Thriving in the Retail Revolution: 4 Principles That Will Transform Your Brand Experience
The retail experience revolution is here. Brands of all sizes, all segments, and geographies are now competing on the overall customer brand experience, and not solely on product or historical reputation. As brands work to navigate this new world order, there are many tools, processes and considerations that can create a powerful customer experience. However, there are also a lot of hollow investments, inconsistent implementations, and poorly executed strategies. As brands work to navigate this new paradigm to build experience-first models, there are several important principles that all should implement:
Create Indelible Human Experiences
In a world of constant stimulation and options, the strongest brands are creating authentic connections that support meaningful, memorable moments. As a customer, if I share some important information with you, and you fail to turn it into a “moment,” you devalue your brand and you devalue consumer trust. I was recently at a Veuve Clicquot champagne bar, and I was sharing my love of a certain vintage with a friend in conversation, and a few moments later the exact vintage, which was rare, not on the menu, and hard to find, showed up at my seat with a lovely handwritten note from the bartender on a cocktail napkin sharing his love of the very same vintage. I was so touched, impressed and surprised that I couldn’t wait to share the story. Of course, I'm a loyal Veuve Clicquot fan.
Personalize Your Content and Anticipate Desires
The brands with a devoted following know that creating personal connections with consumers drives loyal behavior. The next step beyond this personalization is the anticipation of needs that demonstrates genuine care and connection. Brands that can show this degree of “commitment” and “relationship” create a one-to-one rapport that drives viral followings. Nike has invested heavily in technology that creates this type of connection to the individual consumer. As a NikeID member, when you approach the Nike Melrose store in California, the geo-fencing picks up your presence and alerts the store's sales associates to pull items that match your preferences in your size to present to you in-store. This behavior not only personalizes your experience, but it also anticipates your tastes and acknowledges that, as a loyal customer, you matter to the brand.
Be Honest and Authentic in Your Connections
Research shows that coveted millennial and Gen Z consumers want to engage with brands that have a definitive point of view on social, business and environmental topics. Brands cannot be noncommittal or neutral on important generational issues. Part of being authentic is to find a way to consistently express your brand values, so you connect with your desired consumer. Athletica is a great example of a brand that's leading with a core social statement. When you log into Athletica’s app, the first screen you see is that it's a “Proud Certified B Corp.” You don't see products, offers or other advertising. Instead, you see this strong statement about the brand's commitment to a social movement that balances its supply chain, employees, and environmental impact with its profit. This is another way to connect with the heart of your customers and drive that authentic brand connection.
Deploy Purposeful Storytelling
Human beings connect to stories that are thoughtful, inspiring, aspirational and purposeful. Visual and social storytelling taps into two of the strongest human interactions: our visual desire for stimulation and our innate desire for connection into a greater movement or community. To create an addictive brand or product, your visual imagery and magical, disruptive, indelible stories must be pervasive and fine-tuned. I see brands failing with bland or trite images that are overused and stories that try too hard to be “universal” instead of focusing on taking some risk to be memorable and unexpected. Great brands are fearless in their conviction around powerful storytelling.
To succeed in the ever-changing customer experience landscape, brands need to implement core principles that place emphasis on surprising, delighting and wowing customers at each touchpoint. Beyond that, brands must also demonstrate a convicted point-of-view in the market that creates a memorable experience around every product and interaction. When implemented with consistency, these principles will create customer relationships that drive the loyalty and engagement that define world-class brands.
Antonia Hock is the global head of The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center, a consulting and advisory firm helping organizations create exceptional employee and customer experience since 1999.
Related story: Human Connection Returns to Retail in 2019