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Aug 22 '17

The Digital Retail Relationship: How to Connect with Your Customers

It’s an exciting and challenging time for retail in the ever-changing digital space. To be successful, retailers need to shift priorities and focus on building stronger relationships with their customers. With constant access to all digital touch points anytime/anywhere, consumers hold all the power which makes their online journey with a brand crucial. Consumers have high expectations for an engaging experience and crave a meaningful and personal connection with their favorite brands. If the relationship is strong and the digital experience is powerful, it’s a win-win.

Anthropology President, Glee Senk, said it best, “Our customers are our friends, and what we do is never, ever, ever talk about selling to them.”

Below are some examples of ways retailers have successfully adapted to this new shift in thinking:

  • Macy’s: “Way to shop!” A successful, brick and mortar department store, Macy’s has evolved its online experience to meet customers’ expectations. The company experienced double-digit annual growth from its website in 2016 and closed 68 of its 880 store locations in 2017 as part of a companywide effort to shift more resources online. Macy’s future plans include increasing spending on initiatives around mobile commerce, marketing data and analytics, and in-store pickup options for online orders.
  • Ulta Beauty: “All things beauty. All in one place.” This beauty store has taken the traditional shopping model and flipped it around with the customer in mind. Ulta recently debuted “Glam Lab”, a virtual try-on experience allowing users to upload a selfie and test products against their skin tones. They also created an app that allows customers, while shopping, to scan a product to read customer reviews, see similar products, and save items as favorites to purchase later if they choose.
  • AirBnb: “Book unique homes and experience a city like a local.” Tapping in to consumers’ desire to experience destinations in a more authentic way, this service allows you to rent and stay at someone’s home anywhere in the world or offer the service to others at a low price. Delivering a more intimate experience for less than a costly chain hotel has been the key to success. There is also an opportunity to speak with the owner of the home and ask for tips for your trip!
  • Blue Apron: “Discover a better way to cook.” Blue Apron, and others like it, have made clean eating easy and convenient for the average person. A sustainable, non-GMO, cage-free, non-hormone food delivery service, Blue Apron provides high-quality food from farm to table. Customers avoid busy grocery stores and save time all while the “experts” deliver fresh ingredients and recipes for the customer to make at home.

Each of these companies has catered their offering to meet customers’ needs and create a better customer relationship. They have shown the customer that they care about their wants and are willing to do what is needed to surpass their expectations. The positive customer feedback they receive is then magnified by digital word-of-mouth.

Below are some helpful tips for retailers to keep in mind when leveraging digital technology to better connect with consumers:

  • Brand presence: Provide a powerful and unique brand message and personality that resonates with your customer.
  • Exclusivity: Give the customer a special experience or product that they cannot get anywhere else.
  • Values: Stick to your core brand values and attract customers by practicing what you preach. Just because there are new digital tools to use doesn’t mean you need to change who you are.
  • Connections: Keeping in contact with the customer pre-, during-, and post-purchase will ensure a long-term relationship to keep them loyal.
  • Convenience: The digital age is all about convenience for the consumer. Be sure that your service or product makes their life better and/or easier in some way and that it is available and engaging at all touch points.

Brand message and personality, exclusivity, values, connections, and convenience are all crucial to a healthy and long-lasting relationship with the customer. It will take time to adapt to the new journey and retailers need to be open to learning and adapting as they go in this new digital era, but those that do, will ultimately succeed.

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