Journal

RETAIL EXPERIENCE IS THE KEY TO A GREAT RELATIONSHIP

RETAIL EXPERIENCE IS THE KEY TO A GREAT RELATIONSHIP

Whether online, or social, or in-store, the shopping experience should be a lot less like buying and a lot more like going on a first date and having a good time. It should be a great experience that makes you feel so good that you’re already planning your next date.

 

A NEW CONSUMER PARADIGM

Today’s customers are the focus of attention and have the power to access whatever they want however and whenever they want it. A new paradigm has been created. We no longer have consumers looking for the products they need; the retailers find the customers they need. The retailers tailor their products to their customers—the brand story as well as the online and live experience. They analyze their customers’ needs and habits in great detail.

Brands are there to enthuse, charm, and seduce the customers, and the retailers continue caring about the needs of their customers. The days when customers were restricted to store opening hours are gone; 24/7 accessibility has shifted the balance of power in favor of the consumer. According to brand strategist Alfredo Muccino, consumers have changed their approach to shopping from “I need stuff” to “I want an experience.” This change happened as a result of contemporary society seeking happiness in satisfaction and fulfilment with life rather than in material values.

Material possessions do not make you successful; having experiences that are yours alone is the goal shaping future communities. We’re in the midst of a transition from an industrial to a robotic age, and that requires new models and values. “The convergence of a new consumer paradigm and overcrowded marketplace has finally brought the [retail] industry to the brink of fundamental change,” says Robin Lewis in The Robin Report. The product in itself is no longer enough.

HOW TO WIN AND KEEP CUSTOMERS

Customer retention involves the development of a new set of ideas and narratives that surround any one product. The emergence of social networks and open, public communication between consumers about brands has put brands in a vulnerable position, and they must tackle this issue to ensure sustainability and loyalty. “Don’t think about sales per square foot but experience per square foot,” says Rachel Shechtman, founder of the STORY retail concept.

On its website, STORY describes itself as a retail space that takes the point of view of a magazine, changes like a gallery, and sells things like a store. This concept goes beyond traditional shopping and acts like a matchmaker between customers, brands, designers, and a whole chain of people connected with the brands sold there. The authors of this concept understand that experience leads to transactions, and they apply that knowledge with one difference—customers get so much more out of the experience before even buying anything that they will bond with the place where they made the purchase.

WHAT DO THE LAST SURVEY SAY

The surveys presented in Harbor Industries: Industry Trends and Insights in the U.S. indicate that improving the customer experience by just 10 percent can yield as much as USD1 billion in additional revenue, while an astonishing 86 percent of buyers claim they are ready to pay more for a better shopping experience!

The retail space is unrivaled in this respect. Whether a real brick-and-mortar store or an online point, the retail experience is what makes the customer stop,

communicate, and come back. “Consumers today seek reciprocal relationships with partners who ‘get’ them—who are into the same things, who speak their language, who want similar outcomes in life, and who are willing to be invested in a relationship. Retailers and brands should seek meaningful encounters rather than just incenting cold, one-time transactions,” says retailing expert Dee Warmath.

A recent study revealed that consumers who feel an emotional connection to a retailer are four times more likely to shop with it—the greater the emotional connection, the stronger the relationship and the higher the earnings. This leads to the creation of a whole set of touch points that enable the retailer and customer to form a relationship. If this relationship is disrupted, 89 percent of customers are ready to go elsewhere according to the Kissmetric’s report The Price of Bad Customer Service. Investing in pampering and indulging customers has become an absolute priority and an essential component of every budget.

PAMERING AND INDULGING THE CUSTOMER

Brands are becoming socially aware because they want their buyers to perceive them as such. Starbucks, Toms, Microsoft, and others allocate a part of their profits to humanitarian causes, which puts them in a new category of conscious members of the wider community who care to make a contribution to improve the world they share with their customers. The customers clearly recognize and appreciate this, and these brands have gained the special affection of consumers with a positive impact on their revenues.

The assumptions and successful case studies that worked in the past are now obsolete. Traditional demographic models that brands have so carefully perfected over the past decades are an increasingly inadequate descriptor of the new consumer. People of all ages and incomes and in all markets are free to construct their own identities more freely than ever. This inference is applicable even more to a new luxury consumer. They have regrouped themselves into tribes with specific languages and aesthetics and a similar set of values. We’ve come to the point where “seasons don’t matter, trends don’t matter, age doesn’t matter,” says New York style forecaster Sharon Graubard in her book Everything is Niche. This also means that the traditional rivalry between producers, distributors, and retailers primarily based on service price fluctuations must give way to a new form of collaboration that centers around the consumer rather than the narrow interests of each individual link in that chain because they all depend on the customer more than ever before.

The ability of customers to conduct transactions anywhere and anytime puts this in a new context. There’s a relationship of mutual reliance here, so it’s not just about producing, distributing, and selling goods; the entire chain now focuses on the customers, who have thus gained some control over the entire process. They know who makes the product and what it’s made of in addition to how much it costs. The whole business has become transparent to such an extent that full attention must be devoted to every step of the process.

HOW ABOUT ANOTHER DATE TOMORROW?

This whole business is about cultivating relationships. Good relationships between customers on the one hand and brands and retailers on the other are capable of moving things forward to ensure an always desirable, positive, and qualitative return on investment. Customers feel they have invested in relationships and expect their first dates and those to follow to be special.

Text originally appeared in Lumen magazine