Customer service and customer satisfaction typically receive a lot of attention, but what about customer experience?
February is the month of love. Roses bloom and hearts throb. Window displays across malls and shopping centres transform into gleaming red showpieces as retailers gear up for Valentine’s Day. While you’re busy prepping special promotions and appealing displays to showcase the perfect gifts for shoppers wishing to demonstrate their love and affection – it will be worth your while to consider the importance of building your own deep emotional bonds – with your customers.
Emotionally-driven customer experiences play a large role in strengthening loyalty and increasing spend in the retail space.
“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
– Maya Angelou: Activist, Poet, Author
WHAT IS CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE?
According to the research and advisory company Gartner, Customer Experience, also known as CX, can be defined as the series of events and instances that outline the interaction between you and your customer.
Customer experience comes down to you delivering emotional connections that lead to long-term memories, which either inspires a shopper to spend or dissuades that customer from spending at all.
WHY IS CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE SO IMPORTANT?
CX may be the best way to differentiate yourself as an independent retailer in a world of increasing competition. Harvard Business Review contributors, Alan Zorfas and Daniel Leemon believe that an emotional connection actually matters more than customer satisfaction.
“By implementing an emotional-connection-based strategy across the entire customer experience – including how it communicates with customers and attracts them – retailers stand to improve emotional connections with shoppers from 21% to 26%, while reducing customer attrition rates from 37% to 33%.” – Zorfas and Leemon, HBR.
Shoppers spend more when they feel nostalgicAccording to the Journal of Consumer Research, nostalgia plays a big part in marketing of goods and services. The organisation conducted six experiments that showed that people feel socially connected when they are exposed to nostalgic triggers – weakening their price sensitivity, increasing their willingness to pay.“Nostalgia may be so commonly used in marketing because it encourages consumers to part with their money,” the journal notes. In a recent Netflix documentary series, The Toys That Made Us, retail experts share how nostalgia is leading to the rebirth of cultural icons for a modern generation of consumers. If you are able to secure nostalgic retail items through your suppliers, and if you market it appropriately to customers, you could increase your revenue.
3 WAYS INDEPENDENT RETAILERS CAN DELIVER
EMOTIONALLY-DRIVEN CUSTOMER EXPERIENCES
1. Embrace the senses
In a research paper titled ‘Retail Design and Sensory Experience’ by Interior Design Associate Professor, Jihyun Song, she explains the critical role that the senses play in human experience and how memories and emotions are tied to those.
“In retail design, brands associated to sensory experience attract customers and stimulate strong, positive, and distinctive impression across all five senses. In this case multiple sensory cues are found in a store interior including store and display layout, lighting, interior fixtures and furnishings, music, and air quality such as fragrance and temperature. All contribute and complement each other in orchestrating the complexity of interiors,” says Song.
- According to research, people remember simple figures more easily than complex ones. Song explains: "People are fascinated by ornament details, because those details cannot be remembered for a long time. It is thus ever new and interesting, and people are willing to devote their information-seeking attention to it. Therefore, people linger for extended periods in a space where there are more details than in one with fewer details.”
- Retailers can use this to their advantage by developing more visually immersive displays to attract customers and keep them in store for longer.
- Consumers like to touch, hold and experience items. Song’s research has found that customers are more likely to purchase something if they are able to feel it first. Consider how you can incorporate tactile experiences into displays and at your till points.
- "Specific fragrances perform precise functions. For example, lemon and peppermint can reinforce alertness and energy; lavender and cedar can reduce tension. This theory has been put into use by interior designers, says Song. "For example, several large companies introduce fragrance to heating and air condition systems to boost work efficiency and reduce stress.”
- Local furniture retailer Coricraft has branded their stores with a distinctive fragrance.
- Research has shown that older shoppers shop longer and purchase more when background music is playing, while younger shopper respond similarly to foreground music.
- Paul Simon, founder of the local clothing retailer Young Designer’s Emporium (YDE), believed that music played a key role in YDE’s retail experience. Because the retail clothing store embodies a spirit of fun and excitement, he used popular, upbeat music to trigger good feelings amongst shoppers.
- When consumers go to restaurants, waiters normally pour a sample of the wine for them to experience before they commit to a bottle. It’s believed that food and drink retailers can deliver a better customer experience if they follow similar practices.
- Taste Wine Company, made waves in the American retail sector by making shopping for wine more accessible and fun by letting customers have a taste or two while browsing. Locally, Woolworths, Pick ‘n Pay and Checkers also enable customers to experience (taste) items before they add-to-cart.
2. Value and experience should come before price
“Unless a business wants to be recognised solely as a low-cost provider, the value proposition of good customer service can make price less relevant to the consumer,” HBR’s Zorfas and Leemon say.
TRAIN YOUR TEAM TO BETTER IDENTIFY & MEET CUSTOMER NEEDS:
- “Hi, can I help you with anything today?” Yes, it’s a friendly and welcoming question, but it does little to actively find out what your customer truly needs.
- Investigative questioning would go like this: “Hi there, are you browsing for appliances, TVs or laptops today?” ... “Oh, you’re looking for a vacuum cleaner, we have a few different brands. “Will you be vacuuming a large or small floor area? … office or home? etc”
- Training of your shop assistants on how to ask better questions to uncover individual customers’ needs can have a tremendous impact on customer experience.
BE PROACTIVE ABOUT PROBLEM SOLVING:
- Avoid issues before they arise with proactive customer service. Teach staff to listen, be patient, and not to interrupt the customer. Understanding and empathy is key. Offer assistance immediately or call someone to assist without making them repeat their issue.
- For example, if you have a returns policy, you can proactively convey it to customers to ensure they know that if they are unhappy with their purchase, you’re giving them an opportunity to bring the item back for a refund or exchange.
- A simple exchange of words between cashier and customer can lead to a memorable customer experience.
SURPRISE AND DELIGHT YOUR CUSTOMERS:
- Don’t under-estimate the power of surprise in building emotional connections.
- A small unexpected gift, such as a chocolate that accompanies your customer’s transaction receipt, or an instant discount at the checkout point can go a long way to build a positive emotional association to your store in the minds of your customers.
3. Personalisation creates a better customer experience
“There is no reason not to create a more personalised experience that caters to a customer’s individual needs,” HBR’s correspondents say. So how do you personalise the experience? It’s easier now than ever to monitor your customers’ shopping patterns and preferences. Technology can provide data-driven insights on shopping trends and the ability to personalise direct communications with your customers.
START A LOYALTY PROGRAMME:
- You may think that loyalty programmes are the reserve of large chain-store retailers with vast financial resources, however cost-effective loyalty programmes are available to independent retailers too.
- A loyalty programme not only builds your customer base, but also provides insights on your customers spending habits and their preferences.
DELIVER UNIQUE, TAILORED COMMUNICATION:
- According to Shopify, studies show that only a small percentage – 12-15% – of any customer base are exclusively loyal to a single retailer, however those same shoppers are responsible for 55-70% of total sales.
- Through your loyalty programme, you deliver personalised communications directly to your loyal customers via email or SMS, alerting them to sales, special events and discount prices on items they have purchased before.