customer care

Branding At Its Finest—Cult Brand: Amazon

When Jeff Bezos founded Amazon in 1994, it was just an online bookstore. Fast forward 24 years and several billion dollars in revenue, Amazon is now the world’s largest online sales company and has made Jeff Bezos the richest man in the world with an estimated net worth of more than $112 billion. Of course, Bezos soon expanded the products Amazon offered to include music, videos, and a variety of consumer goods. Since then, Amazon has developed numerous original products and offerings such as Amazon Prime, Alexa, Kindles, Echo and Fire TV, to name a few. Early critics said Bezos was crazy to quit his job and take a risk on that still new internet thing, but Bezos saw an opportunity to create something that couldn’t exist in the real world, a diverse marketplace that offers literally millions of items.

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Aside from the fact that people live for the convenience of front-door delivery, Amazon has solidified its top spot in the retail industry by forging relationships with their customers. From the beginning, the site allowed customers to leave both positive and negative reviews on books and products, something that many people criticized, but Bezos defended by saying they were helping consumers make more educated purchasing decisions and thus building a sense of trust. Brand value has always been a core part of the business plan and has earned Amazon a loyal customer base--one that makes up 43 percent of all online sales per year.

Amazon doesn’t waste time worrying about its competitors, it spends time coming up with ways to serve customers better; e.g., Amazon Prime, a paid subscription service for two-day free shipping, because Bezos knew how much online shoppers enjoy free shipping. Again, critics resounded arguing it was impossible to remain profitable while offering a perk like this, but yet again, Bezos proved short-term sacrifices can pay off. Amazon Prime customers spend an average of $1,300 in a year, nearly twice that of non-members; and more than 100 million people globally are Prime members.

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Years of dedication to customer service and consistently putting them first is what made Amazon stand out among a sea of retailers. Why take the time to go to Barnes & Noble or Walgreens or the grocery store when you can just order what you need online, know it will be on your doorstep the next day, and rely on fellow customer feedback for honest opinions? Bezos himself has stated that building a trusted brand was more important than worrying about potential copycats.

"There's nothing about our model that can't be copied over time. But you know, McDonald's got copied. And it still built a huge, multibillion-dollar company. A lot of it comes down to the brand name. Brand names are more important online than they are in the physical world."

In most every way, Jeff Bezos exemplifies the phrase “stay in your own lane.” Don’t worry about what your competitors are up to, worry about yourself. Customer care is something at the top of our priority list at EMB, and it’s amazing to see how hard work and a brilliant branding strategy can pay off.









Branding At Its Finest—Cult Brand: REI

November is upon us and Thanksgiving is right around the corner, which also means Black Friday is fast approaching. Over the last couple of decades, Black Friday has traditionally become the busiest shopping day in the U.S.--last year, shoppers reportedly spent a combined $1 million per minute between online and in-store purchases. Most stores have already been gearing up for the big day and have employees braced for the long shifts and chaotic crowds, however, one well-known retailer does just the opposite: they close their stores.

Recreational Equipment, Inc., better known as REI, actually shuts down all 154 of their stores, halts online orders and pays their employees to instead, #OptOutside. The initiative began in 2015 as a way to urge both customers and employees to spend the day outside enjoying nature with loved ones as opposed to joining the masses on the hunt for sales. REI was the first major retailer to do this, and although many companies gawked at their seeming stupidity, customers praised them. Even without Black Friday sales, REI continues to be a thriving outdoor and sporting goods retailer with a customer base now more loyal than ever.

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REI began in 1955 as a small co-operative in Seattle selling equipment geared toward serious climbers and mountaineers. In fact, REI’s first ever full-time employee and later CEO was Jim Whittaker, the first American to ever summit Mount Everest. The company continued to market to only these serious athletes until the 1980’s when they shifted toward a more family-friendly offering and began supplies for camping, cycling, kayaking, and other less extreme outdoor sports. However, at its core, REI has always remained true to its customer: the outdoorsman. REI’s products are meant to be enjoyed and put to use outdoors, so they invited everyone to join them in doing so and #OptOutside. The campaign earned 6.7 billion media impressions and 1.2 billion social impressions. Social media mentions rose 7,000 percent in only 24 hours. Instantly, everyone was talking about REI, and now more enthused to support them than ever.

REI fosters a feeling of community among both their customers and employees that is inclusive to everyone. Their entire brand identity revolves around the phrase “an outdoor life is a life well lived.” It doesn’t matter your social status, gender, religion, age, political beliefs; if you’re an outdoor enthusiast, then you belong. REI doesn’t just symbolize a retailer, it’s an experience. And more and more, studies are showing that people would rather pay for experiences over material items. REI encourages all of its customers to tag them on Instagram when sharing memories from their adventures. The company listened to their customers and recognized most of them would rather spend time outside than shopping, and thus the #OptOutside campaign was born. Unlike their competitors, REI has built personal relationships with consumers by demonstrating they care about their well being. Customers know they can trust REI and its employees for advice on not only which walking sticks to buy, but also which hiking trail to take. Additionally, their site offers a section on expert advice with hundreds of articles ranging from how to hike with your dog to treating blisters.

