Because what I do professionally is employer brand marketing, it’s second nature for me to observe and appreciate overall brand experience. This is true whether I’m buying something online or working to market my company’s employer brand. Successful brands — from behemoths like Amazon to small business retailers — follow basic principles of brand reputation: integrity, transparency, and empathy. In today’s world, it’s nearly impossible for a brand to be successful if it isn’t aware of (or acknowledges) what is being said about it as well as how the brand contributes to the conversation.
True brand experience story:
I have a friend — let’s call her Heather — who pinned a LivLuvShop ad to her Facebook and said how much she loved the T-shirt. Heather’s birthday was fast approaching, so I went to LivLuvShop and ordered the T-shirt for her and requested expedited, 2-day delivery. That was September 3.
Quick timeline of events:
- September 3 – order placed.
- September 19 – I received an email notification that my item was shipping. But several days later, the tracking information still indicated that only pre-shipment information had been received. Curious to know about how best to contact them, I went to LivLuvShop’s Facebook page, and that’s where I found many customer complaints mentioning unresponsiveness from the seller.
- September 23 – I go to LivLuvShop’s Instagram and post a question regarding my order. Sure enough, LivLuvShop responds fairly quickly, asking for my order number and telling me that they would update me through email.
- September 29 – I receive an email saying that my item had shipped and I would receive it (actually, Heather would) by the end of the week.
- September 30 – Given that the tracking information still showed pre-shipment information only, I again reach out to LivLuvShop for an update.
- October 3 – LivLuvShop emails me and states that my item has not actually shipped but that only the shipping label had been created. My item should be “shipping soon.” On Instagram, LivLuvShop responds to my question by saying that they ran out of product before they were able to ship my order.
I’m lucky. It’s only been a month since I placed my order. Others have had the same or worse experience.
LivLuvShop is an online retailer started by a Florida-based mom whose business model follows the latest craze of subscription box shopping. As a subscriber, you receive a monthly box containing a graphic tee and accessories. The customer base has rapidly grown not just because of catchy phrases on the graphic tees, but because other women want to support a small-business mom. But, as demand has increased, the production and shipping times have increased too. And now, there are many unhappy customers who have been waiting upwards of one to two months for their subscription boxes and/or purchases.
LivLuvShop. Your brand is in crisis.
This is not a personal attack against LivLuvShop. But an opportunity to point out lessons learned and re-emphasize the importance of managing your brand reputation so that you can avoid a brand crisis like theirs.
Be accountable and show understanding
Based on LivLuvShop’s social media profiles, they clearly have a problem in being accountable for their production and shipping flaws. When thousands of your buyers are posting to your social media profiles describing the same negative experience, it’s time to take accountability for your issues. LivLuvShop attempts to respond to each post by saying “so sorry for the delay” with little to no additional explanation or commentary. This might have worked if there were only a handful of customers experiencing issues. But because there are an overwhelming number, such a casual apology sounds hollow. By showing a blatant lack of empathy, they are losing valuable customers and brand advocates. Rather, what they could do is to write a post on their web site apologizing for and acknowledging the issues their customers are experiencing, providing an explanation for what is happening and then comitting to fix the problems. A simple letter of apology goes a long way.
Be trustworthy and have integrity
LivLuvShop has responded to customer complaints about shipping delays by informing their customers that their items have since shipped. However, in a growing number of cases, this promise proves to be false. Bottom line. BE HONEST. If you can’t hold up to your brand promise then provide accurate updates so that you can be trusted.
Or “be real” as Enterpreneur suggests: “Withholding or cleverly reshaping information is no longer a viable option for this new era of consumers who are savvier than any generation before them and for whom skepticism seems to be a default setting. In order to build brand loyalty, companies need to first build trust.”
If you don’t have integrity, you don’t have trust. And as Forbes once wrote: “Success will come and go, but integrity is forever.” Your brand promise is the key to integrity. This is currently on LivLuvShop’s “About Us” page:
And therein lies the problem. While they let you know that their products are made to order they also commit to shipping within 5-7 days. Not only is LivLuvShop experiencing extended shipping times, they also don’t ship within the updated times they provide to their customers. Consequently, they have lost integrity because of misrepresentation of their brand promise.
Be transparent and authentic
I commend any company who responds to social media comments and feedback in a timely manner. While you will inevitably receive positive feedback, in all likelihood, you will receive more negative comments than good. When this happens (and it will) don’t be tempted to hit “Delete.” In doing so, you violate one of the basic principles of social media brand marketing: transparency.
Hubspot once advised “Beware of deleting negative comments [too]. Doing so can bring on a slew of many more negative comments about the original issue … and the fact that you deleted their comment.”
This holds true today. Unfortunately for LivLuvShop this is a practice to which they do not adhere. On Instagram, they delete negative comments just as quickly as they respond to them and have gone so far as block customers who repeatedly ask about the delay in their orders. There is no activity on LivLuvShop’s Facebook page other than to promote the latest subscription box. They do not respond to customer questions and have even removed the ability for their followers to post to the page. Their customers have noticed. The result being that they now doubt LivLuvShop’s credibility and authenticity. (I would have provided a screen shot of my comments, but LivLuvShop deleted them.)
In employer brand marketing, I often talk about brand experience and how it determines whether candidates will come work for your company or if employees will remain loyal by staying. It’s not dissimilar from the consumer experience. Brand experience is everything. It not only influences your reputation, but it defines who you are as a company. A positive brand experience results in brand loyalty. A negative brand experience results in brand crisis.
Oh. And as for my friend Heather? Her present will arrive someday soon. Unfortunately, her birthday was last month.