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Driving brand loyalty through customer experience transformation

Anne Catherine Feeney, Tim Barlow

Customer Experience (CX) has undergone historically significant change over the last four years. The pace of technology-enabled change combined with shifts in consumer expectations spurred by the pandemic has created a challenging environment for marketers. Many leaders seem intent on solving for how to effectively walk-back offerings like curbside pick-up or free delivery, which were never intended to be permanent. Culturally, there’s no going back.  

This is the first in a five-part series examining how to drive brand loyalty through Customer Experience Transformation (CXT) across customer journey, measurement, AI and change management, and experience design. 

Organizations often see top-down measures as the first course of action to address competing interests. Management may be keen to streamline versus continuing to support hybrid systems and pandemic policies. However, consumers refuse to lose the choice, access, convenience, and seamless online-offline experiences they now consider a part of their lives, and they are more likely to forge a different path if your brand doesn’t align to their needs and values.  

Within urban planning, such user-generated paths are called “desire paths.” Those dirt walkways veering off from paved sidewalks, forming more direct routes, to the chagrin of planners and landscapers. The first instinct upon seeing such paths might be to ask,” Why can’t people just stay on the sidewalk?!”  This reaction is akin to a top-down CX transformation approach to the challenges that evolving customer expectations present for brands today. 

Consider an alternative: change built on shared values and beliefs, brought to life through culturally relevant brand initiatives. Such efforts are more likely to spark participation—increasing engagement and fostering brand love. According to our research, the data supports this: 

  • 81% of consumers say a brand’s values and beliefs are important to them. 
  • 75% of consumers say they’re likely to buy a product from a brand that shares their values. 
  • 68% say they would spend more money with such a brand. 
  • The #1 reason consumers say they’d stop purchasing from a given brand is a misalignment of values. 

Values often sit as broad, static, and undifferentiated artifacts, e.g., family, community, diversity, excellence. Whereas beliefs are how such nebulous values get actioned—the policies, the messaging, the holistic customer experience that turns a value such as “family” into a parental leave policy, or a campaign that helps a new parent feel seen. Where values work well as intentions, beliefs lead to deep, emotional loyalty that stands the test of time.  

A holistic, values-based approach to CX transformation can be intimidating in its nebulous scope, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are some steps to get it moving within your organization: 

  1. Survey employees, existing customers, and target demographics for their top values, needs, priorities, and perceptions of your brand’s benefits and positioning.
  2. Audit results in comparison to your organizational values and how those values are (or are not) brought to life through your digital experience, marketing messaging, internal policies, etc.
  3. Partner across the organization to form a more cohesive and consistent narrative.
  4. Launch initiatives internally first; your employee base is your most valuable and under-utilized marketing asset.
  5. Go to market with an earned-led approach; show, don’t just tell. 

Compared to top-down initiatives and policies, a well-executed, holistic approach to CXT can disproportionately win over internal and external audiences by establishing a shared brand identity. So next time you see a desire path out in the wild, rather than denounce it, you might say, “They should put a sidewalk, there!” 

Need help getting started?

Here are a few tools our CX experts and strategists can deploy to get the ball rolling: 

  • Business: Brand Affinity Scorecard to see where you’re at with your shared values 
  • Strategy: Customer journey mapping to understand your audience and meet them where they are 
  • Transformation Enablement: Change readiness assessment, including surveys or key stakeholder interviews to gauge needs for change