Many retailers seeking the formula for success have latched onto fast and free delivery plus low prices. There’s no question that Amazon has set the expectation for cutthroat pricing and delivery-on-demand. But successful retailers need to start thinking beyond these basic levers. Those seeking long-term retention, repeat sales and lasting customer loyalty would be wise to shift focus to a new concept: building emotional connection with customers while making their shopping experience effortless.
To challenge fast and free shipping and avoid a race to the bottom on price, retailers need to find the balance between ease of use and affinity.
This may seem a tad intangible for an industry rich with quantifiable stats. But studies show that for consumers, feeling appreciated plus the amount of effort it takes to make a purchase or complete a return impacts the degree of fundamental trust they have in a company, which in turn significantly impacts their shopping decisions. To win and keep customers, retailers need to do more than just get that ubiquitous brown box to the doorstep in 48 hours flat.
Make shopping and service really, really easy
Effortless shopping is still an important part of the equation. Customers at Amazon Go, the grab-and-go grocery offering in Seattle, never wait in the checkout line while someone fumbles for exact change. Amazon’s “Just Walk Out” technology tracks items in a virtual shopping cart until the consumer leaves the store. Then the Amazon Go app instantly tallies the cost, charges the account and sends a receipt.
Uber customers, too, skip the line when they hail a driver curbside and then pay, tip and review the experience, all with a few swipes of an app. Netflix lets users seamlessly stop and pickup streams across a variety of devices for uninterrupted viewing. And car rental service Hertz has long helped its most loyal customers save time and effort by letting members of its #1 Club pick up a car without first checking in at the counter. These streamlined experiences go a long way to building customer trust.
Shift focus from buying to trying
Retailers seeking to build brand awareness understand a growing number of consumers, especially Millennials, prioritize doing over having. Smart companies bridge this gap by creating innovative showrooms that let customers experience the brand in meaningful interactions. Samsung 837 and online cooler company Yeti exemplify this trend, creating unique arenas where visitors enjoy everything from concerts and film screenings to yoga classes and a cold beer. Immersing customers in the lifestyle and values which a brand stands for helps to build community and weaves the brand identity into the consumer’s own identity.
Forge meaningful emotional connections
Narvar’s recent consumer study was surprising in one key area: customers are feeling underappreciated after they’ve bought something. When asked what would make them feel more satisfied with a purchase, 61% said “a simple thank you”. Crate & Barrel is one of the few retailers that provides this acknowledgement, with an email a few days after an online or in-store purchase.
When pharmacy chain CVS heard about a child in Arkansas celebrating her fourth birthday with a CVS-themed party, it donated myriad favors and supplies for the big event. Although this example of emotionally connecting with a customer is hardly typical, it exemplifies the kind of meaningful relationship brands are striving for. Companies know listening carefully to consumers is a key way to forge that connection.
Consider beauty brand Sephora, which highly values its on-the-ground ambassadors to offer feedback about, and help evangelize, its products. Or Levi Strauss, which turned to crowdsourcing for input on a new jeans design. Finding creative or compelling ways for customers to experience, engage with or even influence a product or brand helps companies take long-term loyalty to a whole new level.
To challenge fast and free shipping and avoid a race to the bottom on price, retailers need to find the balance between ease of use and affinity. Brands that can stand securely at this intersection of effortless commerce and emotional connection will enjoy the golden reward of customer loyalty.