Keys to a Customer Centric Approach that Retains Retail Customers

Apr 15, 2022 | Blog

Whether customers need entertainment, medical help or professional growth, companies exist to help customers meet these needs and desires. In retail, where the competition is fierce and the industry keeps changing, this truth remains clear: Companies that thrive long-term are the ones who take a customer-centric approach in everything they do. Here’s how to implement it in your company, too.

Discover What Customers Actually Need

About a decade ago, fashion brand Kate Spade New York made a promise to inspire its customers to lead a more interesting life. As then CMO Mary Beech said at a Columbia Business School conference, the brand identified its #1 customer to be a culturally curious woman, who “lives life to the fullest… takes chances and… stands out from the crowd.”

This customer profile was front and center for all departments, from design to social media and customer service. It even led to interactive store experiences, such as signs that hid below handbags to surprise customers when they picked them up.

You can watch Beech’s full presentation here:

But this kind of customer profile isn’t accidental or made up from thin air. To discover what customers need, you need to talk to them:

=> Run surveys.
=> Invite them to roundtables or one on one calls with your team.
=> Talk regularly with your customer service and in-store employees to get direct customer feedback.

In addition, pay attention to what they share online:

=> Mine your social media and blog comments.
=> Use social listening tools.
=> Analyze product reviews on your site and on marketplaces like Amazon.

To take it to the next level, analyze what they’re saying about your competitors, too. Discover what they love about competitors, and what gaps are left to fill.

Of course, back all that with browsing and shopping data. Run product and promotional tests. See which changes speak to customers most, and adjust accordingly.

Choose a CRM that Provides a Universal Customer View

When choosing a CRM, choose one that provides a universal, omnichannel customer view, so you can start stepping away from fragmented experiences that exhaust and frustrate customers. Verify your CRM gives you:

=> Browsing history on all channels.
=> Shopping history on all channels.
=> Customer service history on all channels.
=> Loyalty program data.
=> Other engagement information, like how many channels they use to follow or engage with your brand (Do customers who follow you in three or more channels have different needs? Greater loyalty?).

In addition, it’s important to share and analyze data across silos. Customers expect to feel like they’re talking to the same “person” whether they contact you on Instagram, chat or in-store, and whether they reach out for sales or or service help. The only way you can authentically provide that feeling is by creating in-company collaborations.

Provide Personal Experiences with Clienteling

The long term relationships brands build with customers through clienteling are especially strong, because they go beyond personalized experiences for segments. Clienteling creates personal, one on one relationships between a sales associate and a specific customer – although it’s especially powerful and effective when it’s empowered by technology that provides the universal customer view we just covered.
In this case, sales associates get access to customers’ preferences, wish lists and purchase history. They get to know their tastes and desires. Therefore, it’s easier for sales associates to provide product recommendations, including upsells and cross-sells, and early access to new items.

Sales associates can go the extra mile by providing gift cards for customers’ loved ones or facilitating product maintenance sessions, for example. With the help of a mobile POS, they can help customers cut the line when it’s time to make a payment, as purchases can be finalized anywhere in the store.

Sales associates can also use their mobile POS to gain access to the unified customer data, and add their own, as they document every interaction. Put together, the brand gets a rich database that enables it to reach out and engage with the customer long after she left the store, so she can feel cared for no matter which channel she prefers to use next.

Create Emotional Connections

Brain studies show that we often make purchase decisions based on emotions first, then rationalize these decisions afterwards, reports Psychology Today. Therefore, the deeper emotional connections you can create with customers, the likelier they are to buy and keep coming back.

Consider why customers are buying, or how buying from you or engaging with your brand makes them feel.

Emotional Needs

Let’s take fashion, for example. Buying clothes can be fun, but maybe not as much if all the representations you see are of beauty models you might never achieve. But when you buy from a brand like Aerie, which continuously showcases models of different body types, races and physical abilities, you might feel valued and beautiful on a whole other level.

Values and Purpose

Alternatively, you might buy from this brand because it represents and advocates for your values, whether it’s diversity or sustainability. You might choose this brand over another because you prefer to give your money to a brand that has more financial power than you do to drive the change you want to see in the world.

Opportunities for Trust Building

Just as importantly, you’re likely to stay with a brand that takes responsibility, shows empathy and helps you find resolution when things go wrong.

When Things Go Wrong

Customer centricity is a fun topic when we’re planning marketing strategies, checking out innovative technology options, and brainstorming ways to pamper our most loyal customers. It’s easy to think that if we do all these things, it’ll be all rainbows and unicorns from now on.

And in a way, we’re not completely wrong. When companies take one more extra step toward customer centricity, customers are likelier to forgive their mistakes and keep buying.

That extra step is empathy – especially when things go wrong.

According to CEB, most customers who reach out for support already tried to resolve things themselves, which means they already feel frustrated. Then, we’ve all experienced contact centers that require us to jump through hoops, contact multiple touch points, explain our issue over and over again… only to get blamed for doing things wrong ourselves, or otherwise getting treated poorly.

No wonder that CEB reports that “customer service interactions are actually 4x more likely to lead to disloyalty than loyalty.”

It’s critical to invest in tools and training that facilitate more empathetic, customer-centric service.

The Secret Nobody Tells You About Customer Centricity: It Actually Shouldn’t Be Your First Priority

In fact, it’s very challenging to create customer centricity if it’s your number one priority, because it isn’t created in a vacuum. It’s created by people – your employees.
The challenge is, “a third of employees aren’t truly engaged on the job” and it “cost[s] companies between $450 and $550 billion a year,” reports HR Dive. When employees aren’t engaged, they often do the minimum. When they don’t feel appreciated, they often won’t go out of their way to think outside the box and innovate. When they feel stuck at a job that mistreats them, they might come off frustrated and annoyed in customer interactions.

In one company, management was so oblivious to the employee experience, that it simultaneously asked them to take actions and threatened to fire them if they took said actions. No matter what the company did to motivate its employees, or what bonuses it “threw” at them, product development remained slow and the company kept losing money.

To prevent this from happening in your company, treat your employees as your number one customer sector. Discover what they actually need, get a universal view of their experience, personalize their journeys in your company, create emotional connections, and be there for them when things go wrong.

When you do that, it’ll be much easier for them to help you successfully implement these strategies with your prospects and paying customers.

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