destination for people whose passions intersect the brand. By integrating relevant content with its digital commerce, Timex is supporting the sale of its watches both online and by any of its retailers while its defining its brand.
With digital, any brand can immerse a consumer within its story. There’s a chance to make social connections, to attract enthusiasts with relevant and on point content that will keep them coming back. To have support experts and a community of brand enthusiasts right at their disposal. Brands can evangelize and demonstrate a commitment to a passion and culture that just isn’t possible in the big box experience, but readily created in the digital realm.
Editor's Note: Read more by Tom in Think Customers, Not Channels