"The customer is always right." Is this still the case? Should brands be bending over backward to meet every need, offer every service, and agree to whatever terms a buyer wants? Clearly, that's overkill; retail brands must manage their sales and products to lure new customers, but they still have to mind the store and not demolish profit margins. Plus, while general trends emerge about a "typical" customer, each buyer is an individual with different needs and wants.
Perhaps it's more accurate to say, "The customer is always centered." Centered? No, there's no chakra aligning needed and your store doesn't have to include yoga mats and a meditation room, but smart teams will make sure that the in-store experience, price point, value and quality of their brand will be curated in a customer-centric way that puts consumer engagement as the hub around which their efforts revolve. Getting the sale is only one part of the retail process. Engaging a consumer with the brand, on a personal level, is how market share increases and brand fans are born.
Purchasing is often divided into two categories. Consumers want goods, or they want services. What's emerging in retail trends over the past year and which will surely be a hot topic at ShopTalk 2019 is combining the two. Offering services along with a product that enhances engagement, or, the opposite, merchandise that matches an experience gives brand engagement a signal boost that customers will notice.
Let's start with a retailer like Nordstrom, which is known for both quality merchandise and an upscale shopping experience including personal assistants and other VIP perks. They recently opened small service hubs, called Nordstrom Local, that don't sell any products. They are inventory free experiential locations that offer customers a variety of services like alterations, dry cleaning, personal styling, and even haircuts and spa services. The company also provides styling services and a convenient return service for clothing, accessories or just about anything a customer has, even if it was not Nordstrom merchandise. So far there are three in the Los Angeles area, with plans to open others in major markets. Combining their loyalty program, the Nordy Club, with a smartphone app, the retail giant is targeting the entire spectrum of the consumer's needs, from product information, value, quality, and service and using what they learn to connect with the customer on a deeper level, enhancing their engagement and creating consumers who become de facto brand ambassadors.
In customer centricity, the goal is to elevate your brand, but make the customer feel like the one who is lifted up. A rising tide of services and engagement lifts all boats. RetailDive.com quoted Glossier CEO Emily Weiss in her keynote address at the 2018 ShopTalk conference, where she explained, "In the age of Amazon, who has mastered offering a breadth of product, who has yet solved for a breadth of connection? In the end, you have to give your customers a voice; you have to truly listen to them and not just make them feel heard. You have to treat them with the respect that they deserve because after all in this world where there is no scarcity of choice, you have to give them a reason to keep choosing you."
ThirdChannel combines field management tools and a network for hire force of brand reps to help you achieve a customer-centric brand experience. Contact us for a free demo of how we can put you and your brand center stage.