Brand-Building Web Site Best Practices From 2010

Ronald Rogowski

During 2010, my colleagues on the Customer Experience team at Forrester and I evaluated the Brand Experience at the Web sites of 14 companies across three industries (and wrote individual reports for each industry). Specifically, we reviewed five auto manufacturers (Chevrolet, Ford, Honda, Nissan, and Toyota), four hotels (Crowne Plaza, Hilton, Marriott, and Sheraton), and five skin care brands (Dove, L’Oreal Paris, Neutrogena, Nivea, and Olay). We’ve summarized our findings in my latest report, “The Best Of Web Site Brand Experiences 2010.”

Using our Web Site Brand Experience Review methodology, we set out to test 1) how well the sites supported their key brand attributes in a manner consistent with other channels (Brand Image), and 2) how well the site supported user goals (Brand Action). While none of the 14 sites Forrester reviewed with our Web Site Brand Experience Review methodology passed both dimensions of our tests (Brand Image and Brand Action), there were some good practices that companies across industries can learn from.

Results of Web Site Brand Reivews of 14 Sites Across Three Industries

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Strategy Should Guide Learning From Voice Of The Customer Programs

Paul Hagen

Listening to customers through a well-established voice of the customer (VOC) program is critical. However, without a customer experience strategy rooted in a company strategy, it’s easy for a firm to lose track of its core value proposition to key target customers.

Don Norman tells a wonderful story about a conversation he had with Southwest Airlines chairman Herbert Kelleher that speaks directly to my latest report on customer experience strategy:

"Use Southwest Airlines as the model. When customers demanded reserved seating, inter-line baggage transfer, and food service, they refused (and only now, are reluctantly providing semi-reserved seating). Why? It is not because they ignore their customers. On the contrary, it is because they understood that their customers had a much more critical need. Southwest realized that what the customers really wanted was low fares and on-time service, and these other things would have interfered with those goals.

 I once had a lively, entertaining dinner with Herbert Kelleher, Chairman and co-founder of Southwest Airlines. I asked him why they had ignored the requests of their customers. Herb looked me up and down sternly, sighed, took another sip of his drink, uttered a few obscenities, and patiently explained. His marketing people asked the wrong question. They should have asked, would you pay $100 more for inter-airline baggage transfers? $50 more for reserved seating? No, the customers wouldn't have. They valued on-time, low-cost flights, and that is what Southwest delivers.

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iPhone Versus Droid: A Personal Perspective

Harley Manning

I’ve been meaning to write about this topic for a while. What got me past the tipping point was receiving yet another in the series of hilarious videos in the iPhone versus Evo wars. (I love those, no matter which side they come down on.)

Let me first disclaim that I do not cover mobile devices for Forrester so I am speaking strictly as an end user. Okay, I have disclaimed! Now for the story . . .

Way back in the spring, I was visiting my sister and brother-in-law in Ohio. My sister had recently gotten herself a Droid and was not very happy with it. She let me play with it for a while, and I have to say that I did not like its weight, the sharp corners, and the little vibratory “thunk” of physical feedback that probably seemed like a good idea to the designers but came off as annoying after about the third time it happened. The GUI was okay but didn’t strike me as an improvement over my iPhone — in fact, I thought it was a little worse.

My sister had come to similar conclusions. She had purchased the phone so she could stay with Verizon as her wireless service provider. Her biggest complaint, though, was the lack of a decent app store. And when I say “decent,” I mean that literally. When she called up her app store, she got a really bad interface that didn’t help her find relevant apps without a struggle. Worse, about every third listing was a porno app. (I guess that’s what happens when you don’t curate content.)

Anyway, she regretted her choice but felt locked in by her contract.

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Now More Than Ever, Firms Need Frameworks For Managing Global Online Standards

Ronald Rogowski

I’ve recently had several conversations with companies that are looking to improve how they standardize online experiences around the globe. It’s something I’ve been helping firms with for some time. It’s always been a complex issue, but now it’s getting even more challenging because we’re moving to a new era of online experience.

As outlined in the Forrester report, “The Future Of Online Customer Experience,” consumers will increasingly demand experiences that are customized for their context, aggregated from multiple sources, relevant at the point of consumption, and social by rule, not exception. As touchpoints proliferate across a range of devices, it will become increasingly difficult to manage the online experience in a single country, let alone in dozens of them. Add to that the increasing need for more specialized (and, by extension, localized) experiences, and it’s easy to see how a cookie-cutter online experience will be difficult to duplicate from one country to the next with maximum relevance.

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The Trader Joe’s Experience: Simplicity For A Cost Leader

Paul Hagen

I came across a recent Fortune article describing the activities behind Trader Joe’s experience, which illustrate well many aspects I talk about for Cost Leaders in my latest customer experience strategy report. One aspect I found interesting was Trader Joe’s general absence of self-service that I pointed to for low-cost leaders. Rather, the company focuses more on simplicity and layers over it a distinct culture embedded in employees. It pays employees well — meaning it can be more selective in finding individuals who embody its culture — while keeping prices low through other means, such as limiting its selection. The company makes tradeoffs to deliver on low-cost expectations.