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For the fourth consecutive year, REI will yet again #OptOutside this Black Friday, now joined by hundreds of other retailers who followed the trend. Each year, REI sees an uptick in the number of members who join after Black Friday, now encouraged to join after witnessing firsthand the company’s generosity toward its employees and legitimate understanding of its customers. At the end of the day, if there’s one thing REI has an expert grasp on, it’s customer care. Their marketing strategy is something that inspires our team at EMB, and it is most definitely something we strive to emulate.





Negative Online Reviews? No Problem!

You may have read this title once, and then needed to reread it a couple of times. Fortunately, your eyes do not deceive you! As a business owner, those five golden stars sparkle like those in the night sky. In the instance that you lose one of your stars due to a negative review from an unsatisfied customer, you may begin to feel inadequate or as if you have done something completely wrong and there is no coming back from it, but no need to fret! This post will provide you with a new take on negative reviews, and how you can use them to your advantage.

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Perfection Is Not Realistic

Before you make a decision on anything, whether it be where to have dinner or which facial wash will work better for your skin, you probably didn’t make your decision until you have thoroughly read online reviews. What do these online reviews do for you as a consumer? Which one do you prefer more, the reviews that you read online, or perhaps word-of-mouth reviews you receive from your trusted friends and family? Regardless, statistics show that only 42 percent of people allow their friends and family to influence their purchase, while 68 percent of consumers report that online reviews have a more significant influence on their investment.

So what exactly does this tell us about negative reviews? This means that consumers are looking closely at reviews, but not in the way that you may expect. Sure, positive reviews are great for a company, and as a business owner, you don’t want to miss out on the 72 percent of people who take action after reading a positive review. But by the same token, too many positive reviews can be seen as “fake news” to the consumer and essentially scare them away from making the commitment. A negative review can make your business seem more realistic and trustworthy. Ultimately, a negative review can give the potential consumer a look at what could go wrong and allow them the opportunity to decide if it matters to them.

You Control the Narrative

As a business owner, your perspective is highly determinable of your success in that it can be a direct indicator of how you handle stressful situations. Think of a negative review as being the common cold of consumer relations! Almost every business will review a negative report (unless they are paying for only positive ones), but not every company will address the negative review in a way that can propel their business to the next level. This is a perfect opportunity to stand out amongst you direct competitors.

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One crucial thing to decipher prior to responding to a negative comment is assessment. Remember that people are people and sometimes are just looking for something to complain about, attention, or perhaps money. Other consumers are genuinely attempting to voice their concerns and hold the brand accountable. The former is not the type of reviews you should respond to, especially if they are inappropriate or offensive. A response here may place your brand in the same light as the person who wrote the review: immature. The negative reviews of substance are worth replying to because you are then in a position to control the narrative. Let the customer know you are hearing them and care about their opinion. At EMB, we welcome all customer reviews because we want to provide the best possible service for our clients.



Branding At Its Finest—Cult Brand: Southwest Airlines

When Southwest Airlines was founded in Dallas in 1967, it began as a small airline operating only within the state of Texas. As of March 2018, the airline employs more than 57,000 people, oversees more than 4,000 departures a day during peak travel season and operates in 99 destinations across North America and the Caribbean. So how did the once tiny budget airline grow into the cult brand it is today? It’s simple, fostering a great company culture.

When Southwest Airlines first comes to mind, you’ll likely think of the iconic blue, yellow and red planes and catchy, satiric slogans such as “You're Now Free To Move About The Country” or “Without a heart, it’s just a machine.” But where Southwest really sets itself apart is in how they treat both their customers and employees. In fact, in 2016, CEO Gary Kelly revealed that the company has never laid off a single employee. That kind of security is the reason you’ll always be greeted by smiling faces every day because the flight crews actually enjoy coming to work.

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Although the lack of seating assignments and premium cabins may be a dealbreaker for some frequent flyers, the airline does offer perks such as two free checked bags and no fees for flight changes/cancellations to any and all customers. This is compared to an airline like American which offers only one free checked bag to AAdvantage members and up to a $200 cancellation fee. They may not provide you a complimentary meal or personal TV, but a flight attendant in a good mood might give out a free drink coupon or two on a delayed flight or even waive a substantial difference in fare when changing flights.

Now, the flexibility the airline allows, of course, does not come without its own set of challenges. No seating assignments mean a frenzy at the gate when boarding begins to have the first pick of seats that many have compared to a cattle call. Southwest flights also do not pop up on popular travel search engines such as TriVaGo or Google Flights, which bothers some people who like to shop around for flights. In side-by-side comparisons, Southwest may not always be the lowest fare, but it makes up for the extra cost by superior customer service and the other perks listed above.

