Take a moment right now: Close your eyes and think back on all the great experiences you have had throughout your life. If you can, pick one specific experience to focus in on. Try to remember all the details of that experience and what made it so great and memorable. Picture what the day was like, where you were, who you were with and the general feeling of that day. Now open your eyes.
How do you feel?
If you’re like me, you’re smiling. One of the earliest experiences that I have a vivid memory of was when I went to Disney World as a 4-year-old with my family. It was my first time experiencing something so magical and magnificent at such a young age. But what made it so magical? I had experienced other things at that age but can’t remember any detail of them all these years later. Why is that?
A lot of it has to do with the fact that, at such a young age I had never experienced anything in my life like that before. It was an unequivocally authentic experience. These authentic experiences can and are replicated throughout our life. I believe authentication is the key to success for digital consumer experiences, if created the right way.
So, what is authenticity? How can you leverage it in your business to deliver true authentic experiences?
4 Categories of Authentic Customer Experiences
In my opinion authentic experiences are broken down into four categories: Courage, Vulnerability, Connection and Nostalgia. These four categories make up the essential elements needed to deliver truly authentic experiences. Let’s dive into each:
As a brand, you need to have the courage to embrace all that you are and all that your consumers see you as. Courage is having the guts to tell consumers that their order won’t ship on time, or that you made a mistake — but that you’re willing to do right by them to fix it. Courage is taking risks with new customer experiences that stray away from what has worked for you in the past. Courage is being able to put your ego to the side and doing what’s right for your customers based upon what they are telling you they need in your brand. Having courage with digital experiences can be daunting, but consumers are savvy, and they can pick up on where you’re inserting courage into their experiences and it will resonate as authentic.
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Brands need to embrace being vulnerable, or to say it another way, who they are. Trying to be something you’re not doesn’t work in our personal lives, so why would it work in your brand? Embracing all that you are — your positives, your negatives, and the elements you know you need to work on — will resonate with your consumers. You see, your customers already know where you’re vulnerable. Being vulnerable doesn’t imply that you need to change anything to fit a certain consumer desire either. Your brand isn’t and shouldn’t be for everyone. Embracing the unique, and more so pushing deeper into it, will help strengthen your relationship with your core customers and help create higher customer lifetime value.
Being able to create connection to customers will lead to the last category of creating Nostalgia. Connection is extremely important in creating authenticity for your brand if it’s done properly, consumers will begin to apply human like qualities to your organization, which ultimately creates solid connections. Once this occurs, customers can visualize the authenticity in your brand as more than just a company they buy products or services from, but an entity they can relate to — a truly powerful and immersive experience.
Related Article: Authentic Customer Experiences, Through the Generations
The final step in the process is creating nostalgia with your consumers. Have they been able to see your courage, relate to your vulnerability and feel the connection you provide through your experiences? If so, you likely will be able to tap into some nostalgic feeling that brings them back to an earlier time. Just like my example above with traveling to Disney, you may spur an emotion or feeling that they haven’t had in a while. This emotion or feeling is now related to your brand, and the authenticity journey is complete.
Truly Authentic Experiences Are Magnetic
Regardless of what your brand or business does, if you can apply the four categories to every experience that your customers interact with, I can promise you that not only will it bring them to purchase from you, but you’ll create such an authentic experience that they will come back, tell their friends, and become the best advocates for your brand.
Truly authentic experiences are magnetic and contagious. We as consumers crave these experiences because they make us feel good, but more so because they allow us to embrace who we truly are as individuals and remind us that we are unique, and that there are brands and businesses that are just like us.
Walt Disney once said, “That’s the real trouble with the world, too many people grow up.” I encourage you to think back to when you were a kid, whether it was your first trip to Disney or another experience. Go back to that time in your mind, and how it made you feel — then look to recreate that feeling in experiences for your customers.
Remember — “If you can dream it, you can do it.”
Justin Racine serves as Senior Commerce Consultant at Perficient, a global digital consulting firm serving enterprise clients throughout North America. At Perficient, Justin helps clients achieve their business goals through commerce-enabled technologies.