In an age when consumers are becoming more and more demanding, always connected and able to broadcast their feelings and thoughts whenever and wherever they might be, a new relationship dynamic is rapidly emerging. The old ways of “retail” no longer cut it; as humans we are increasingly seeking human-centred experiences.
Changing Consumer Expectations
The retail rulebook has changed. There was a time when building a store (to a reasonable standard), stacking the shelves with half-decent product and charging a fair price was enough to have people come flocking.
For those with a taste for period British sitcoms, the character of Arkwright in the BBC’s ’80s comedy sitcom “Open All Hours,” epitomized all that is good about our nation of shopkeepers. Arkwright not only sold everything needed, he knew each and every one of his customers. Nirvana for most retailers today? Not quite.
Arkwright knew how to build the relationships that mattered and keep his customers returning. These days, retailers need to work a little harder.
What’s the reason for this? Without a doubt, our “always on” culture and almost limitless access to products and services is driving rising expectations at an incredibly rapid rate. In 2015, Uber commissioned a study: In the first year, it asked its customers in London how long they would be prepared to wait for a taxi. The answer came back as seven minutes. With the same question the following year, the answer was five minutes. The patience of Londoners had decreased by 30 percent in the span of 12 months.
With this level of consumer power over where, with who, and how quickly they expect to be fulfilled, can brands expect any level of loyalty from this new avalanche of discerning, increasingly critical customers?
It’s debatable whether brand loyalty in the true sense of the word actually exists today, but one thing is clear: We expect brands to engage with us. According to a survey by Gallup, consumer electronics customers who are fully engaged spend 29 percent more per shopping trip than those who are actively disengaged.
Think of Your Brand as a Person
Now think of your relationship with your customer. More likely than not, their expectations have shifted quite considerably over time, but are you at the very least meeting those new expectations? Chances are, this is becoming a bit of a challenge.
Today, the complexities of retail and the consumer are almost without end, the challenge for retailers is not simply to provide great product, prices and service (those are a given), but to take a step back and begin to understand what journey your customers are on and where they are in the process.
How? By making humanity the core of your mission.
“Human interaction opens the doors to trade from all sorts of people, who on their own may comprise distinct, particular and perhaps small groups, but altogether represent a sizeable customer base,” says George MacDonald, editor, Retail Week.
As humans, we have our own feelings and emotions, we are all individuals and seek to be treated as such. More than ever, consumers are seeking an emotional journey, not merely a transaction. They want and need to be able to connect to your brand on an emotional level.
Create Emotional Connections Through Employing the Right Senses
Think of the last time you walked into a retail store. Can you recall your emotions and feelings? Chances are that one of them would have been “hope” – but how long did that feeling last? You see, most of the purchasing decisions we make are based on our emotional state. So as much as we’d like to think that there is a perfectly rational reason for every transaction, chances are, at the final point of purchase, logic had very little input.
In today’s retail world, consumers are often highly engaged with brands who gain their trust. And trust is the end result of an accumulation of positive emotional interactions. It is that emotional journey, the human-centred approach, which is core to changing the way we feel about brands.
So, if it’s loyal customers and brand advocates that you seek, turn the customer journey into an emotional journey that creates a positive experience. They’ll love you for it and might just come back for more.
Embrace a New Way of Thinking
It’s time to invest in human experience. Why?
Because first and foremost, your customers happen to be humans; infinitely different, wonderfully unpredictable, but surprisingly straightforward in many ways. And as consumers, they are on a mission. It might be they are on that previously mentioned convenience or indulgence journey, but nevertheless, the mission remains.
All they ask is that their journey be made as easy, painless, enjoyable and as inspiring as possible. Because nowadays, more often than you may realize, consumers are seeking a pleasurable, memorable experience. The creation of a magical, intriguing, inspiring journey should now be the number one goal for every retailer. That’s what we seek and in today’s retail environment – that’s what we expect.
Paul Silcox is the founding partner and creative director of Green Room’s Amsterdam studio. He previously held senior creative roles in London, Mumbai and Amsterdam with leading brand design agencies Design Bridge, Brand Union and Fitch. With a wealth of experience and strong background in graphic design, brand communications and identity, his insightful and intelligent approach to solving problems has helped to build an impressive portfolio of work, for the likes of Vodafone, ASICS, TomTom, Disney, Philips and Mondelez.
About Green Room
Green Room is a retail brand consultancy that designs the best in human experience: a blend of art and science, combining physical and digital to produce seamless multi-channel solutions that connect through the senses, fulfilling the emotional needs of the customer and the commercial needs of brands. www.greenroomdesign.com