Building a unified brand experience across channels
The modern consumer interacts with brands in a variety of ways. Whether they’re browsing the aisles of your store or the pages of your website, every interaction they have with your business contributes to how they feel about your brand. On one hand, that gives your business many opportunities to impress consumers. On the other, it gives you just as many opportunities to make mistakes that put customer loyalty at risk.
This is where consistency comes in. Creating a unified brand experience that shows your business in the best light across all channels — online and off — is an important way to build customer loyalty and trust, which is the foundation good business is built on.
What is brand experience?
The brand experience encompasses every interaction, sensation, thought and feeling a customer has when they encounter your business across different channels. This includes all marketing touch points, the online brand experience, the retail brand experience in your store, the experience with your products after purchase and any customer service interactions. All this adds up to the unified brand experience each customer has.
Why is brand experience important?
A customer’s brand experience determines how they’ll feel about your business. When customers are deciding which business to choose, they’ll consider their available options and general feelings about each one. Every experience they’ve had with each business on the list will colour their opinion of that brand and ultimately affect the choice they make.
That’s why brand experience is so important. When every experience a customer has with a brand is positive, they are more likely to trust that they can consistently count on you. If their experiences have been mixed, the brand will rank lower in their estimation. And if they’ve had even one outright bad experience, they may never come back. Good interactions don’t always outweigh the bad or mediocre ones.
This makes defining a unified brand strategy across channels an imperative. When customers have a different experience on your social media channels than they do speaking with your customer service team, it won’t matter to them that it’s because different teams run each area. As far as they’re concerned, it’s all the same brand. It’s up to you to make sure the people behind every channel are representing the brand consistently.
4 tips for creating a unified brand experience across all channels
A unified brand experience across channels doesn’t happen automatically. Most businesses have different individuals or departments managing different aspects of the brand experience. Each will approach it in their own way unless they’re given brand guidance from above. Ensuring that every channel is aligned requires a top-down strategy that keeps all employees on the same page. Below are some tips for doing that.
Create a brand experience strategy
Start by defining your brand. What are your primary brand values and goals? What do you want your brand to look like visually? What feelings do you want your brand to inspire in customers? Where a pet store might want to establish a brand that’s playful, a clothing retailer may want to go for a more high-end vibe.
Think through all your channels
To create a unified brand experience, you need to consider everywhere your brand will be. What channels will you use to build your brand presence and communicate with customers? For every channel you use, think about how to achieve your desired brand experience there.
Create clear brand guidelines for all employees
Your brand strategy should start at the top, but employees throughout the business will be involved in communicating the brand experience to customers. Clearly document your brand guidelines to help keep all your teams on the same page and have a central resource employees can refer to for clarification. Train all new employees about your brand values and their expected role in portraying them. Consider setting up regular training sessions that offer employees a refresher, so they don’t lose sight of those brand values over time.
Determine metrics to track
How will you measure how well you’ve achieved the brand experience you’re going for? You’ll likely want a mix of channel- and department-specific goals, as well as high-level goals. For example, if you want to position your brand as experts in the space who care about educating customers, key metrics could include how many people read your blog posts, as well as how many customer questions employees successfully answer in-store.
Elements of a great brand experience
To win customer loyalty and keep it for the long term, you need to deliver on consumer expectations across channels. Crafting an exceptional brand experience from the moment customers first hear about you through their entire relationship with your brand is the path to the kind of customer satisfaction that keeps people coming back.
Digital brand experience
As more customers shop on their computer or phone, creating the right digital brand experience is key. That includes a few main elements:
Website. Your website is your brand’s main face online. Designing a website that provides a great experience and represents your brand well should be a top priority. Make the information customers most commonly look for — things like location addresses, hours and FAQs — easy to find. Be sure the website’s navigation is intuitive. Customers should be able to easily get to whatever web page or product they’re looking for. And use the website to promote your other online channels, as well as your products and deals.
Brand app. An app isn’t something every business needs, but if you know your customers do a lot of their browsing and shopping on mobile devices, it could be a smart investment. If you do create a branded app, design it to match your larger digital brand experience. That could mean using similar colours, features and design elements to what’s on your website, while making sure it’s designed with mobile usability in mind.
Online ordering and checkout process. For both a website and an app, you can encourage more sales from all the customers who prefer the ease of shopping from their couch by enabling online ordering. Design the checkout process for conversion, so that completing an order is seamless for customers. For example, letting customers create an account that saves their information (so they don’t have to re-enter it with each order) simplifies the process of future purchases. And accepting popular payment methods (like PayPal and Apple Pay) can further reduce friction.
Online content. Content marketing is a great way to further build out your online profile, demonstrate your expertise and build trust with customers. Create content that relates to your brand. As an example, a grocery store might publish recipes that use products it sells. A clothing store could write blog posts about seasonal fashion tips. And a crafts store could publish how-to videos for creative crafts projects.
For customers who place delivery orders, your job isn’t done once the purchase is complete. You still want to think through their full delivery experience.
Delivery options. The delivery experience starts with what delivery options are available. If possible, try to offer customers a few different options, such as same-day, next-day, slower delivery for a lower price or delivery scheduled for a set time in advance. Consumers also love free delivery, so consider when it makes business sense to waive the delivery cost as a perk. For example, you could remove delivery fees for orders over $50, to encourage larger order sizes.
