For distributed brands, one of the biggest opportunities and threats to business growth is delivering a consistent customer experience across franchised and retail locations. In an increasingly competitive marketplace, more and more consumers value customer experience over price and product when making their purchasing decisions. In fact, 78% of consumers report that they have canceled transactions because of poor customer experience. With so much at stake, how can brands deliver a consistent customer experience at the local level?
Given the challenges of communication across time zones, shifting priorities, conflicting goals, and more, delivering consistency when operating under a multi-location model is incredibly challenging. There are, however, a few things that multi-location brands can do to ensure more unified messaging, on-brand marketing materials, and more consistent customer experiences at scale.
For the world's most successful multi-location brands, Local Marketing Automation is a major part of the way headquarters supports local affiliates and delivers consistency.
Why Multi-Location Companies Should Focus on Brand Consistency
Crafting a superior customer experience is top-of-mind for brand marketing managers and executives. To win customers, create a deeper level of trust, and outpace competitors, brands are in a race to understand consumers' needs and desires the best and create the shopping experiences that fulfill those needs. They must deliver an authentic customer experience before, during, and after the purchase. Not only that – they need to deliver that same experience every time the customer visits. Why? Because consistency is the key to attracting and retaining happy customers for the long term.
For distributed brands, a consistent customer experience must deliver on the same core fundamentals that exist from one location to the next. For instance, does the Marriott in Albuquerque fold their towels like the Marriott in Kalamazoo? Does a McDonald's in Cincinnati deliver the same great tasting french fries as their counterparts in Charleston? Likewise, each piece of printed material at every Marriott location — whether at the front desk or in the room — is on brand with the right colors, fonts, and messaging. Billboards for McDonald's Jacksonville have the same brand feel as billboards for McDonald's Seattle. From the physical presence of consistency, to the visual, successful multi-location brands keep each customer facing asset reinforcing the brand and it's promise.
Customers expect multi-location brands to look, feel, and deliver the same great tasting product, service, and experience across all franchise and retail locations. It's important that these brands deliver an outstanding and consistent customer experience in order to keep customers happy and coming back for more. Companies should look across their whole network of stores or locations and try to glean exactly what the core elements of the customer experience are that they can deliver on time after time in every location.
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The Brands that Deliver Exceptional Experiences Come Out on Top
Delivering exceptional customer experiences has helped many well-known brands to become the market leaders they are today. It's no accident that companies like the ones listed below are so often top performers in their categories – they really “get” what a consistent customer experience should be, and know exactly how to create that experience on a local level every time.
- Ace Hardware: Since 2006, J.D. Power has ranked Ace Hardware highest in customer satisfaction among home improvement retail stores. You've heard the jingle: "Ace is the place with the helpful hardware folks.” More than just another catchy tune, this experience is brought to life in every retail location across the country. Greeted by in-store associates, patrons can rely on friendly staff to deliver key information, direction, and know-how to successfully orchestrate an at-home project. Before even stepping foot into the store, consumers experience localized direct-mail coupons and catalogs to help guide their in-store experience.
- L.L. Bean: Since 1912, the outdoor and apparel retailer has distributed direct-mail catalogs to shoppers. For over 100 years, this direct-mail marketing tactic has provided consumers with the required information needed to guide their in-store purchases. With helpful, easy-to-read product descriptions and colorful imagery, consumers know exactly what they’re buying. But the key to the whole experience comes when they get to the store – an associate is there who can show them exactly what the catalog promised. Similarly, L.L. Bean’s website features a variety of easily queried product categories with ready-access to all the latest trends, discounts, and more, and points leads in the direction of local store activities and events happening near them. Across all mediums, L.L. Bean shoppers enjoy the ease-of-access, convenience, and information presented and rely on in-store associates to deliver an experience consistent with the company’s marketing material — no matter the location.
- C Spire: As the largest privately owned wireless provider in the United States, C Spire delivers a consistent customer experience across all retail locations. With unique access to wireless, internet, business, and cloud solutions, C Spire delivers faster, more reliable coverage to customers. In-store, customers expect and appreciate C Spire's thoughtful customer service, informative print and digital material, attentive associates, and next-generation technological offerings. No matter the location, consumers expect C Spire to deliver on those established promises.
Through unified marketing resources, in-store signage, customer service provisions, and more, leading distributed brands deliver consistency across all channels.
Key Strategies to Create a Consistent Customer Experience
How do these well-known brands create such a consistent and pleasant customer experience? A thorough approach to designing and managing the customer experience begins with putting some basic architecture in place for your brand:
- Develop Quality Standards: Does the national brand have resources like a brand standards guide, operations handbook, and company guidelines to effectively create and replicate customer experience locally and empower local brand managers to deliver a standardized advertising, graphics, and messaging? Do franchise and retail locations look and feel the same from one location to the next? For distributed brands, enabling local marketers through effective on-boarding, training, and technical overviews is a critical first-step in delivering consistency.
- Implement Your Standards: Given all the available resources, distributed brands need to take steps to ensure that a localized customer experience (that reinforces the brand values and promise) is actually being delivered. Often, this comes down to local managers and employees. Is the brand delivering tools and marketing assets to distribute materials effectively? Are local brand managers equipped with relevant graphics, imagery, and messaging to inform, excite, and engage with consumers while simultaneously adhering to established brand standards? Supporting employees with resources, tools, and assets ensures that customer experience expectations are being delivered.
- Maintain for the Long Run: Brands need to have a process in place for monitoring the customer experience. Does the brand have a set of mechanisms such as customer satisfaction surveys and feedback forms to successfully audit customer experience? Are headquarters gathering feedback from local brand managers and adapting accordingly? What assets are resonating with local affiliates and what national promotions bring in the most foot traffic? Brands must be able to track and respond to customer experience pitfalls within the sales cycle.
How Local Marketing Automation Helps Distributed Brands Deliver a Consistent Customer Experience
To capitalize on consumers' need for a deeply personalized, unique, and authentic customer experience, national brands must reiterate the importance of consistency to local affiliates and empower them with the necessary resources and tools to develop, implement, and maintain local marketing initiatives and collateral. Enabling your local affiliates to easily stay on brand, deliver effective messaging, and provide the customers with a stable and trusted experience helps to establish consistency while providing a solid customer experience.
With easy-to-use multi-channel marketing templates, asset storage, fulfillment tools, and more, brand teams leverage local marketing automation to translate key attributes of the national brand for local use while adhering to brand standards and guidelines.
In order to deliver a more consistent, high-quality local customer experience, brand management teams must invest in technologies to enhance brand consistency while allowing for local customization. From Marriott to Polaris, industry-leading businesses have adopted Local Marketing Automation to deliver extraordinary customer experiences to their customers.
Are you ready to empower local affiliates to deliver a more consistent and customized customer experience? Download the Local Marketing Playbook: The Templates, Campaigns and Tools That Help Multi-Location Brands Become Local Marketing Champions