Most of us, consciously or unconsciously, have a tendency to make snap judgments. Whether it’s about judging a book by its cover, a person by what they are wearing, or a business by how it appears, it seems to just intuitively happen. As many master chefs say “the first bite is with the eye”.
We can’t emphasise enough how much that first impression matters for businesses. It influences that first interaction a customer has, and can often dictate the business’s future relationship with its customers. A business that works on getting it right the first time has the potential to go a long way. After all, a bad first impression is rarely repaired.
What is the First Impression in Business?
For a business, personal communication and the customer experience is just as important as money, if not more. These factors contribute to the business success in the same manner. There are many reasons customers can have a bad experience. On average, if a customer has a negative experience with a business they will tell 16 others directly (excluding social media) of their experience. A negative reputation can make a huge impact.
The first impression is often made by the outward appearances of a business. Factors and practices that are immediately noticeable are:
Appearance: Businesses that present themselves to the public need to take care of how they look. You can never underestimate the importance of a smile, a handshake, or other small gestures of etiquette if you have a forward facing team. Otherwise it’s a smart brand identity, good photography and well designed materials that make the impression.
Business Location: If you have an office, a retail store, or a restaurant business, the look of the place speaks volumes and creates an impression. This includes the cleanliness, management, the colours, logos, symbols, fonts, and other things. When a customer enters your shop or restaurant, the first thing they notice is the ambiance, even before a staff member goes up to talk to them.
Website: For all businesses in today's world, your website is your digital shop front. This is one of the most important moments in your customers journey. However, this goes beyond the pretty and what the homepage looks like. This is still important as it takes a few milliseconds for customers to judge a web page and just another few seconds to close the window and not return to it. But, a website should be easy to navigate, easy to view, optimised for mobile use, and provides helpful content.
Branding and Perception
Building your business perception doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune on how your business appears to other people. The concept of good first impressions and creating a good perception is to build the image and reputation of the business.
Branding is one of the ways in which you can enhance the overall customer experience. The concept of branding is to represent the business image using a number of ideas. It could be a symbol or a design theme, which becomes the identity of the business.
A business can work on their first impressions and perceptions through branding strategies. It is the way of creating a visual persona of the business in front of people. With a positive branding strategy, a business can go a long way towards successful customer relationships. Don’t get this confused with your brand strategy though, to understand more about the difference between your brand and branding check out this article.
First impressions help with a sale but not with loyalty
The first impression you make is important, it is the starting point for inspiring your customers to make a purchase, however it is not the only step you should consider. Too many companies only focus on their marketing and outward appearance but are hugely let down by other steps in their customer journey.
There are so many interactions a customer has with a business. To help make a customer a loyal and a returning customer, perfecting each of these interactions will leave them happy and satisfied. You can read more about the full Customer Experience and what it means here, but to start with, review how your customer service team is doing, this can often make or break and customers loyalty to a company. Whether on a call or in-store, addressing the customers, how they communicate, and how they project the business.
Yes, first impressions are key, but remember the bigger picture when thinking about how to increase sales. Your marketing and appearance may get you quick wins, but it's the investment you make into your customers experience that will build a strong and profitable business.