The ultimate defence against threats to your business? Great customer experience

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Your competitive advantage isn’t just about price and product

What’s your advantage? Innovations can be copied. Prices can be beaten. Competition can come from anywhere, especially as technology turns industries upside down. Your products and services, as good as they may be, are always at risk from faster-moving rivals.

You have a defence against these threats: customer experience. Get it right and customers come back. It creates an emotional connection between customer and business, a connection that becomes a relationship. Customer experience creates the relationship: make it a good experience and you’ll develop a good relationship.

Car spares may not sound like a product to get emotional about, but when they’re spares for classic cars, people really care. For the customer, often individual car enthusiasts, the quality of the experience matters, from feeling like you’re talking to like-minded people to finding the rare part you need to complete a rebuild.

Parts suppliers have an opportunity to tap into the emotional connection owners have with their vehicles, to become the problem solver when they’re in need of an obsolete or hard-to-find component.

And few are as well placed to take on this role as the companies that made the car in the first place. Not only do they often have stocks of original, unused spares, they also possess the technical knowledge necessary to remanufacture parts that are no longer available.

Created for enthusiasts

Volkswagen has known this for decades. Its Classic Parts division was established in 1997 and now carries over 60,000 products, from an ignition key for a 1961 Typ 3 (still in its original packaging) to a rear door for a 1979 Mk1 Golf. It is a treasure trove of rare, coveted and, ultimately, useful parts.

It’s also very aware of the importance of its brand in people’s lives. Classic Volkswagens inspire a legendary level of loyalty and enthusiasm. Owners really care about their cars, investing considerable amounts of time and money in them. So when it came to rebuilding the Classic Parts website, Volkswagen knew it had to not only reflect this passion, but cater for it and even encourage it.

To this end, one of the most important elements in the rebuild was to add an element of storytelling, so Volkswagen’s development team built a magazine using Adobe Experience Manager as the content management system, packed with stories. Stories about VW enthusiasts and their cars. Stories about the origins and history of the cars, taken from the enormous Volkswagen archive. Stories about the Classic Parts team’s efforts to recreate obsolete parts, which not only publicise the stock but also help to qualify them as fellow enthusiasts in the minds of the customer.

Stories reinforce the experience

While the storytelling aspect of the magazine is to be expected, it’s maybe less usual to

find the same thread running through an entire website. The experience of using the Classic Parts site is one with storytelling at its heart. VW is proud of its heritage and that it’s been helping enthusiasts keep their cars on the road since 1997. It’s not shy about letting you know this, either: a quick browse of the site makes it clear that it’s run by enthusiasts for enthusiasts. For anyone interested in old cars, it’s easy to identify with.

This is the power of storytelling, and how it feeds into the greater customer experience. Classic Parts customers feel like they’re buying from like-minded people, as if they’re all part of the same club. It’s a positive feeling: you’re being helped to restore and maintain your cherished car by people who understand what it’s like to own such a vehicle.

The principles used to create the Classic Parts experience can be applied to any business. The efficiency of digital tools makes it quick to build environments that are simple to use, with powerful search functions and great product detail. But at its heart, a great experience is created by a place where people feel welcome, helped and valued. In a world where everything is being turned upside down on what seems like a daily basis, that’s a powerful reason to remain loyal to a brand.