How to keep customers loyal to your retail brand
In 2020, consumers leapt five years in the adoption of digital in just eight weeks, according to McKinsey. In Latin America, 13 million people made their first-ever e-commerce transaction. And in every country measured in the analyst’s consumer sentiment surveys, more people turned to digital and reduced-contact ways of accessing and buying products and services. With consumers increasingly shopping online and interested in trying new experiences, retailers need to find ways to encourage customers to keep coming back. Here are five strategies that have proved effective in this changed consumer environment.
There shift to online spending has been dramatic. Forbes reports that online sales nearly doubled at the peak of the pandemic as consumers stayed home, and many have now made online shopping part of their regular routines. According to statistics from Retail Touchpoints, around a quarter of consumers now do 90% of their shopping online.
Chinese jewelry chain Ideal shifted overnight from a traditional brand with retail stores to online, with its employees live-streaming sales on WeChat. Far from relying on scripted videos, the sales associates focus on delivering highly targeted content, with personalized style advice and with promotions that are adjusted to regional tastes and trends. Foreseeing a long-term shift into virtual sales, Ideal has partnered with a media agency to retrain its sales associates as live broadcasters.
Even when customers are more inclined to return to physical stores, it will be up to retailers to create a consistent experience across all channels. For instance, in the US, Walmart has redesigned its new physical stores so that they’re more closely aligned with the navigation features in its mobile app.
Consumers are not just doing more shopping online; they are also accessing more services online. Banks and insurance companies have had to switch to remote operations, scaling up their call center operations and online chat capabilities. Retailers, too, having to find new ways to help customers virtually.
When its stores closed, UK department store John Lewis launched a host of online consultations and virtual styling sessions to stay in touch with customers. Its nursery service connects parents-to-be with an advisor via video call for recommendations on the products they will need. Customers who need help creating flexible working spaces can have a call with a home design stylist.
Independent retailers are stepping up their game too, offering one-to-one personal shopping services via video calls, hosting virtual wine tasting evenings and rolling out services where they will choose, wrap and send gifts for you based on your personal preferences and recipient profiles.
Experts recommend getting on board with this new trend by developing partner ecosystems and interconnected service platforms to better serve customers. Take as an example food retailers who are joining forces with e-health platforms or online fitness companies to cross-promote products and services.
The near-total shutdown of travel and related constraints have made local trade more important than ever. And it means that businesses must connect with customers by tapping into their communities and localizing their marketing.
Research from analysts at Global Data backs this up, finding that a higher proportion of consumers are shopping more locally than they did before the pandemic.
“These factors have forced retailers like Amazon and Flipkart to include more local stores and promote them on their platform,” said Hrishabh Kashyap, retail analyst at GlobalData. “These retailers have been vocal about supporting local industries and sellers through their brand visibility and communication to customers. Post Covid-19, we are likely to witness more retailers going local in their procurement and promotions.”
Highlight your ties to the local community and show that you are part of it to create a more solid connection with your customers.
With health now under the spotlight, it pays to show your customers that you care for their well-being. For retailers, this is both a moral imperative and a financial one: serious foot traffic in stores will only return when people trust that they are safe and virus free.
Retailers can demonstrate safe commerce in numerous ways, such as by visibly upping cleaning and disinfecting of communal spaces, mandating the wearing of face masks and clearly communicating these measures to consumers. Some retailers have also been introducing contactless ways to do business, with services such as curbside pickup, touchless payments and deliveries, and self-checkout. These options will likely remain popular post-Covid as people continue to seek convenience, so it makes business sense to add them now, when they can give consumers confidence that it’s safe to shop.
To keep up with consumer preferences, you may also want to consider a much broader range of contactless shopping experiences in the future. “The preference for self-checkout or scan-and-go behaviors may change traditional store boundaries and layouts,” a recent article by McKinsey said. “Consumers may be more willing to shop display walls, for example, where items are shown and can be scanned for delivery.” With consumer preferences shifting continuously, it’ important that retailers are always on the move – ready to transform, adjust, and upgrade the experiences they offer.
By LS Retail
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