Why Customer Experience Is the New 'Brand Name'

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By Robi Ganguly

Have you ever visited a new city and chosen which restaurant to go to for dinner based on the ratings they have on Yelp or Zomato? If you're like me and millions of others, the answer is yes. Many of our decisions are heavily influenced by ratings and reviews today. It's not just where we'll eat, but which product we'll purchase or what mobile app we'll download.

Many decisions in our lives are determined, in some capacity, by the ratings that fellow consumers leave. App stores have fueled the rating culture we live in by creating an algorithm that gives preference to the highest-rated apps in search. With 4.2 million mobile apps available for download between Apple's App Store and Android's Google Play, it would be too time-consuming to sift through them all and find one that best suits our needs, and offers a great customer experience. By creating a ranking system, consumers have a better experience finding apps, so app developers are incentivized to create great customer experiences in order to rank higher. The system of ratings and reviews has impacted every consumer, and consumer company, for better or worse.

It turns out the impact of mobile app ratings and reviews reaches further than the app stores: at my company, we recently ran a consumer survey to determine how mobile impacts consumers' perception of brands as a whole. One of our goals is to empower companies to create more personalized mobile customer experiences, so it's important that we understand the lens through which consumers see brands on mobile. What we found is indicative of how mobile has shifted consumers' focus towards companies that offer the best customer experience, and away from empty brand names.

Brand Names Don't Carry as Much Weight as They Once Did

Before ratings and reviews became the trusted source of the reliability of a business, brand names did the heavy lifting. Widely recognized brand names were a signal to consumers that the company could be trusted, and the product or service was reliable. This system was advantageous to companies with big budgets that fueled national marketing campaigns, and bought high-profile endorsements. Smaller companies faced an uphill battle to gain recognition. Companies with big budgets may always have a slight advantage, but that advantage has diminished thanks to ratings and reviews, particularly on mobile.

Customer Experience Matters More Than Brand Name

Mobile apps have fundamentally changed consumers' buying behavior. Customers expect companies to provide an omnichannel experience, meaning their experience with the company should be comparable across all channels (in-store, online, in-app, etc.). This means that brands are being forced to pay more attention to their customer experience than ever before.

Starbucks is the perfect example of a brand that has invested heavily in taking the customer experience to the next level by incorporating mobile into its strategy. The investment has paid off: upwards of 20 percent of their in-store sales now come from mobile, thanks to the introduction of mobile order and mobile payment options. Instead of relying on its brand name to carry its sales strategy, the company has created a seamless omnichannel experience, thus improving the lives of their customers and boosting revenue.

Brands spend millions of dollars building their reputations, but that's not to say it's all for nothing. The lesson here is that brands can no longer rely on their name alone to do the work for them. It's important that businesses recognize the shift away from buying goods because of the brand name attached, and understand what customers prioritize over labels: the customer experience.

Robi Ganguly is the CEO of Apptentive, the easiest way for companies with a mobile app to listen to, engage with, and retain their mobile customers. The Google Ventures-backed company works with major app publishers and enables millions of customer conversations. Prior to Apptentive Robi worked at Yahoo! and built WebEx's pricing strategy. When he's not building Apptentive you can find Robi running, reading and on Twitter.