Retailers develop customer relationships that stand the test of time by inspiring trust and loyalty. Chloe Rigby outlines 12 practical approaches that leading retailers take to long-term engagement
7 – Do the unexpected with social media
Mulberry subverted expectations of its luxury brand in its #WinChristmas video and campaign at the end of last year. The company, best known for its handbags, came up with a tongue-in-cheek video in which relatives vie to outdo each other in giving Christmas Day presents to one particularly lucky young woman. While she’s pleased with the portrait, the waving puppy and the unicorn, the gift that really blows her away is the Mulberry handbag, given by her grandma.
It’s an example of British humour that appealed to many in the weeks running up to Christmas 2014. “We have worked hard to re-engage with our customers and our tongue-in-cheek Christmas video #WinChristmas has been viewed well over one million times,” said Mulberry chairman Godfrey Davis in the company’s interim results, published in December. The video also won critical acclaim, with many judging it to have outdone the John Lewis ad. It must be said, however, that the latter, thanks to its high-profile brand name and widespread coverage, won more than 20 million views on YouTube. Interestingly, Mulberry also goes beyond the expected in its social media sharing links, including both Weibo and WeChat alongside Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
8 – Take click and collect beyond the functional
Click and collect may be focused on the convenient and the functional, but already it promotes customer engagement by bringing shoppers into the store, who are likely to opt to buy more while there. Department store Harvey Nichols has taken the concept still further by launching a click-and-try service that offers personal style advice alongside the functional collection service. As well as preparing items for collection, the advisor will also choose and recommend other products. These can be bought or saved on the website for next time.
Describing the service in a 2014 InternetRetailing webinar, Darryl Adie, managing director of Ampersand Commerce , which advised Harvey Nichols as it redeveloped its website, said the service developed the customer relationship while also giving Harvey Nichols the opportunity to collect further data. “It’s a free service and it’s all around the customer and making the customer experience as good as it can be, ” said Adie. “But it’s also about trying to bring that luxury experience to the customer as best we can.”
9 – Be ‘on the way’ for customers
If becoming part of customers’ lifestyle is a measure of successful engagement and likely to drive loyalty, then being super-convenient can only help towards that end. A number of retailers have moved into the ‘on the way’ space in recent months. Asda pioneered click and collect in Transport for London station car parks in November 2013, where it was soon joined by most of the other grocers. John Lewis opened a click-and-commute store in London St Pancras station in the autumn and, more recently, Argos went a step further in opening a digital-format store in Cannon Street underground, enabling customers to order and collect their purchases on the way to and from work.
At the time, John Walden , chief executive of Argos parent company the Home Retail Group, said digital shoppers wanted better choice and convenience in the fulfilment of online orders. He said the new digital stores, of which Cannon Street is one, represented “what we believe will be the role of the Argos store in an emerging digital future – modern and energetic, with larger ranges available within hours, tablets for easy browsing and ordering, streamlined in-store customer journeys and a friendly human face to provide personalised customer service. ”
10 – Welcome showrooming
Mobile devices are casting an ever-longer shadow over desktop: in an age of convenience, the smartphone and the tablet computer come much more readily to hand for most. Retailers that welcome every opportunity to engage with customers are seeing tangible financial results.
John Lewis was the first UK department store to offer free wi-fi to its customers, enabling shoppers to compare prices read reviews and more from the store – and at Christmas 2014 it spelt out the importance of mobile to its business when it reported 72% of its Christmas Day web traffic came from mobile and tablet devices. Meanwhile, a study from Argos, published in the run up to Christmas, found 6 % said they used smartphones and tablets to make the most of their Christmas shopping trips – researching and reserving items as they travel into town and collecting them on arrival.
Mobile today is firmly ensconced as a tool to link online and the shop, with retailers including Hawes & Curtis and House of Fraser using beacons to give smartphone-wielding shoppers more information about the clothes and other items the beacons are placed on. Edward Smith, brand manager of Hawes & Curtis, said of its trial of Iconome beacons:
“Our visual merchandising team help bring our product to life in the windows and now we can have a better understanding of how this impacts the man and woman in the street. The VMBeacon also works 24 hours a day, so we can have instant feedback and instant sales as a result of our displays, even if the store is closed. It’s a complete game-changer for the retail industry and we’re delighted to be in it from the start.”
11 – Consider the latest in-store technologies
Retailers operating at the cutting edge of technology can impress consumers in digitally advanced economies overseas just as much as at home in the UK. Korean shoppers buying from the new Burberry Beauty Box store, which opened just before Christmas in Seoul’s Coex Mall, can experiment with colour at an in-store digital lip and nail bar.
By putting a Burberry nail or lip product onto an RFID-enabled platform, customers can see a virtual preview of how the product would look on their skin shade. Those same shoppers can see Burberry Prorsum runway shows on a 95-inch in-store screen, and interact with other large screens to learn about the My Burberry scent, creating their own virtual monogrammed bottle on the way. The new store is the first opening for the Beauty Box concept in Asia and, says Burberry, it draws inspiration from the Covent Garden store flagship.
In the words of Burberry’ s press statement, “Blending fashion and beauty in an innovative new format the Burberry Beauty Box encourages customers to interact with the brand’s make-up and fragrance collections and accessories through physical and digital experiences. ” As befits a global brand, the new shop opened with a cocktail party hosted by British model Suki Waterhouse, and attended by Korean actors, pop stars and musicians.
12 – Create a buzz to get attention
Using social media, retailers and brands can start conversations directly with both existing and potential customers. But rather than keeping these conversations to purely functional subjects such as opening hours and delivery dates, retailers have lately realised the potential for creating retail theatre through events. Tesco , for example, enlisted the help of experts including interior designer Linda Barker and Great British Bake Off winner John Whaite for its Every Little Helps Make Christmas digital campaign, in December 2014.
The campaign featured workshops with expert advice posted on the Tesco YouTube channel, with a Twitter conversation (#MakeChristmas) running at the same time. At the time, Sharry Cramond , proposition and brand director at Tesco, put the emphasis on the practical help being given at a challenging time of year. “Our research shows that customers are feeling the pressure, whether that’s wrapping gifts or finding a delicious wine for Christmas Day,” said Cramond. “Our experts are sharing fantastic insider tips on how to have a really amazing Christmas, with less of the stress.”
Meanwhile, Waitrose used social media to crowdsource voices for the music for its Christmas TV advertisement. The resulting video has its home on the Waitrose website where, at the time of writing, it could be shared in more than 290 ways, including email and social media platforms from Facebook and Twitter to StumbleUpon and Christian social network Amen Me!