My take: There’s no single customer experience strategy, just as there is no single company strategy. The point for both is to find the mix of aligned activities that provide a company with competitive advantage.

Great Customer Experiences Balance Empathy With Problem Solving

Ronald Rogowski

I recently wrote a post describing an experience I had with an Empowered customer service rep at American Express. To sum it up, my 2-year-old was getting credit card applications in the mail so I called to get it stopped. The agent was surprised that this could have happened and moved quickly to get my daughter’s name off the marketing list. She was genuine and helpful. It was a great experience.

Since then, I’ve had a couple of not-so-positive experiences with other companies that have amplified the impact of the experience I had with American Express. I’ve also witnessed another that a colleague of mine had that made the American Express experience even more genuine.

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Brand Experience Workshop: Learn The Tools Of Web Site Brand Experience Reviews (October 27th, Hilton Chicago)

Ronald Rogowski

Ever wonder why Web sites offer such lackluster brand experiences? Want to know how your site can help you differentiate your brand online?

If you care about how your brand succeeds online and are attending Forrester’s Consumer Forum 2010, I encourage you to consider attending our Web Site Brand Review workshop on Wednesday, October 27th (the day before the forum) at the Hilton Chicago.

During this one-day session, I will be presenting insights into the dos and don’ts of creating Web sites that effectively build brands. Attendees will learn the same methodology Forrester uses to evaluate how well sites build brands as published in reports such as “Best And Worst Of Brand Building Web Sites, 2008,” “Best And Worst Of Financial Services Brand Building Web Sites, 2009,” and "Web Site Brand Experience 2010: Hotels." 

This promises to be an educational, interactive, and entertaining way to learn the tools that will help you create the online experience your brand deserves. And, if you are attending the forum, we are offering a special discounted rate. For more information, and a detailed agenda, please visit the event page.

(By Any Other Name) RIAs Will Power Future Online Experiences

Ronald Rogowski

For a long time, people have debated the meaning of every part of the acronym RIA (rich Internet application). What is rich? What do you mean by "Internet"? What's an application as opposed to a site that renders content? (The last one has become clearer for some apps that sit outside of the browser but is still contested for functionality that runs within a browser.) The debate was really a way of making the case for player-based technologies like Flash and Silverlight vs. AJAX and dynamic HTML. While the former powered experiences that were more akin to software than sites (generally speaking), the latter enabled more dynamic, yet still page-based, experiences (again, generally speaking). But the lines are about to blur even further as we look at experiences that are increasingly fragmented across interaction points.

What does the future look like? Forrester believes that four attributes will characterize the online experience of the future. As my colleague Moira Dorsey points out in her report, "The Future Of Online Customer Experience," experiences will be: customized by the end user, aggregated at the point of use, relevant to the moment, and social as a rule, not an exception. 

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An Experience With An American Express HERO

Ronald Rogowski

Ever since I signed my daughter up for a frequent-flier program, she's been receiving at least one credit card offer from American Express every week. Problem is, she's 2. It's unnerving to say the least to have these kinds of offers coming to your kids, but it's not hard to imagine how it happened. In fact, I know exactly how it happened since I had the same issue with my 4-year-old about a year ago — one company shares a contact list with or sells it to another, and somehow nobody filters for age (if that's even in the database, though one would assume it is). And voilà, mail campaigns are targeting your kids.

We started receiving these emails for about six months, about the time we took a family trip to Chicago. Finally, I got fed up and put in a call to American Express, which, to be fair, is not the real culprit here. However, I called, and after negotiating the IVR system (that seemed determined to give me an unwanted download on my account status, though that's a bit off-topic), I was routed to a representative who listened to my problem and expressed genuine shock at the situation, immediately making me feel like there was someone who understood — someONE, not some nameless, faceless database that was spitting out those credit card offers. It put me at ease to the point where I would have felt comfortable if the representative told me she had to mail some forms that I'd have to fill out and return. Instead, the representative asked me to wait a moment while she sorted this out. Clearly, this was not a typical request, so I figured it would take some time. However, after a few short minutes of waiting, the representative came back to tell me that she had submitted the necessary paperwork and that the mailings should cease within a few weeks. She apologized for the inconvenience in a human — not robotic — tone and sent me on my way.

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The Right Customer Experience Strategy

Paul Hagen

What is the right customer experience strategy? My new report on customer experience strategy investigates this question. To give it some context, consider customers’ expectations of Costco versus Apple. Costco customers expect barebones service in return for low prices, while Apple customers expect innovative products at relatively high prices. These firms deliver radically different experiences, yet they both delight customers. Should your company be like Costco or like Apple or something else entirely?

The report uses Michael Porter’s three generic company strategies as a starting point to understand core value propositions that should drive the right customer experience strategy.

In researching the report, Adaptive Path’s VP of Creative Services Brandon Schauer was invaluable in pushing my thinking toward using Michael Porter’s generic strategies as a starting point. He had a couple of powerful insights that I think are worth mentioning:

  1. “For customer experience leaders, the first big hurdle is to discern the organization’s business strategy.” I’ve talked with many firms in the process of changing their company strategy, which creates a moving target that is both a challenge and an opportunity for customer experience leaders.
     
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