If you’re in retail, you know there’s no business intelligence more important than what makes your shoppers buy. You also know that what triggers their purchases this year is not what triggered them yesteryear.
In a 2015 shopper experience study, Retail Info Systems News and Cognizant polled 5,000 shoppers in North America–adult women and men across a range of age and income levels–about their preferences in order to help retailers create better shopping experiences. The key finding: In today’s world of e-commerce competition, showrooming, and digital comparisons, shoppers want “personalized experiences that create true emotional connections.”
If you’ve had your head too deep in your sales and traffic numbers to think about how to connect with your customers on an emotional level, you’re not alone. But making emotional connections won’t require you to get warm and fuzzy. It’s just good management.
Steven Skinner, senior VP of Cognizant’s Products and Resources Consulting business unit and the study’s principal research analyst, writes that there are “three key ingredients for the tailored experience that leads to more satisfied and loyal customers.” He offers these common-sense management tips:
1. Don’t ignore your sales associates when rolling out new digital tech. If you’re not on your store floor interacting with customers every day, then your store associates might know better than you what the obstacles to new technology implementation might be. Skinner says, “Store associates need to be involved from the beginning and allowed to contribute throughout the process to ensure what made sense on a whiteboard in the corporate center will work in stores.”
2. Train, train, train. And empower. When your customers have to deal with a store associate who doesn’t know how or is not permitted to help them, you’ll establish the wrong kind of emotional connections. Good service is crucial to winning customer loyalty. “To prepare associates to exceed customers’ expectations, train them on how and when to use today’s tools,” Skinner writes. And “Empower them to make the decisions necessary to close sales.”
3. Create a loyalty strategy that feels personalized. Shoppers told Cognizant’s researchers that strong loyalty programs include “point rewards per dollar, automatic discounts, status achievement to gain elevated benefits, and special offers based on purchase history.” Nearly a third would shop at the merchant with a strong loyalty program instead of at the one with the lower price. According to Skinner, “Customers want an insightful loyalty program that is unique to them and not intrusive.” For instance, more than half said they’re open to receiving alerts based on their location. And nearly half will tell their social media contacts about your brand if you offer an incentive.