Harald Steiner

CEO / European Real Estate Brand Institute


Customer Journey – The world of brand relationships

Have you ever heard of Singles’ Day? It was initiated at the University of Nanjing in China, which in 1993 chose 11 November (each number 1 symbolises a single) as the day when young single Chinese people should meet to cultivate new relationships and bid adieu to singledom. The idea caused a sensation and over the years has mutated into the world’s most popular online shopping day, thanks to the Chinese eCommerce giant, Alibaba.

Corona online shopping frenzy

In 2009, Alibaba linked the themes of loneliness and shopping with Chinese numerology and declared “Double 11” the Global Shopping Festival. In view of the coronavirus crisis, which is giving a massive boost to online shopping, 2020 has become a year-long shopping frenzy in China. This year’s Singles’ Day has been extended to four days and total orders are worth 16 times (!) as much than Amazon’s two-day global Prime Day last month. Almost 40 million people in Southeast Asia went online for the first time during the festival – 40 million new customers at a stroke! Year on year, eCommerce in China has grown by more than 60%. Would you like to see some even more unbelievable figures? The four-day festival reported an average of 58,000 orders per second and a total gross merchandise volume of US$74 billion.

Celebration of brand loyalty and brand building

Anyone who believes that retailers are “only” interested in clearing their backlog of stock and exploiting consumers who have more time on their hands and are less likely to visit brick-and-mortar stores due to coronavirus lockdowns has failed to appreciate the dimensions of the Global Shopping Festival. Clever retailers appreciate the opportunities these special days give them to position their brands, test new brand strategies and establish themselves in consumers’ consciousnesses. 2020, the year of the pandemic, would seem to have presented companies with a perfect opportunity to break all online sales records and to spread messages about their core brand values. And the year of the pandemic is also the year par excellence for reflecting on touchpoints and the new “customer journey”. After all, the phases of the customer journey are not only becoming increasingly digital, but also much more diverse and creative.

Customer experience reloaded

An event backed up by a robust digital cloud infrastructure and intelligent logistics, where hundreds of thousands of brands use technology creatively to not only sell items at a discount, but also create brand experiences, is like looking into the future of business relationships. The more successful a brand is at making consumers’ lives better and buying decisions easier, the more likely it is that people will engage with and buy that brand’s products and services. This has basically always been true. What is new, however, is that the brand experience has taken on a different, much more important role during the pandemic. In this context, there are some very interesting results from a recent study by the AI and analytics experts at SAS and 3Gem, which asked about people’s expectations of the customer experience. Firstly, around half of the survey’s consumers said they would be prepared to pay more for a product or service if the company offered them a good customer experience during the coronavirus crisis. And customer experience is not just a question of the availability and quality of products/services, but increasingly about how a brand lives up to its corporate and social responsibilities. The crisis has thus opened up new worlds of experience that can be served via digital channels.

The study also concludes that if companies do not react quickly to these changes in consumer expectations, for example by exploiting the power of artificial intelligence and data analytics to create more opportunities for personalised, real-time interaction and responding to customers and business partners’ values, the latter will migrate in droves.

Shaping relationships

What is so obvious in the retail and B2C sectors can also be applied to the real estate world and B2B. The focus is on the kind of strategic brand management that uses all available digital tools and communication channels not only to promote a brand’s products/services, but also an emotional and ethical attitude. The aim is to manage a brand in such a way that it cultivates relationships. This fits in wonderfully with the world of construction, since it is all about shaping the way people live together. Companies need to adopt a multi-layered approach to presenting their benefits and messages, depending on the touchpoint and communication channel. Especially in times of crisis, when the longing for support and solutions is greater than ever, the customer’s experiential journey should be guided by a brand with moral integrity, whose products (e.g. ecologically sustainable real estate) and services can be trusted by buyers, investors and all other stakeholders – a trust that generates long-term growth. This is the only way that a company or brand can, like the original Ali Baba, open the treasure trove of consumer satisfaction.

With branded regards
Your Harald Steiner 

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