However you paint it, customer engagement as a concept has undergone a huge transformation in recent years.
Traditionally, relationships between retailers and consumers were predominantly transactional – with a focus on price, retailers vied for custom promoting unmissable deals to draw customers in and get their proverbial tills ringing.
But would the consumer feel any loyalty towards the retailer? What was gained from these transactions in terms of relationships or longevity? Is this model still a failsafe way of attracting shoppers and keeping them hooked in?
Over time, much has been learned about the power of more meaningful customer engagement.
Today’s consumer demands so much more from their shopping experiences and has come to expect a whole new level of attention and connection when making purchasing choices.
Whether shopping with brands online or in-store, gone are the days of grab, buy and go.
Modern retail engagement focusses on forging stronger bonds between a brand and its customers – a connection that is genuine and long-lasting.
Once established, that connection increases retention and loyalty, not to mention referral and recommendation,
as the more invested in a brand and its culture a shopper becomes, the more likely they will want to shout about their experiences.
Consumers are looking for something authentic to engage with and emotionally subscribe to – they want brands to understand their needs and meet them in creative and heartfelt ways.
In order to achieve this, brands must strike a clever balance between establishing and fulfilling their audience’s needs while also shaping a desirable culture individuals want to be part of.
Get that right and relationships start to blossom.
Building a brand community can be the most effective method of all when it comes to understanding your audience.
In a society driven by social media platforms, sharing experiences now takes up a significant part of our day.
We relish the chance to tell our friends and followers what we have been up to – sharing places we have visited, restaurants we have dined in, products we have discovered and experiences we have enjoyed.
Brands who buy into this concept and create a community within which their followers can share thoughts and experiences, not only gain instant access to their audience but also enable their followers to connect with each other too.
Chances are these communities are made up of fairly like-minded souls drawn together by the culture of the brand, making the whole experience more meaningful as well as extremely valuable to the brand itself as they gain a deeper insight into their customers’ psyche.
Creating an authentic online brand persona to interact with your audience and spark emotive discussion is an effective means of learning what truly makes them tick.
This knowledge enables brands to shape and personalise their content and experiences to fit perfectly with their audience’s needs and ideologies.
During what has been an exceptionally unusual and difficult year for most, a sense of belonging has become even more important and online communities have flourished as a means of reaching out to individuals cut off by lockdown.
By opening up unique but wholesome conversations and experiences, brands can form genuine connections on which to further build upon.
Certainly those retailers who present themselves as socially aware and supportive of important causes do stand out and, this past year in particular, have no doubt captured the hearts and minds of those who follow them.
Education, entertainment and good old-fashioned company are currently high on the agenda too as the pandemic continues to keep us apart and stand in the way of the normality we crave.
There is no end to the ways in which a brand can reach out, connect and, ultimately, encourage shoppers to make smarter purchasing choices as they are more likely to buy from a brand with a positive, well-loved online presence.
Engaging in person
Meaningful engagement within physical retail is equally important and should be executed as a seamless extension of your online presence and vice versa.
The majority of today’s brands operate as omnichannel retailers, so it is vital the persona and culture portrayed online is also reflected in-store.
At Stellar, we specialise in exceptional people and outstanding retail experiences, so we know plenty about what fits well together – and effective in-store engagement starts with the team you populate your shop floor with.
Highly trained, knowledgeable staff with the right attitude and on-brand character traits will instinctively know how to interact and connect with shoppers, building relationships based on trust and mutual understanding.
Additionally, physical retail experiences must be creative and desirable to appeal to today’s shopper, who is constantly looking for something new and exciting to engage with and, more importantly, share.
Creating fascinating, Insta-worthy spaces staffed with approachable, passionate experts who have the time to chat and introduce shoppers to products that really work for them, all goes a long way to ensure customers connect more deeply with a brand.
Ultimately, however you reach your audience, authenticity and genuine connection should form the basis of the relationship – it is a basic human need to feel heard and valued. Keep your brand persona consistent and engaging across all channels, inspiring followers to connect, invest and share, share, share. Make the relationship mutually beneficial and your audience will not be able to resist the temptation to stick around to see what comes next.