Even in today’s digital world, brands like Apple put high effort in making consumers touch and feel the product in their iconic stores. Why? Because the physical usage experience is still key for decision making and brand building. Brands should therefore find innovative ways to drive these 'touching' moments.

Every one of us makes around 35,000 decisions every day – some of them are as easy as choosing our breakfast cereal, but some really make us struggle. Important decisions evoke a fear of making the wrong choice and lead us to carefully ponder pros and cons. When it comes to purchase decisions, one of the most effective ways to reduce risk and uncertainty is to actually try out the product. Or would you buy a car without test-driving it? Would you take your business partners to a restaurant without having tried the food and service? Would you buy an expensive smartphone without ever having touched it?

A successful marketing strategy should therefore cover a well-balanced mix of traditional media, digital and customer experience touchpoints: our research shows that the usage experience of a product or service is among the top 3 most impactful touchpoints for brand building. Additionally, usage experience creates high synergies with almost all other types of touchpoints. Kantar has long known that media enhances the usage experience by framing people’s expectations of features such as taste, quality and performance. In the other direction, usage experience also flavours how well people respond to advertising. And it’s one of the greatest boosters of Word of Mouth – which is THE touchpoint of the future according to Niels Neudecker’s recent post.

In FMCG, 'experience' can even be turned into a unique brand strategy: one of our clients, a rather small producer of biscuits, successfully established itself as the top brand to be delivered alongside a cup of coffee in cafés. This strategy resulted in a differentiated positioning against their big competitors, who mostly rely on promotions. The brand also has a strong presence in blogs and culinary websites with recipes featuring the product. This helps to drive brand credibility and creates a sense of community around the experience.      

In service categories like finance we know that customer experience is key when it comes to choosing and staying with a brand. Despite most banking interactions happening online nowadays, consumers still rely on the personal contact with staff or consultants when it comes to substantial decisions: the higher the investment, the more important is the personal contact.

All in all, the physical experience of a brand is the most authentic, engaging and rewarding way of interaction. But at the same time, we see a growing trend towards replacing these 'touching' moments with digital solutions: today it is common to fit your new glasses online and ask a chatbot for advice. Can you imagine that digital will ever be able to offer adequate multisensory and social experiences? What are your thoughts?