Can Customer Experience make you irresistible to retailers?
Retailers are facing challenging times- that’s no secret. Well-known high street chains are in the headlines, the subject of articles about huge drops in profit, CVAs and ever-growing competition from online sales. In a retail climate that has seen household names including House of Fraser, M&S and, most recently, Boots announce store closures, bigger retailers are racking their brains for ideas to capture customers’ attention, get them engaged with their brand and spending money in their stores.
Large retailers acknowledge that in these tough times “it’s hard […] to have a point of difference from each other”but it’s clear that’s what they’re busting a gut to do in order to reinvigorate their offering and turn a profit, with their experience desks and trend zones, interactive in-store technology and endless pursuit of attractive, saleable product ranges. So, can you, as a smaller brand, make yourself stand out to the bigger retailers, desperate to find a point of difference?
1. Get social
There’s no getting away from it- you’ve got to get social. Millennials and baby boomers alike are swiping, liking and double tapping and if you don’t have a social media presence, you’re missing out on the approximate 3.5 billion social media users around the globe. We’re not saying you need to grow a following of 10 million people on Instagram like ASOS or 2.5 million on Facebook like Tesco but, you need to be out there- customers and large retailers expect it.
Use your social platforms to engage with your customers, get to know them and also let them buy from you in the way that suits them best. You don’t necessarily have to hard-sell your products here, in fact probably best not to if we’re honest - consumers are too savvy to be talked at or have products shoved down their throats. Use your social platforms to share stories about your brand, offer tips and tutorials on how to use your products and to share news about how and where to get hold of your products. You might also think about holding competitions, giving information about your purpose or sharing the journey behind your brand. Be approachable, engage people and tell a story. Clothing retailer Missguided’s social channels are worth checking out for a lesson in how to engage with your customers, if you can stand the memes targeted at under 25s and the frequent Love Island references. If you prefer a more grown-up option, look up Trinny Woodall’s, Trinny London social platforms which will educate you in how effective use of social media can help in building a brand from the ground up by offering followers huge amounts of free, relevant and engaging content through daily live streaming, regular features, educational blogs and the creation of online communities known as ‘Trinny Tribes’- groups of faithful followers around the world.
Also, importantly, use social media as a customer service platform where you can provide real-time answers to queries, offer in-depth expertise about your product and put customers first. Responsiveness is important and so is honesty, positivity and transparency in your dealings with your audience. Retailers want to see you being knowledgeable about your product, espousing the values of your brand and engaging and forming a relationship with your customers because customers who are bought into your brand become your loyal following. Leading us nicely on to…
2. Get committed
If your brand’s positive vibe has attracted your tribe… now, you need to keep your tribe close in a #squadgoals kind of way. Too much Instagram speak? Essentially, customers remember how you made them feel and a customer who feels good about your brand will probably buy from you again.
Customers love to be rewarded for pledging allegiance to a brand through a loyalty scheme, being featured online or through incentives and exclusive promotions. Take a leaf out of online emporium Rockett St George’s stylebook- they offer membership of a VIP club which offers member benefits including event invitations, pop-up shop parties and exclusive warehouse sales. The brand encourages customers to tag them in their photos and then features their favourite customers’ images on their stories each week. Featuring your existing customers can be a handy way of turning them into influencers and brand ambassadors and incentivises recommending the brand to their networks. Before you know it, your happy network of customers is talking about you online, sharing you with their friends and family- they’re marketing your brand for you!#winning #goals
This could be what results in a big brand coming knocking, keen to leverage your customer base and positive brand reputation. Many large companies understand that attracting new customers is costly and time-consuming so an existing base of loyal customers is the dream, surely?
3. Give people what they want… or what they don’t even know they want (yet!)
If it’s good enough for Mr Selfridge, it’s good enough for us. For over a century, Selfridges have been innovating and putting the customer (who’s always right, remember?) and customer experience at the heart of what they do. They’re quite clear in their aim that they want to bring the most exciting, on-trend brands to customers. If you want to be recognised and targeted by larger retailers it’s clear you need to make your unique appeal clear, fill a gap in the market and meet customers’ needs.
We’re not at school any more, we’re actively encouraging you to be different, break the rules a bit and be disruptive. Think along the lines of Harry’s or Dollar Shave Clubs, as an example. The brands began as start-ups, and having spotted a gap in the market for affordable shaving products for men, filled that gap with simple products and services that consumers have embraced in their millions (and millions…and millions!!). Dollar Shave Club (DSC) first propelled itself into business with its witty ‘Our razors are f***ing great’ video in 2012 (24 million hits on YouTube and counting), selling over 12,000 subscriptions on launch day and now has over 4 million subscribers. Harry’s launched a little later, backed by a private equity firm and quickly gained momentum by teaming up with retailer Target in the US and benefiting from celebrity endorsement (which, by the way, is a sure-fire way to get people talking about your brand) from namesake and England footballer, Harry Kane.
To say that both brands’ customer-centric approach and simple but effective aim to provide convenient, good-quality, everyday products in a fair, transparent way has been successful would be the understatement of the year. DSC has now been acquired for a cool $1billion by Unilever having expanded into the UK in 2017, launching with a London Pop-up store. Harry’s was ‘cool-hunted’ by Boots, launching in stores across the UK in April 2019 and has just been bought by Edgewell, owners of Wilkinson Sword for an eye-watering $1.4billion.
So, the gist of it is: put yourself out there, be interactive and transparent in what you’re offering and have a truly customer-centric approach to your brand. We’re also giving you permission to be a wee bit naughty and cause a bit of disruption in your bid to have retailers come knocking at your door.
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