Delivery speed. How quickly delivery orders arrive will often be a deciding factor. When a holiday or occasion is approaching, customers need their items by a specific date to serve their intended purpose. Nobody wants an anniversary gift that shows up a week late. And when they’re ordering groceries or flowers, the items must come while they’re still fresh. Make sure you offer deliveries at a speed that makes sense for the context, and do your best to follow through on the promised arrival time.
Delivery tracking. Once an order is placed, an eager customer will be anticipating its arrival. If you provide delivery tracking information, they can check for themselves how far away it is and when to expect it. That improves their experience and cuts down on how often you hear from customers asking for delivery updates.
Drop-off experience. The final part of the delivery experience may take only a few moments, but it still matters. Let customers dictate their hand-off preferences. Someone with a sleeping baby may prefer that you leave the item at the door without knocking, while someone who wants to get the ice cream in that grocery order into the freezer ASAP may request that you ring the doorbell. Provide these instructions to delivery drivers to ensure that you’re offering a good delivery experience right up to the final moment.
Brand platforms and communication channels
Consumers expect access to their favourite brands. Offering 2-way communication on various platforms plays an important role in the overall brand experience you create. Some of the most common platforms and communication channels to factor into your strategy include the following:
Phone. Phone calls may seem old-fashioned compared with some other channels featured here, but the phone is still a common option for customers who have questions or feedback for businesses. Make your business phone number easy to find, and have employees available to answer calls during your business hours.
Social media. Social media platforms are good for both pushing out marketing messages and interacting directly with customers. Incorporate both uses into your strategy. Share valuable content you create and promotions your audience is likely to care about. Then reply to your followers when they share something about your brand or reply to your posts.
Email. Like social media, email can serve as a channel for marketing and customer support. Use it to stay top of mind with your customers, share coupons and promotions, and provide store updates. And provide an email address customers can use for any questions, comments or feedback they have. Keep that inbox monitored so you can answer fast, and craft responses that are in line with your overall brand values and goals.
Online chat. This is an optional channel to consider but one that’s increasingly common for businesses to provide. You can set up a chat feature on your website or app that an employee monitors in order to answer questions for customers in real time. Some chat software includes automation, meaning that a chatbot can answer simple questions on its own, so an employee only needs to step in for more complex queries. For example, if a potential customer for a florist wants to know if they still have time to order for Mother’s Day, the chatbot could be programmed with that response and save a busy human a few minutes of work.
Reviews. Customers may leave reviews with other customers in mind, but those reviews also serve as a form of communication with the brand. Every review you get provides valuable feedback. And in many of the places where customers leave reviews (including the Uber Eats app), brands have the option to reply, making it a 2-way communication platform. Whether a review is singing your praises or sharing a frustrating experience, replying is a good way to let the customer know you hear them and care what they have to say.
In-store brand experience
Even when online ordering is an option, many customers still like to do their shopping in person. The experience you create within your store’s physical location is a key part of the overall brand experience.
Store layout and aesthetics. When customers walk through the door, the visual design and layout of your store will largely determine their first impression. Think about what you want to communicate with your store’s interior design. Retail stores that want to show that they have a little of everything may want big, expansive aisles that are clearly labelled. Specialty shops might want to create a more intimate, cosy environment. Consider factors like your store’s colours, how much space you put between aisles and where to feature certain products.
In-person employees. Employees are extremely important to a brand’s in-store experience. They should be well trained in all the brand’s most important goals. For example, a gardening supply store that prides itself on educating patrons on gardening locally should hire employees with the right knowledge and experience, then train them to provide helpful advice to customers. Also be mindful of how many employees you hire and schedule at a time — too few, and you risk long checkout lines or customers who can’t find help when they need it. Even if every employee is amazing, you still need enough of them to create the right in-store brand experience.
In-store physical experience. Something unique to the in-store brand experience is the sensory impressions people will have. Think about how to make the space as comfortable as possible, factoring in elements like temperature, noise and smell. Consider what music playlists match the brand experience you want to create. Keep the temperature set to comfortable levels. And be mindful of any unpleasant smells you might need to remedy — an element that’s especially important for, say, a pet store where customers bring their pets in with them.
Extend your services with Uber while keeping your brand experience unified
Maintaining a consistent brand experience across channels doesn’t mean you have to do everything in-house. If you choose the right business to partner with, you can get help meeting customer expectations, while keeping your branding intact.
For example, Uber Direct, the white-label delivery solution from Uber Eats, enables businesses to offer same-day delivery to their most loyal customers directly from their own website or app. Through a simple integration process, customers place orders on your existing sales channels, which you can fulfil with the help of drivers in Uber’s delivery network. Along the way, you can send your customers tracking updates that are customised to fit the look and feel of your brand. This is an efficient way to expand the services you offer customers with third-party support, while keeping your branding intact.
Even if you list your business on the Uber Eats app, where customers can browse multiple storefronts at once, you still have an opportunity to maintain a strong and consistent brand experience. In fact, some companies, like Shake Shack, combine a presence on the Uber Eats marketplace with Uber Direct to delight customers with efficient delivery, regardless of where they place their orders.
Curious to learn how Shake Shack creates a unified brand experience across Uber Eats and their own channels? Listen to this conversation for tips, tricks and best practices.
For insights on effectively managing handovers with delivery people and offering a delivery experience that reflects positively on your brand, take this self-guided lesson on Merchant Academy.
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