Kurt Stuhllemmer Partner, UK Hall & Partners
Kurt’s extensive experience in brand research spans a variety of techniques, geographies and categories including travel, FMCG, sport, leisure and entertainment.
Roger Binks Customer Experience Director Intu
Roger has over 20 years’ international executive management experience in the retail, hospitality, professional services and property sectors.
It’s Monday. It’s 7am. I stumble, bleary-eyed but bushy-tailed, towards my local coffee house on my daily pilgrimage to the office. I’m running late… sound familiar?
I grab my phone and open the brand in question’s app. I’m half way to my ‘free coffee’ but, to be honest, it’s not free. Some may say a badge of honour, but more a stark reminder that in the last fortnight I’ve spent over £50 to get my daily cup of joe that should really have gone towards my savings. Fortunately, the guilt quickly subsides as I continue my caffeine-fuelled zombie march with the fellow walking dead of London’s Monday-morning commute.
I focus back on my app; my usual order is saved. It knows my nearest, and usual, watering hole of choice. It even knows my name. I click. I order. Payment is taken from the card I’ve already registered. Simple. Under 10 seconds. Today’s going to be a good day.
Sleep, rinse, repeat and, a few weeks later, it all starts to feel too clinical. The coffee feels a little cold. I didn’t get to try the Colombia blend, no funny attempts at spelling my name, or even daily interaction with my favourite barista. It’s a coffee, not a car. I don’t care about the 0-60 of my cappuccino. I do care that the person serving it to me asks about my day, that they understand that this is more than just a coffee. It’s my starter engine, my morning indulgence. Was it all too easy? Do I even care where I get my coffee from now if it’s all about ease, speed, efficiency?
Does the brand really matter as much in this pursuit of frictionless commerce and experience? The experience feels like it’s missing something… friction. It turns out that friction is where the magic is: the heart, love and passion.
So how can we avoid this ubiquitous efficiency and create more meaningful experiences for customers of brands. Where’s the friction?
For this I think it’s best to look at a case study of a brand that actively curates its brand experiences – intu. A brand that’s doubled its fame in less than 24 months. A brand that places experience curation at the heart of its business.
intu’s teams are empowered and encouraged to create ‘joy’ for their customers. That’s why their customers are more likely to recommend an intu shopping centre if they’ve had contact with a team member than if they haven’t.
intu has created a signature experience that includes active delivery of their ‘intugrams’ and ‘joy jars’ – both purposeful brand friction points.
They’ve mapped the customer journey and placed halo moments to enhance their customers’ experience. These may be purely physical interventions or use technology; the key is that each halo moment has a purpose.
Further still, intu has a handpicked team of ‘joy scouts’ that use customer insight and intelligence to continuously evolve the content and delivery style of its signature – I guess you could compare it to the ‘colonel’s secret recipe’.
I’d say to brands… follow intu’s lead. Embrace friction. Curate it within your experience planning. After all, there are lots of bleary-eyed coffee seekers who need more than just an extra shot. Where’s their next ‘experience’ hit coming from to make sure they keep coming back for more?