Relationships have always been hard to define, live with and enjoy. No matter which relationship we’re in at present, we just can’t predict if it’ll continue in its current path in a steady manner or if there are surprises around the corner. It’s tough enough trying to figure out the nuances of a relationship with one person, leave alone tackle the many different relationships that engage us every day.
So, imagine the plight of retailers servicing thousands of customers every day… trying to ensure that not only is the current transaction a happy one, but also build upon it to encourage repeat purchases by the shopper, shopper loyalty and advocacy. Although relationships are what we, as human beings, as well as retailers and brands, thrive on and enjoy, initiating relationships and managing them are no easy feats.
A few years ago, shoppers would walk into a retail store, check the products and brands on offer, compare brands and prices, talk to the staff for more information if need be, and walk out after making a purchase or without making one. On occasion, the knowledge, skill and friendliness of the retail staff ensured a purchase was made quickly and happily. But, at the centre of the shopping experience was the relationship that blossomed between the shopper and the retailer.
Today, with digital technology pervading our lives, the job of a retailer has become more difficult. Most shoppers with digital technologies at their disposal, walk into a retail store better informed – having already browsed online for options, comparing prices, reading product/brand reviews, receiving tailored recommendations, and possessing the knowledge that the product/brand chosen is currently in stock, and ready for purchase and delivery.
To this, if we add instant browsing capabilities of smartphones, iPads and tablet PCs in the hands of shoppers, the retail shopping experience is that much quicker and smarter.
Of course, personalised service – whether online or physically at a retail store – is still enjoyed and valued by the shopper, but the overall shopper-retailer engagement is now evolved into a smarter more instant experience. This is followed by the accelerated spread of the shopping and brand experience through social media channels on the internet.
For retailers and brands keen on building relationships with shoppers today, this poses a new challenge. The opportunity lies in finding new ways to embrace the digital shopper’s world with appropriate combinations of digital, social, offline and personal solutions.