At the end of the day, the airline delivers on expectations. Their current motto is “Low Fares. Nothing to Hide.” They believe in a culture of transparency both among their employees and to their customers, and this is one of the many reasons they have been able to retain 45 consecutive years of profitability, something no other major airline is able to boast. Through some of the business practices we’ve discussed above, Southwest has been able to build an army of loyal customers that will ensure they remain at the top of their game for many years to come. At Enrich My Brand, we are always looking to creative and unique strategies like this to inspire us for both our own business practice and our clients’. Check out our corporate site to learn more about our services.

 

Branding at Its Finest—Cult Brand: Lululemon

We have already taken a look at Yeti Coolers and La Croix Sparkling Water, so for the third installment of our cult brand case study series I wanted to dive into the retail world and talk about Lululemon Athletica. The luxury Canadian lifestyle brand opened its doors in 2000, but has had a meteoric rise in establishing themselves as a premier athletic apparel retailer and generating nearly $2 billion in revenue.

Go to any gym or spin class across America, and you will undoubtedly see multiple pairs of the company’s iconic yoga leggings, which retail at $98; quite the steep price tag for something you buy with the intention to sweat in. Nike, one of the company’s key competitors, offers a variety of comparable leggings that retail between a more modest $50-$70. But through a unique guerrilla marketing strategy, Lululemon has been able to compete with the likes of industry giants like Under Armour and Athleta.

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While the brand has undoubtedly received its share of criticism for these prices, people continue to religiously purchase their apparel because they want to be a part of the Lululemon community of like-minded individuals looking to lead healthier, longer lives. Or as the company’s PR director calls them, “Luluheads”—a group so sought after that patrons are willing to fork over hundreds of dollars just to be a part of it.

The brand promotes a distinctly fit, organized and active lifestyle—something they encourage from the moment you walk into the store all the way through the sale. Their eco-friendly reusable bags are all printed with inspiring phrases such as, “Do one thing a day that scares you.” or “This is not your practice life. This is all there is.” Customers aren’t just buying a pair of leggings for $98; they’re buying a new lifestyle.

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Thanks to the cult-like following of Luluheads, the brand has largely been able to rely purely on word-of-mouth advertising. People see their friends wearing new Lululemon workout clothes and hitting the gym more, and suddenly they're encouraged to buy some new gear and join in. On weekends, the stores even offer free fitness classes, further cementing a customer’s “membership.” And how have they been able to achieve this cost-effective form of marketing? Brand Imaging.

According to the Harvard Business Review, 64 percent of consumers cite shared values as the primary reason they have a relationship with a brand. This phenomenon is why the use of social media and content creation is so important—it lets the customers know who you are and gives you the opportunity to establish a connection with them, even if it's just through a touchscreen. Lululemon posts on Instagram on a regular basis, and not just product pitches either, but motivational images encouraging followers to be more active, while also inviting them to share their story by tagging them or using a unique hashtag.

Customer care goes hand-in-hand with brand imaging; consumers want to know what kind of experience they’ll be getting before they even enter your store or office. If you’re struggling with establishing brand identity in your marketplace, visit enrichmybrand.com today to learn what we can do to help change that.

 

 

The Importance of Prioritizing Customer Care

Customer service. It’s something that is on the mind of every business leader in America but often can get sorted down on the priority list below things like competitive pricing and advertising strategies. However, any business with customers is in the “people” business, and therefore should be making customer service their No. 1 priority.

“There is only one boss—the customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.”

    Sam Walton, Founder of Wal-Mart

As the brilliant Mr. Walton points out in the quote above, at the end of the day, even the CEO is answering to someone—the customer. Discount prices may have been how he first attracted customers, but the company grew into a billion-dollar operation through continued customer loyalty and high-volume sales, something he achieved through the reputable treatment of both his employees and his customers.

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According to a study by Walker Customer Experience Consulting Firm, customer experience will overtake price and product as the brand differentiator by 2020. This means that even if a business is offering a more affordable product or service but inferior customer service compared to its competitor, customers will opt to pay more if it means a more positive overall experience.

Customer service is all about perception and how the consumer feels after an interaction with your company. News of lousy customer service reaches more than twice as many ears as praise for good service experience. Think about it, how often do you take the time to tell a friend about a great experience with a company? Sure, sometimes you do, but probably more often than not, you’re sharing with your friends the terrible experience you had and listing why you now hate this company.

In 2018, businesses are more connected to the customer than ever before. Thanks to Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, consumers have come to expect near instant replies to their complaints and queries from the responsible party when posting on social media. In fact, answering a social media complaint increases customer advocacy by as much as 25 percent. Additionally, consumers with positive social customer care experiences are three times more likely to recommend the brand to others.

The bottom line is this: customer care has a direct impact on brand image. If you make customer service a priority, you can grow your business exponentially thanks to word of mouth and customer retention. However, on the flip side, even if you have the greatest product in the world at the lowest price, if your customer doesn’t feel respected, they’ll take their business elsewhere.

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At EMB, we pride ourselves on excellent customer experiences, both in person and via our social media platforms. Visit enrichmybrand.com today to learn how we can help you develop a custom marketing plan that will prioritize effective social media strategies to ensure exceptional customer service.