The Importance of Continuity between Offline and Online Brand Experience
7 October 2010
Posted by: justin
The lack of continuity of brand experience between offline and online sets up a customer for a big disappointment – with the accompanying loss of brand credibility. It could be because of laziness that this happens, or the lack of communication between the offline and online parts of a company. Or it could be due to a lack of understanding of how customers build up an impression of brand from multiple touch points – billboards, tv ads, web banners, magazines, high street shops, website etc. If they experience brand inconsistency across these different touch points they will feel confused and will be unable to identify with the brand in a cohesive manner. This will mean the brand message will dissipate and be lost. Below we detail three examples of large brands suffering from a disconnect between offline and online experiences of their products and services.
American Express currently have an colourful illustrated campaign all around London. It is something of a rebrand for a credit card that has often portrayed itself as aloof and status orientated. The new adverts are illustrated in a friendly and open manner detailing how the Amex card can be used to buy very small things. All very nice.
Customers might possibly be convinced that Amex was now the credit card for them until they go on the website and find none of the new brand portrayed by the new campaign, but an old very corporate bank website with none of the illustrated elements. Their conclusion would be that the new campaign is a bit of window dressing and they would move on with their old ‘brand grievances’ fully intact, if not hardened.
It is pretty clear that the first thing a potential Amex customer will do on seeing the ad is to go to the website, most probably by typing in Amex into Google. Therefore the customer’s brand experience from the advert is not continued online and brand continuity breaks down. A waste of time and money all round.
Space NK is international chain of shops selling beauty products. The aim to ‘source and offer a carefully edited selection of high quality, original and effective beauty products from innovators and specialists around the world’. Their shop interiors are meticulously planned and their product packaging is designed for each market with intent and it seems, passion.
However, there website shows none of this passion or design led thinking, and the user experience is just that of a run of the mill ecommerce site that sells cosmetics. There seems to be no attempt to bring the user experience so meticulously planned in the shops over to the web. And that is a big shame for such a brand. I think this again shows that some agencies are not understanding the web as an extension of the user brand experience. It seems that this has happened in Space NK’s case because of the e-commerce engine used. The website design feels like it has been constrained by the technology used. A missed opportunity, especially as Space NK and W+K have created a brand film which played in cinemas across the UK and shows that they are exploring other channels with more vigour.
IKEA are known around the world for their cheap designer products for the home and for their attention to service. IKEA boast about putting the client at the centre of everything they do. The are constantly redesigning products in order to bring them to market at the lowest price possible. In some ways IKEA have democratised design and allowed ordinary people to interact with design in their everyday lives. In their shops they are constantly innovating new ways to increase the customer experience of ‘IKEAness’. They put a lot of effort into this, and have been rewarded by the customer loyalty and profit. It is strange then that their website is such a fiasco.
On the face of it the IKEA website all looks good – it follows the design feel of their brochures and shops therefore creating brand continuity from offline to online.
However, as soon as you start ‘shopping’ you realise something is wrong. The landing page for each section has a nicely done image with prices for all the products within the room. Great! I want one of them there mock Louis XVI dressing tables. I’m gonna get me some of that. So you click and…..
Oh….the product is not sold online!
But I can add it to my ‘shopping list’! Gee, thanks…that makes up for my disappointment. In fact, most of the IKEA products on the website are not available, and in some instances only one part of a product is available online and the other part is not (Kora kids bed & canopy for example). Want a lamp? Yeah. Look nice don’t they? Yeah. Well you can’t buy any. Just looky looky, no touchy touchy..unless you drive out to one of our easily accessible shops near a motorway which you need a car to reach! Very environmental.
The point here is the discrepancy in the levels of service between the shops and the website. In the shops everything is for sale, everything is at arms length. You help yourself. IKEA shops are a very immediate experience – you see something in situ ( in a living room mock up) - you touch it, you sit on it, you put it in your trolley. Done. On the website they have replicated that experience with the clickable images, the good photography, the nice clear design, the continuity of branding. Except you can’t actually buy anything! It is such a disappointing shopping experience, and so detrimental to their brand that I would suggest they either turn the website back into a brochure site until such time as all the products are available or put a big warning sign on the home page saying :
WARNING – BE PREPARED TO BE DISAPPOINTED!
And this could be said of a great many commercial online experiences.