Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Product Vs. Experience

A couple of days back, I was having a conversation with a colleague regarding Brand Experience versus Product specifications. He was of the view that a customer proposes to buy a certain brand or a product but the actual retail experience is utmost important to close the Sale. It got me thinking and the result of some intellectual head-scratching is this column. At the end of the day, it’s the product that the customer is ultimately going to use and may or may not remember the sales experience, especially for low-value items. In fact it may even qualify for certain high value purchases.

For example, Bose which manufactures some of the finest sound systems in the world  advertises heavily online these days (in India), about its products. They are usually banner ads and I find them all across – there is a certain way the online advertisers follow you (which I will cover in a subsequent blog later). But I wonder what kind of experience that Bose is driving while advertising its products online. For one, Bose is not bought. Bose is lived. In a sense that the experience of Bose is something that the consumer lives with during the lifetime of the product. Having said that, would a potential customer walk in to a Bose store after seeing the online ad? Probably yes. Bose banner ads direct the user to the Bose website. It is upto the customer thereafter to seek whatever information they need. And therefore, there is no closure of sale! Is Bose trying to popularise the brand or is it a sales technique? I guess it is the former.

Bose

On the other hand, Samsung advertises its most famous Galaxy range of smatphones online too. In this case also, the company is building the brand but the nodes (read Retail touchpoints) for buying the product are umpteen in number than in the case of Bose. For, a Samsung Galaxy is available at thousands of retailers across the country in comparison to a Bose.

While the online ad would build curiosity for a brand like Bose, it would convert more customers for Samsung. And these are just examples.

Read More: The Bose Experience

While at the Retail Store, when a customer intends to buy a mobile phone, irrespective of the store experience, the customer would choose from one of the four main Operating Systems – the Android, the BlackBerry, the Nokia OS and the Apple iOS. It probably wouldn’t matter whether the retail store is Croma or EZone or Reliance Digital or a regional Retailer such as Viveks or Girias or for that matter, small time shops that sell these types of phones. In this case, its just the product that matters and not really the experience. Ecommerce is playing an even more important spoiler for Offline Retailers in terms of snatching away customers. Is there a physical experience in online shopping? Not really. Indeed, there is a lot of science in designing a great website / webpages but that’s more technical. Playing with the layouts is a tried and tested way for online retailers to keep improving the shopping experience. But there is really no “customer experience” as such while shopping online.

There is no doubt that the customer would return to the Retail Store to buy a similar product the next time around if the experience at the store was extraordinary. Therefore it is indeed important for Retailers to ensure a consistent Consumer Experience at the outlets. At the end of the day, between product (availability) and experience, the customer would choose the product.

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