The Buying Experience: Part of the Brand

What is it like to buy your product?
And how is that supporting your brand promise? When some people thing of “brand” they might think of the stuff that the PR team or the corporate marketing team does to create a tag line or the pretty slicks of stuff to “position” the company. But a brand is (and I know you readers have heard me say this before so my apologies for being redudant!) more than the fluff. It is the ultimate integration of everything a company does. It is the packaging because the ease, simplicity, etc of “getting the product” is part of the experience. Yes, it also includes the stuff that the analyst relations and PR team pay attention to. Of course, it has to include the product design and features. It also gets conveyed in the way your sales force sells the thing. It is everything that, when added up, creates an impression of what the company believes.
In other words,
Brand Objective = What you believe => What you do (across everything…) => Reality of what customer experiences = Brand Perception by Custtomer
Which gets me to what your product is like to buy.
Is it being sold by a surly teenager, a condescending socialite or a passionate fan?
Los Gatos, my town, is about to open an Apple Retail store downtown. It reminds me how different the Apple experience will be from shopping experience to be had at Circuit City. One environment is painstakingly planned and controlled for maximum results – with incredible dollars-per-square-foot productivity. The other is designed for a series of quantity sales – the equivalent to quickly turning tables in a fast food restaurant. The price may be about the same, training of employees similar, yet the Apple experience clearly attracts both employees and customers for whom the buying experience esthetics are critical.
By the way, if lots of discounting comes to mind when you think of the name of the company (particularly if it’s a retailer) the buying experience itself is probably discounted. Elegant purchasing experiences are often the result of training and discipline. It may appear that the salesman at Ferragamo just happened to know the right color to go with your Chanel jacket, but don’t believe it. You had a seamless, delightful transaction because there were hours of training and years of experience behind it. At Ferragamo, the quality and workmanship of the sales process is equal to that in the products. It’s the reason why I really, really, really want to go back to the Bottega store or the Cartier store for my birthday. It’s not rational. It’s emotional. I know it’s going to be a good experience. I know the feel of the leather, the smoothness of a zipper, etc will all be stuff I’ll enjoy. And for sure, I’ll really enjoy the purchase experience. (The Bottega’s sales person’s name in SanFrancisco is Tom.)
What’s the look on your customer’s face after they’ve purchased your stuff? Is it this?
How much thought are you putting into your buying experience? Should you rethink it?

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