Consumer Advocacy 101: How Experiential Marketing is Dictating Retail's Future
As a consumer and experience designer, the future of retail is exciting to think about. We’re living in an economy where experience and convenience are driving innovation across the entire customer experience. Almost daily we see old models making way for the new. For some brands — i.e., those that aren’t actively working to keep up — it’s going to be painful, but for the consumer, it’s never been better.
A few simple facts are driving the retail evolution. As humans we crave interaction. Most consumers prefer expert advice to advertisements, and good experiences fuel loyalty and social sharing. It’s these truths that are the cornerstone to the future of retail.
Brands should strive to create integrated solutions that provide a consistent level of experience across touchpoints, including targeted Influencers and marketing with personalized offers; compelling events and brand experiences; and social proof through customer sharing.
Now, while it’s clear that retail is changing (we’ve all seen the headlines), it’s not hard to see why change was needed. In the U.S., we have up to four times the retail space per capita than other countries in Europe and Asia. We've overbuilt and it’s time to rightsize retail.
Key areas of innovation that are benefiting consumers:
- integration of online and physical services and offerings;
- providing customers inventory and selection availability across store locations and online increases customer satisfaction ratings;
- personalization and customization;
- consumers look for tailored offers, on-site customization and exclusive experiences as a part of the brand's value;
- special product collaborations and limited editions;
- limited runs, pre-release availability and regional collaborations ignite reasons to purchase outside of predictable occasions;
- convenience of on-demand delivery or pickup;
- reducing pain points is key — free shipping, in-store pickup are quickly becoming standard offering;
- purpose- and sustainability-driven brands;
- doing good is good business as consumers want and expect brands to have a purpose beyond profits;
- a renewed focus on greater customer service;
- more and better trained staff — more than any other influence, consumers trust authentic experts at the point of sale;
- loyalty programs and community-building initiatives;
- rewards, discounts and VIP experiences create a reward schedule that keeps consumers participating with your brand;
- flexibility at the point of sale; and
- layaway is cool again and gives consumers the ability to shop on their terms.
To foster brand loyalty and generate customer-driven experiences, you need to listen to your customer. Increase their joy through authentic relationships and add value every time they engage with your brand. Their experience has to be shareable to be memorable.
As retailers embrace the experience and convenience model, and innovate across physical and digital touchpoints, consumers are finding renewed excitement, reasons and occasions to connect.
John Millward is chief innovation officer of RedPeg Marketing, an independent brand engagement agency.