We identify 3 strategies that retailers are using to elevate the customer shopping experience and build brand loyalty.
Experience is top of mind for executives who have mentioned customer experience — and related terms — a record 2,710 times last quarter.
No surprise here: a good experience is associated with greater customer loyalty, which can translate into higher revenue. As Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson mentioned in the company’s Q1’19 earnings call:
“Enhancing in-store experience encompasses building customer connections and creating those best moments that keep customers coming back time and time again.”
And yet, the majority of US consumers give their interactions with brands an “OK” rating, according to a Tempkin Experience Ratings report.
Not enough to boost top line growth.
As simple as hello?
Elevating the customer experience beyond “OK” requires building meaningful connections with shoppers by creating positive emotions. It’s not about plain satisfaction, it’s about delight!
Let’s go back to my cold brew purchase for a second.
A good product, quick service, and a seamless mobile payment were all expected as part of a satisfying or “OK” experience.
But a quick and authentic conversation with the barista made it a “wow” experience.
By going beyond the transaction and connecting with me on a deeper level, this barista created a unexpectedly positive surprise.
Sensory marketing, quality time, and human connections
We have identified 3 strategies that brands and retailers alike are using to create positive emotional reactions and elevate the customer experience.
Sensory marketing — Creating an emotional association with a product or a service by appealing to one or more of the 5 human senses is becoming increasingly popular among brands.
Studies have shown a strong connection between scents and their ability to trigger memories and emotions, with shoppers spending an extra 15 minutes in spaces with a pleasant smell which can translate into additional spending.
Inspired by these findings, upscale hotel chain EDITION has partnered with with bespoke perfume atelier Le Labo to create a signature black tea and bergamot scent. By making this scent available for purchase online, EDITION is betting it will remind its guests of their stay and influence them to book again.
More recently, Mastercard teamed up with Kreëmart and Ladurée to create 2 custom macaron flavors, Passion and Optimism, using taste in an effort to make its brand more tangible beyond its plastic card.
“People expect a lot, but sometimes what they don’t expect can make a more lasting impression” — Raja Rajamannar, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, Mastercard
Expect more brands and retailers to start selling these sensory products as a way to maintain a connection with shoppers beyond the point of purchase and boost loyalty. Look also for brand-specific sensory experiences to increasingly encompass all of the 5 human senses.
Quality time — Brands have started to offer longer and more intimate immersive experiences to create memories and better connect with their customers, beyond just a transaction.
Luxury car maker Lexus recently opened a restaurant in New York, Intersect by Lexus, intended to recreate the emotions that one may feel in a Lexus car.
Over the summer, fast food chain Taco Bell opened The Bell pop-up hotel in Palm Springs, with bookings selling out in 2 minutes for this 4-day experience.
The hotel featured new menu items that haven’t been rolled out yet, merchandising such as swimsuits and bags designed especially for The Bell, and hot sauce packet floaties, among others.
Source: Taco Bell
Others like fitness company Equinox or watchmaker Shinola have decided to take the branded hotel concept one step further with permanent locations in New York and Chicago respectively, allowing customers to spend more time with their brands than they would normally do.
Anticipate brands and retailers to increasingly treat customers as guests. This means moving beyond the traditionally transactional relationship between customers and brands into a more intimate relationship.
Human connections — Prioritizing opportunities for employees to spend time with customers and build a relationship could help brands create more authentic connections by making it personal.
According to a survey by PwC, shoppers are craving human interactions, with 75% of them declaring that they’ll want to interact with a real person more as technology improves.
Walmart, for one, has been expanding its use of in-store robots this year to free up its store associates from mopping the floor or checking shelf inventory so they can focus on helping customers.
Fostering personal relationships between customers and employees can also help gather customer insights.
Beauty unicorn Glossier recently launched a program allowing all of its full-time employees to work shifts at the company’s retail locations in order for them to connect with customers and gather real-time insights.
Watch for retailers to start investing more heavily in training for customer-facing employees as well as empowering them to surprise and delight customers.
One last thing: defining the “wow”
At the risk of stating the obvious, brands and retailers will first need to clearly establish what emotions they want to create to provide “wow” experiences.