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Marketing

Published February 8th 2016

Industry Opinion: If You’re Going to Build an Ecosystem, See it Through

Chris Owen loves the feeling of being 'in the club' - but what happens when a brand doesn't live up to its promises?

I like coffee. I drink it a lot – having spent my twenties trying to drink the world’s supply of rubbish lager and red wine, coffee has proven a far safer alternative for the last six-plus years of sobriety.

Early last year my fiancée and I decided to buy a proper coffee machine – cafetieres are all well and good when you have guests, but fill one up and you end up finishing it (or at least, I do, old habits, like with open wine bottles, die hard).

We went with Nespresso because, well, it’s a solid, well made, sophisticated bit of kit.

That and a wide range of very good coffee plus some intriguing specialist coffees throughout the year, and the ‘club’ factor that comes with buying into a brand ecosystem.

I say ‘ecosystem’ on purpose, rather than for pomposity – everything that’s associated with the brand inherently comes bundled with the premium feel. I, like many others, buy into that.

Customer experience: buying into exclusivity

The packaging of the heavyweight welcome pack, the smart besuited franchise assistants, the way the counter staff step out from behind the till to hand you your coffee, the exclusivity of only being able to buy the capsules from the company alone, and the swanky stores on some of the smartest high streets in Europe.

Which is why a recent jaunt to the Regent Street store in London fell flat.

If you’ve not been, it’s a big place. Big, certainly, for a coffee shop, which is essentially what it is – it sells coffee and accessories.

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For one of the most expensive retail rental spots in Europe, having a shop with such a narrow portfolio means the space has to work, and the experience has to be perfect.

But it wasn’t. Nespresso has two new flavours of coffee – both intriguing, but equally slightly risky to just buy outright without tasting. So I went to the Tasting Area – “ah,” I thought, “this is where you sample the coffee if you need to”, and I fiddled our members card out from my wallet.

This turned out to be a misnomer.

You can’t taste the coffee unless you have one of the ten seats at the bar, behind which two baristas make Nespresso for those seated, while those of us in the queue have to wait.

Now, this isn’t a ‘Tasting Area’, this is a coffee bar. A coffee bar replete with an old guy reading the paper, four tourists taking pictures of each other holding different cups of coffee in different orders, while pointing at the Nespresso sign. Convenient it is not.

I gave up – granted, slightly sulkily – after about ten minutes of waiting for a seat. The brand experience didn’t live up to what was promised.

We didn’t appear to be ‘in the club’ after all.

Carrying the experience through is so important

By turning it into a pseudo-coffee bar, it’s misleading, and for a shop selling a product based on taste and dis/like of it, losing a key part of the experience seems naive.

More annoyingly, for those who spend a fair amount of money on capsules a year, and buy into the club and the whole ecosystem, there’s little reward unless you beat the camera-wielding tourists to the seats.

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To his credit, the manager was very apologetic and agreed that the tasting area should be either reserved for members, or labelled a coffee bar and be done with it, and have a tasting area separately.

He was really helpful and we had a good chat, and offered some of the coffee I wanted to test out.

But the core of the problem remains – if you build your brand around exclusivity, premium, and ‘in the club’ mentality, you have to carry it through every part of the customer experience.

Certainly, don’t let them down in-store and instead become yet a freebie coffee shop.

Why build up such a solid ecosystem for the brand, then forget to implement it through every interaction?

Customers buy into you, your brand, and your products in these circumstances. Don’t sell them down the line for the sake of getting into a few more tourists’ Instagram shots.


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