Jennifer Arnold, 20 September, 2019
My local independent grocery store has gone all fancy, and I’m not happy. Don’t get me wrong, it looks beautiful after the renovation. The scuffed lino floors are now gleaming polished concrete. The check-out counters are topped with marble. Natural light streams in from floor-to-ceiling windows. I can now shop with a cappuccino held securely in a specially-designed cart. And the place is three times bigger than before. It should mean a better experience. But it’s the reason why I’m now shopping elsewhere, as are a number of my friends and neighbours. Let me explain…
Pre-renovation, I could whip through and tick everything off my weekly shopping list in fifteen minutes flat. The value in the experience for me was all about convenience and good quality for reasonable (not necessarily the cheapest) prices. Post-renovation, the trip takes nearly twice as long. There isn’t a broader selection, just more of the same items filling the longer shelves, spread further apart. The new marble check-outs don’t operate as efficiently as the old conveyor belt ones. And prices have gone up noticeably, I presume to help pay for renovation costs. Value has gone for me, experience diminished, and probably likewise for many other long-time customers, given I saw fewer people there each time I stopped in. I’m sure eventually the store will attract new shoppers who do value luxury in their grocery shopping experiences, but I hope the owners were prepared to lose long-time customers like me.
While working in marketing and customer experience, I’ve seen versions of this scenario on many occasions: brands making what they think are enhancements to customer experience, only to find out customers don’t see the changes as enhancements at all. And that’s assuming they even notice the changes. The reason? The experience isn’t aligned with the brand promise and customer expectations. Customers don’t always want luxurious experiences, high-quality products or high-touch service if it means they’re sacrificing what they do value, such as convenience and cost. It’s the reason online retail and banking proliferates, the reason Qantas and Singapore Air have separate low-cost carriers in Jetstar and Scoot, and the reason Aldi stocks goods on the shelf in their shipping boxes.
If a brand’s value proposition isn’t about 5-star experiences and high-end luxury, then the return on investment on funds spent trying to offer the “best” experience is unlikely to be high. It’s much more important to simply meet your customers’ expectations in the Moments that Matter in their customer journeys than to try to exceed expectations in areas they don’t care about. If Aldi were suddenly to display lovely shelf arrangements in the name of improving the experience if their prices stay the same, would their customers care, or even take much notice? A brand needs to stay true to its value propositions, and focus on enhancements that provide the “right” experience, not the “best” experience, based on what customers value most in their interactions with the brand.
This requires listening to customers to understand not just what they’re doing, but what they’re feeling. What really motivated your customer at what point to choose your brand, select that particular product, decide to shop in your store versus on your website, or give that rating on your call centre service? At what point in the interaction did a pain point surface or did they feel a process that wasn’t as effortless as they thought it should be, and what impact did that have on their actions? Only by understanding what your customers truly prioritise in the experiences they have with your brand can you then prioritise what CX enhancements will return the biggest bang for your buck, and what to do to keep customers loyal.
If I wanted marble counters and a cappuccino when I grocery shopped and was willing to pay the price for luxury, I would have been shopping at the David Jones Food Hall all along. But this Sunday you’ll see me in Aldi.
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