Brand Building for a New Era: How Retailers Can Forge More Meaningful Consumer Connections
Consumer expectations have become increasingly high, putting the pressure on retail and e-commerce brands to create more meaningful experiences. An abundance of choice makes it difficult to cut through the clutter — and maintain loyal customers. The path forward? Offering personal, functional and collective benefits that actively improve people’s lives and our broader society.
Customers will pay more for brands willing to make a stand. Havas Media Group has spent the past decade exploring what makes brands meaningful to consumers. The answers have shifted each year, ebbing and flowing with the times. According to our 2021 global research, cynicism has reached an all-time high, with less than 50 percent of those individuals surveyed considering brands trustworthy. Respondents want brands to do good for society, deliver on DE&I promises, and provide transparency in commitments, building for purpose and profit alike.
Despite this cynicism, consumers are desperately seeking brands that will make a meaningful difference, with 73 percent saying brands must act now for the good of society. Today’s retail brands need to stand for something, but in a way that makes sense for that specific business.
For example, let’s say you position your brand as sustainable, energy efficient, and health conscious. If that ethos fails to translate to all areas of your practice, whether through packaging, fulfillment or partners, customers will take notice — and stop taking your brand seriously. So, how can retailers course correct to futureproof their brands?
- Stay consistent in your content. The experience you create, from branding to online shopping, should reflect not only the same aesthetic, but also the same values and attributes. Brands can take a page from Calm’s playbook. The app launched digitally and stays true to its platform by showing up across all marketing platforms and maintaining a consistent user experience.
- Build long-term sustainability. Most brands think of impact at the company and branding level, but logistical operations matter too. Patagonia marks one of the best brands representing these values. Its business remains structured around long-standing sustainability efforts, which translate beyond product to internal operations and giving back.
- Meet expectations pre- and post-sale. Your sales experience should translate to post-purchase, from presentation of the product in shipping and delivery straight through to potential returns. The more seamless the process, the more loyalty generated. This year, we saw Amazon.com show up in the top meaningful brands. Built on a culture of immediacy, the e-commerce giant notoriously delivers on not only same-day shipping, but also a seamless returns process. Customers can register returns and receive QR codes immediately before selecting the most convenient return option, from at-home pickup to UPS drop-offs. By bringing the process under a single umbrella, Amazon has created a low-cost, low-effort return experience. As any pet owner knows, Chewy.com does an amazing job with its pre- and post-sale experiences. The site treats each customer and their pet(s) individually, ensuring speed of delivery and really investing in the customer to the point where pet owners who have lost their furry family members have received flowers and support.
- Hold your partners accountable. We want to see the retail industry rise as a whole, not just individual companies. Building a meaningful brand goes beyond your business; it extends to the company you keep. Identify and collaborate with partners, from distributors to fulfillment support, that align to your values. Grove Collaborative, a direct-to-consumer brand in the natural and sustainable CPG space, has created a blueprint that other brands can follow. It functions as a marketplace inclusive of curated products with a monthly subscription and great customer service. Seen as next-generation CPG, it holds partners accountable to Grove Collaborative's mission of striving to “change the world” by being the first CPG to go plastic-free by 2025.
With an effort towards creating a brand that's truly meaningful to its customers, we can reinstate a culture of loyalty. The opportunity to illustrate what a brand, product or service stands for allows for differentiation in a very cluttered marketplace. With the right structure and principles, you can create a clear framework for internal organization, partner selection, customer relationships, and models to re-engage and retain long term.
Jessica Richards is executive vice president, head of commerce at Havas Media Group in North America running the Havas Market team.
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Jessica is the EVP, Head of Commerce at Havas Media Group in North America running the Havas Market team. Her remit is helping brands create better shopping experience for consumers, allowing them to find products easier and buy more seamlessly, whether through direct-to-consumer strategies, via eRetailers or in store experiences. She is knowledgeable in all facets of marketing from traditional media, digital trading, social strategy, emerging tech and data management.
Prior to leading the commerce practice, Jessica launched the Social practice at Havas Media in 2014. Managing the business for six years and driving significant growth during her tenure. Jessica prides herself on a nimble, entrepreneurial approach to staying on top of an ever-changing market.
Her insight covers a vast majority of industries including highly dynamic and regulated brands within Retail, Entertainment, Spirits, Financial Services, Insurance, Pharma, Telecommunications, and Technology.