Rethinking Retail RSS

360-Degree Connected Customers

Inmaculada Urrea, expert consultant on branding at SOFOCO

Since the Internet burst into our lives and social networks made their appearance, we customers have become more exacting and professional.

We are digital; we are informed; we are multichannel (i.e., we buy indistinctly from any channel); we are social and we connect with brands; we want emotional shopping experiences, and we always expect the red carpet to be rolled out for us. Otherwise we leave and we don’t come back. This makes us 360-degree connected customers.

We are facing a new era in retail. It’s the social era, which means that brands must connect with their customers, reconsidering their relationship with them, because now, in addition to seeking experiences, customers want to collaborate with brands, both in the creation of products and the experiences they offer. Welcome to Branding 3.0, where the customer is key.

Meanwhile, very few brands are making the most of the possibilities that this new way of seeing things affords, particularly on social networks.  Philip Kotler said that for the majority of businesses the customer doesn’t always come first and although you would think that must be wrong, in the social world it still holds true. Few brands contribute interesting experiences; few listen to their customers; and far fewer still strive to involve them.

Contemporary retail is now integrated retail, particularly for digital natives, as they don’t understand any other way of shopping or relating with brands. That means that all sales channels and customer care points must provide a good experience, because even if we all still buy in different formats, the result has to be the same: loyalty.

Having a brand which is 360-degree connected like its customers means knowing how to provide them with interesting content above and beyond the product. It means knowing how to actively listen to them to understand what it is that they need. It means that, by knowing them, they can provide them with experiences to share. It means knowing how to converse with them, even at the worst times – it is well-known that the outcome of a complaint, properly settled, is loyalty.

When customers pay for a product or service today, they want a lot more than a sales transaction: they want a memorable experience, something they can tell the world about, because people are social creatures and we like sharing our experiences with our community. How else to explain the worldwide success of social networks?

We new customers have integrated mobile devices into our lives, and successful brands take advantage of all points of contact to be present in our day-to-day world in a non-intrusive manner. It is on social networks, above all, where a brand can show whether it treats its audience as simple purchasers or members of its community.

360-degree connected customers also want 360-degree connected brands which share our world and our needs. Empathetic brands we can trust in, because trusting in a brand means loyalty – and loyalty means not just sales but, most importantly, setting trends.

Brand: does your customer always come first? Your reality is implicit in the reply. If you don’t like it, you only have to change it.

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