Romancing the customer

In today’s world of information abundance and choice at fingertips, it’s important to make your customers feel special and to create a bond, just as you would in a romantic relationship

The digital revolution of ‘apps and taps’ enables quick choices and every brand is on the brink of getting chucked out by single swipe of the bargain seeking customer.

The biggest impact of the app disruption has been on the brick and mortar retail businesses. America’s leading home appliances brand Sears is closing 150 stores and selling its vaunted Craftsman tool brand, rival Macy’s saying it would close 68 locations, the department store concept itself is looking like an endangered species in wake of the online shopping explosion. In a retail landscape now dominated by online sellers like Amazon and big-box chains like Walmart and Home Depot, Sears finds itself in a search for a reason to exist. One of the reasons people liked to visit/browse/shop at omni channel retail stores was for a wide choice and selection, whereas today there is no wider choice than on the Internet, so a lot of the reasons for going to those department stores no longer exist.

In addition to Sears, many retailers, including Kohl’s and J.C. Penney, have failed to innovate in ways that will continue to attract and keep shoppers continuously engaged. In the new era of e-commerce may witness the demise of many of legacy players, because of their inability to create a romantic interlude that keeps their customers connected.

Research reveals that the connections we make with brands can be as deep and emotional as the relationships we have with other people.  With some brands, we have wild, short-term flings. With others, we “fall in love” and enter a mutually beneficial relationship.

Having arrived at the above conclusion let us pin point to the single most contributor for a long lasting relationship- Respect !

A new study published in the Harvard Business Review recently in November 2016 reveals that Customers trust companies that they feel understand them and that they respect companies that they believe respect them in return.

In the survey of 20,000 customers, five of the top 10 performers were grocery stores, naturally a daily consumption item to which customers are naturally intimate. And because relationship is so constant that they have the potential to inspire intense emotion, loyalty, and passion. The tech-savvy empowered consumer expects to be heard and respected by their favorite brands, and it isn’t necessary they’ll stay loyal to the current leaders. Even a standout brand like Apple cannot afford to rest on its past and present successes.

Interestingly on a matrix where customers felt most or least respected by the class of businesses, the top rankers were household , personal care and technology industries while at abysmal bottom were the Telecommunications, Health Insurance and Government.

Recently the CEO of T-Mobile said in an interview revealed that their industry’s early ways of marketing where mobile manufacturers hid behind carriers where the phones were apparently given free under 2 year contracts where wireless carriers charged customers more than the phone retail price.  Moreover, it is well known that each smartphone is equipped with some unique features which some unaware customer doesn’t know triggers off data roaming and excess charges.

Customers would value companies they see as honest. Companies and brands that ‘mean what they say’ !  And so, consumers place a premium on brands that they believe to be direct, forthright about their values, and ‘Consistent’ in acting on them.

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