To Build Loyalty, Aim Higher on Your Customers’ Hierarchy of Needs
E-commerce sales represent around 10 percent of retail sales in the U.S. and are expected to reach 14 percent — $4.5 trillion — by the end of 2021. The retailers that succeed in this next phase will be those that use data and artificial intelligence (AI) to make every customer’s experience memorable in a positive way.
The customer experience involves much more than the moments leading up to when a customer clicks "buy." In fact, most loyalty-building interactions happen post-purchase. My company, Narvar, surveyed 2,000 U.K. consumers in late 2018 to understand what shoppers want from the post-purchase experience.
We confirmed that discounts and next-day deliveries are now expected. What we found that customers value more as the market matures are communication, choice, control and connection.
Here are four ways to think about creating a customer experience that inspires long-lasting loyalty.
Keep Shoppers in the Loop
No news isn’t good news — it’s customer anxiety toward your brand. Seventy-four percent of all one-star reviews on service-rating engine Trustpilot are the result of poor communication from the retailer. Our study found that 81 percent of consumers want proactive updates, and consider them a major factor in their decision whether to patronize a retailer again.
They even want bad news. In fact, 80 percent of customers would rather learn about a delay in shipment than not know at all. Therefore, no matter the situation, don’t fear overcommunicating about a customer’s order and its status in the supply chain.
Give People Options
Delivery is becoming a larger part of the shopping experience and a make-or-break moment for building loyalty. We found that 80 percent of shoppers said they're more loyal to brands that offer a range of delivery options, whether it’s home delivery, in-store pickup or another convenient location for collecting their package. Your customers want you to treat them as individuals. They also value flexibility and convenience.
More predictability is also important as shoppers make more purchase decisions based on delivery details. For instance, customers are looking for estimated delivery dates: 74 percent want delivery information on a pre-purchase page, and list that as an important factor in making a repeat purchase.
Empower Customers With Control
Shoppers want to feel as though they’re in control, whether it’s choosing their delivery time or how and when they communicate with a retailer. Sixty percent of consumers say they’re more likely to shop again from a brand or retailer when they feel they have control over communication. There are many valid ways to communicate with customers: email, SMS, MMS, chatbot and, increasingly, voice assistants. Give customers a preference center where they can select how they want to be updated. You’ll preempt potential customer angst and create a better overall customer experience.
Connect Through Your Values
Consumers, especially younger ones, love brands that have a purpose. Half of consumers say they’re more loyal to brands that share their values and with which they feel they have a personal connection. Once you’ve built a strong foundation of communication, choice and control, look to establish this sense of connection with your customers.
Patagonia is a great example of a values-driven brand that connects personally with its customers. In 2018 alone, Patagonia launched an activism platform called ActionWorks, rallied more than 400 companies to give employees time off during Election Day off to vote, and started endorsing political candidates for the first time. In December, Patagonia announced advocacy programs for agriculture, politics and protected lands. It’s no wonder that Patagonia is one of the world’s most respected apparel companies. It has built a fierce following of brand loyalists during its 46 years in business.
Patagonia isn’t the only brand that understands its customers’ hierarchy of needs, however. Many of today’s most innovative direct-to-consumer (DTC) retailers, companies like Everlane, Reformation, and Rothy’s, connect with their customers emotionally while addressing their primary needs for a positive post-purchase experience. In the coming months and years, we can expect to see more retailers take a page from the DTC playbook. To build long-term loyalty, brands will need to anticipate their customers’ needs and meet them at every step along the way.
Amit Sharma is the founder and CEO of Narvar, a company that helps retail brands deliver premium post-purchase experiences.
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