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Rethink the shopping experience by appealing to customer emotions

By Nicole Cunningham, retail transformation strategist, Aptos

Aptos takes a look at how retailers should use data more efficiently to better understand customers and ensure the right products are in the right place at the right time.

Today’s consumers can buy goods virtually anywhere. Standing out from the crowd requires a constant commitment to customer centricity. Retailers today must not only differentiate themselves through choice and convenience, but they must also look to differentiate by creating lasting emotional connections. Ironically, it typically takes much more than intuition and emotional intelligence to understand how best to engage shopper emotion – it takes data.

Data reveals what customers want before they know it

Stellar shopping experiences must always start by ensuring the right products are available where they are most in demand, but emotional connections require looking well beyond selection and service. Retailers must surprise and delight customers on an individual level. This requires engaging shoppers proactively rather than reactively. Relevant goods and services must be highlighted and promoted to shoppers before they even realise they want or need them. Every interaction requires real personalisation – which requires data…and a lot of it.

Loyal shoppers who spend frequently and generously don’t need financial incentives to shop. Instead, these customers typically look for other reasons to return to the brand. Perhaps they will respond to exclusive access to a store event, like a preview fashion show, cooking demonstration or influencer meet and greet. Meanwhile, customers who shop with your brand less frequently might require only a thoughtfully suggested product. Perhaps a product suggestion from a category outside the customer’s typical repertoire based on past behaviour and other sentiment data will entice them back to the brand.

No matter what final incentive is offered, the starting point is the same: Retailers must develop a deep understanding of their customers by examining their various interactions across channels. Only then can they hope to create positive experiences that establish emotional connections. They must also tap into data to understand which activities result in less than top-notch experiences.

How to understand your customers and their emotions

Shoppers expect companies to know them well. The good news is that more often than not, organisations have the necessary data to accomplish this, but it is often locked away in departmental silos across the enterprise. Consequently, they struggle to demonstrate this knowledge to customers in a way that feels like the brand is communicating with them, not at them. Retailers must unlock their data to understand not only what to communicate at each touchpoint throughout the shopping journey, but also how and when to communicate it. Similarly, brands must understand when the data indicates that the interaction was positive or negative and adapt to that input.

We live in a cross-channel world in which experiences occur in person and online, so data collection should reflect this omnichannel reality. We must collect data across all touchpoints, including in-store experiences, social media engagement and digital interactions. Developing a deep understanding of the customer doesn’t stop when the sale is complete, either. Retailers should also measure shoppers’ returns and their ongoing engagement with loyalty programmes, including collecting feedback directly from the customer whenever possible.

Retailers that collect this data from across the brand and make it available to the entire organisation can then design personalised experiences that increase shopper loyalty and create positive retail memories

Pulling it together

Armed with data, retailers can conduct high-level assessments of whether their offering to the customer is creating positive emotional connections. They must constantly evaluate whether each offering is informative, reliable, automated, personalised and most importantly, valuable.

How a retailer is perceived by consumers and the experience that customers have in store and online is critical to success. As such, retailers must look to create empathy and emotion as part of the overall customer experience, rather than relying solely on antiquated metrics such as average order value or basket size.

As the retail industry continues to evolve toward customer centricity, shopper emotion data will be central to solving some of the industry’s biggest challenges. The next big question is: what will retailers do with that knowledge and are they ready?

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