The retailers and brands that thrive are customer-obsessed and understand that customers are at the root of everything they do. They have a defined purpose that centres on the emotional and material needs of their customers. The fact that these businesses make shareholders a profit is a happy by-product of this and an essential goal but not their primary purpose.
Dove epitomises this with its simple but powerfully emotive and meaningful purpose – “to help women feel good about their bodies,” that resonates with women the world over. It acts as a strategic objective that is weaved through every global and local marketing campaign across every market.
Authentic purpose such as this drives focus, strategy and ultimately growth. Without an authentic purpose it is difficult for brands and retailers to differentiate themselves in a saturated market place, where everyone is vying for the customer’s attention. Brands can create compelling brand narrative when there is a clearly defined purpose, as customers emotionally invest in the brand and its stories, if the purpose resonates with them.
Mean to be authentic
Only through authenticity can brands truly create emotional resonance with their customers. Too often brands forget that their customers are human and that the way to their hearts is by looking at their emotional motivators. Successful brands have turned meaningless interactions into meaningful interactions by delivering experiences that personify the brand purpose.
Heineken’s recent #OpenYourWorld campaign is an example of bringing their purpose to “Brew a Better World” to life. Not only does it stay true to the brand's purpose but it also appeals to the emotion of its customers.
Procter & Gamble’s purpose is to “touch and improve more consumers’ lives in more parts of the world” and this translates into individual brand campaigns. The #LikeAGirl positioning from Always is an excellent example of delivering a marketing campaign that embodies a brand purpose. The brand aimed to give a more meaningful understanding of body confidence for young women, both touching and improving consumers' lives – exactly as their purpose promises.
A unique purpose is a competitive advantage, especially when dealing with the overwhelming amount of choice and information now available to the customer. Retailers that have an authentic purpose set themselves apart from the crowd.
Simple is something that is underrated and retailers should take note when thinking about their customer experience. Today, the shopper owns their own customer journey. They shop on their terms and their timeline. Customers like simple and this extends into how they shop. Retailers should think about their shop layout in more simple terms, and make the store easy to navigate with a clearly defined shopper journey from door to till. When stores are the most challenging environment to capture shoppers, brands need to stretch their customers' imagination through innovative merchandising and point of sales to expose what they are really looking for.
There has also been a convergence of online and offline. There is no longer a distinction between the two. Customers live online now and it is part of their everyday. Retailers and brands need to stop thinking of the two as separate, to thrive they need to bring online in-store for a richer customer experience. The use of beacon technology in stores to send discount vouchers to customers' mobile phones as they enter is a perfect example of enriching the customer experience by meshing online and offline.
People provide authenticity
Brands that thrive not only understand the importance of authentic purpose in the context of their customers but also in relation to their own people. Those who have an authentic purpose find it easier to attract and keep talent, as their staff are mobilised and incentivised by the purpose. The UK retailer John Lewis is very successful at this, you are not an employee you are a partner and you share in the company’s profits through its success.
In an era where technology is lauded as the solution to creating greater customer experience, it is important to remember that in-store staff - real people who customers interact with - make up for the authenticity technology lacks. The idea of authenticity is not exclusive to B2C either. Often at the B2B level, buying decisions have a high level of personal and reputational liability involved. In fact it can be argued that B2B buying decisions are more emotionally fuelled as your reputation could be on the line.
Post apocalypse and beyond
Retailers thrive when every aspect of the customer experience is interlinked and the brand's purpose is reflected in everything they do. We are in the age of authenticity and retailers need to understand that emotional resonance is essential if you are to forge a meaningful connection with your customer. An authentic purpose is the glue that binds everything together, if absent a retailer becomes unstuck and disconnected from what the customer cares about and if they do not care then they are literally not buying it.
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