Consumer Experience

How Brands Can Connect with Shoppers

A brand’s ability to connect with consumers comes not just from what it says, but what it does.

We often think of the connection between brands and customers as something that’s done through marketing. But the best retailers know that to truly build a connection with customers, there has to be an organizational commitment to providing the best customer experience possible. That means your supply chain, in-store experience, digital channels, marketing, and more have to be aligned with what your target consumers really want.

The scope of what retailers need to consider when creating a customer experience today is broad. In this article, we’ll look at a few things every brand should do to better connect with customers.

Provide Personalized Value at Every Touchpoint

Personalization at scale is still something of a white whale for brands and retailers, but there are ways to provide personalized experiences.

Research by Salesforce revealed that customers derive different kinds of value through each touchpoint. For example, consumers prefer physical stores for first-time purchases because it gives them a chance to see and try the products. Digital channels are preferred for research, price comparisons, and discovery. Brand websites are the go-to for limited-edition offerings and high-value items.

Personalizing what each individual consumer sees on digital channels is vital for success. Research from Google showed that consumers are more motivated to shop with a particular brand or retailer if they can find relevant local information. Use customer data to show what items are in stock near them to facilitate same-day purchases. Additionally, tapping into data around shopping behavior will allow you to provide personalized promotions and deals. Loyalty programs can take that to another level, further embedding your brand into the life of your devoted customers.

The in-store experience is still vital as well, and adding a personal touch to the experience can be a differentiator. Teach your sales associates to interact, not just transact. Ask them their interests, ask what they want to do, and help them get more out of coming into the store. If they’re shopping for a shirt, teach them how to complete the outfit by showing accessories that complement it. If your salespeople meet a diehard movie fan who wants to buy a Blu-ray player, ask them if they’ve considered a sound system that enhances their movie experience.

Personalization at scale is still something of a white whale for brands and retailers, but there are ways to provide personalized experiences.

Work with Influencers

Social media influencers and online content creators have connections with their audiences that are in some respects deeper than relationships consumers have with brands. Consumers might love a brand’s products, experiences, and mission, but a brand is still somewhat abstract. It’s much easier to connect with a person.

Influencers create content on social channels that entertain, inform, and delight their audiences. Most importantly, influencers have earned the trust of their audiences. In many ways, an influencer recommending a product is like an amped-up version of word-of-mouth marketing. This is especially true when it comes to selling to Generation Z consumers.

Some influencers leverage their following and connection with their audiences to share products and services they enjoy. With all of the trust they have accrued, influencers can give you massive ROI on your marketing spend because they have that trust and connection with the consumers you want to reach.

Get Experiential

Brands can connect with shoppers by providing memorable experiences through field or experiential marketing. So much promotional effort is spent telling people about products. Getting into the field, interacting with consumers, and creating a memorable experience around your brand can be a great way to connect with your customers.

Research from McKinsey validates the idea that experiential marketing makes brands more memorable and kickstarts word-of-mouth. According to the research, experiential word of mouth accounts for 50 percent to 80 percent of word-of-mouth activity in a product category.

This can be as simple as a pop-up shop where people can stop and try your products, as off-the-wall as public stunts (think of Domino’s Pizza fixing potholes all over the country), or as educational as a free class on something your customers care about (think of Sur La Table offering cooking classes that feature the products). The goal is to create something that aligns your brand with the lifestyle and interests of the target customer.

Show You Care

If there’s one thing we’ve learned during a time of lockdowns and quarantines due to COVID-19, it’s that brands that can demonstrate real compassion can foster deep connections with consumers.

Today, consumers care about brands that care. A report from Edelman pointed out that 71 percent of consumers who perceive a brand to put profits over people say they will lose trust in the brand forever.

Consider Ford Motors, which assembled over 100,000 plastic face shields to give to medical workers. Or look at Anheuser-Busch, which started producing hand sanitizer and distributing it through the Red Cross.

Putting out comforting messaging during tough times is a good start, but consumers will absolutely take note if you match actions to words. Even after COVID-19 is a thing of the past, looking for ways to support good causes can be a powerful way to connect with consumers.

In a time when consumers have more power than ever to find the best deals and products for them, building a connection with them is the only way to sustain long-term success. Using customer data to deeply understand your audience and tailoring the customer experience to what they care about will be what separates successful retailers from the pack.

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