We all shop with certain brands for a number of reasons. Maybe it’s price or quality, but often it’s about more than that. Often it’s how a brand makes us feel or how we believe we will be perceived for using that brand; that Swiss watch, that particular manufacturer of car, whatever it may be. It’s also about our experience of using that brand, and that experience starts when we are making a purchase.
Brands may put a lot of effort and resource into making our experience as the customer one that keeps us loyal and portrays that synergy of brand to buyer in sync. They’ll do that in a number of ways; branding style, tone of voice, visuals, web design, user journey, checkouts (in the case of ecommerce) and more. But often what brands overlook is who externally we as the customer may interact with during and after the buy cycle which could impact not just our experience, but bring into question our very allegiance to that brand. And I’m specifically talking about ecommerce here.
For example, I tend to buy my work shirts from TM Lewin. The fit is good and the price point excellent. I buy ten of them, expect them to last a year (which they do) and at the end of the year I replace them. I recently bought a new batch online, went through the checkout, all nice and smooth, and that was it. Then a day or two later I got a dispatch email, from probably the worst courier company in the UK, notorious for contract based drivers who ram their cars full of parcels and take little care — a quick check on Trustpilot at time of writing shows 2.5 stars from over 24,000 reviews.
Suddenly I found myself questioning why TM Lewin would choose to align themselves with this courier. The delivery of an item forms part of the customer journey and therefore part of your overall experience – the two companies could not be more at odds. And while I pondered this I realised that had I been given the option to pay for a more expensive courier at checkout I would have opted for it. Taken one step further, had I know during checkout that this particular courier would be used would I have still completed my purchase — maybe not, and that’s pretty profound when you think about it.
Take this to the other end of the scale; another retailer, another online purchase and a different courier. This time I enjoyed dispatch confirmation emails, text messages on the day, the delivery drivers name; a completely different experience. Was my prevailing thought afterwards “that’s a great courier?” No, who thinks that! All the credit went to the brand because they had proven to me as the buyer that they had considered everything, that they cared about my purchase getting to me safely, and that they wanted me to be informed. That’s the subtle difference that adds up to a lot.
So what’s the lesson here? Well, like all things in life, be careful the company you keep. Anyone involved in the chain of your customer journey is an ambassador for your brand, so don’t put it at risk by aligning with anyone who does not positively impact your brand. And don’t underestimate those functions which you believe may not be that important to your customer, like choice of courier. Anything that sets you apart, however small, makes a difference and keeps you front of mind with your buyer.
I’ll close with an example. Jiffy bags all look the same, white and boring, with little to identify one package from another. In my primary business we send out all our products to customers in padded jet black waterproof Jiffy bags. They probably offer the same level of protection as the white ones, but to the eager recipient they are easily identifiable as ours, and it adds to the experience. We know this because so many customers have told us they look out for them in their office mail. “I received one of your black space age parcels today!” It really makes the difference.