How do you differentiate products or services that look very similar to 100 other products or services? In an era of iterative digital innovation that enables companies of all sizes and all geographies to be equally as efficient and profitable, it’s a fundamental question.

Today, it’s never been easier for an innovative company to beat the most established legacy competitors. The hard part is maintaining that position. Technology continues to level the playing field, enabling businesses to scale faster, less expensively, and with more agility than ever before.

So market dominance can be fleeting, at best. The solution is to differentiate by competing on experience.

“At an experience level, you can create something that’s unique,” said Arke CTMO Chris Spears. That means taking steps to shape your customers’ behavior and attitudes, and focusing on how you make your customers feel.”

Differentiate the Buying and Owning Experience

As Dean Evans, CMO for Hyundai Motor America, noted in an article on Forbes, businesses now need to find ways to make customers happier with not only the service or product they’re buying but with then buying and owning experience itself.

“Today the cars are all getting pretty good, so how do you compete? And Amazon is sitting in the middle of a room like an elephant and saying consumers want their goods differently,” he said.

“So we’re looking at the buying and owning experience. We think that’s going to be a competitive advantage for us and is now and will be in the future.”

‘Companies Have Lost Their Clout’

By rethinking the buying and owning experience, companies and brands can capitalize on today’s buyer behavior. It enables them to connect with consumers who are, in general, less loyal and more dependent on each other than brands for inspiration throughout their buying journeys.

“Companies have lost their clout with consumers. Today prospective buyers are likely to bypass carefully curated brand marketing materials in favor of advice from existing customers or clients,” Arke VP of Strategy Margaret Wise said

This user-generated content (UGC) — everything from ratings and reviews to videos, blogs, discussion forum posts, digital images and audio files — outperforms brand-produced content.

UGC Is Shaped by Experience

UGC gives shoppers the information they need to make informed purchase decisions. It’s fresh, fast, and ever expanding. What’s more, it’s largely shaped by the experiences your company or brand provides.

  1. Do you know your customers?
  2. How do you make them feel valued and appreciated?
  3. Do you consistently live up to your brand promises and commitments — and occasionally exceed them?
  4. Do you value your customer relationships?

Connecting with customers, especially on an emotional level, requires both empathy and serendipity. To win hearts of your customers and clients, you have to value authenticity more than scripted responses.

You also need to make emotional intelligence a key element of your company DNA. Without it, you’ll struggle to meaningfully and consistently build deeper customer connections.

The Right Technology Builds Better Experiences

However, you also need to make strategic use of the right marketing technologies. Companies should put themselves in the shoes of their customers to build empathy. They should also invest in strategically important technology to create more relevant and seamless experiences.

As Kevin Cochrane, Chief Marketing Officer of SAP Hybris at SAP, noted:

“Good business leverages ubiquitous information about customer history, preferences, activities, and more from the Internet of Things. It depends on real-time analytics to create a personalized experience across all channels and organizational silos over the course of the customer lifecycle — from acquisition to post-login to all supporting employee experiences.

“In this new stage, authentic relationships are the name of the game and these relationships depend on trust. The foundation of consumer trust in the brand relationship rests on respect for consumer data transparency, privacy, and protection.”

For More Information

Need help crafting a strategy to differentiate on experience? Email Chris Spears or Margaret Wise.

About Arke

Atlanta-based Arke develops strategies and implements digital technologies for better brand experience for your customers.