Build Customer Relationships 

Do emotional relationships have a place in retail?

It’s fair to say that retail often overlook customer relationship and  is often seen as a transactional process. But the reason for the transaction is also underpinned by emotional drivers.

I once owned a successful retail business, but I’ve mostly worked in media. So I know the importance of engaging and entertaining fans. And as I’ve expanded to new industries, it’s become clear that in our digital age ‘every business is in the entertainment business’.

That might sound extreme at first. But think about it. Every time a customer interacts with your business, whether offline or online, you’re engaging with them. If they don’t feel connected, they walk away.

Retailers can learn a lot from the entertainment world. And it starts with building the customer relationship! And viewing your market as an ‘Audience’. Just changing that one word will shift your whole mindset.

Markets are impersonal, while Audiences are personal, responsive, engaging, and appreciative. And they’re not limited to existing customers. You want expand your reach by also understanding what drives potential new fans.

So how do you build a relationship with your audience?

Give Them What They Want

Stop laughing, I know what you’re thinking … you’re already doing it? But audiences are demanding and fickle, they’re constantly evolving. What’s cool one day, is so-so the next.

And just because you have a pile of sales data, doesn’t mean you can predict the next big thing. 

Unfortunately, the hard reality is that innovation often emerges because of a new competitor or disruptor, that puts everyone in a spin.

But what if you were to disrupt your own industry? It’s not impossible.

Which comes back to the million dollar question, what is it they want and how can I identify it?

Having a deeper understanding of your audience

Your Demographic sales data is important. But ‘Psychographics take your understanding and competitive edge to a whole new level.

Picture two 35 year old women as neighbours … similar socio-economic profile, both with young families and so on. You might group them in the same Demographic marketing target. But this barely scratches the surface of what’s really going on in their Hearts & Minds.

The Psychographics of their values & attitudes might be completely different. Like their beliefs, what they do for recreation, their taste in music & TV shows, early or late adoption of new products, their ideal retail experience, and so on.

So what you deliver to each of them in content marketing, messaging and promotional activity needs to be customised. It’s like another language!

Generalisations about people, often generated by a research process or historic sales data, is high risk. Resulting in bland, commodity marketing when not backed up with deeper insights into real life, one person at a time.

Armed with a deeper understanding you can segment your audience with a promotion that you know will motivate them. Significantly increasing your odds of success.

Let’s say they love to be in first with a new products and experiences. They’re an ideal prospect for an invitation to an exclusive event, like “we’re opening especially for you … you’ll be one of the first to see this new range etc”.

Or for example, I read a case-study recently, about a business that ran a Ramadan promotion for the Muslim community in their area.

How does that fit with relationships?

Taking the trouble to understand their personal motivators, gives you a closer connection than just the cold transaction. The more someone sees that you understand them, the more they will trust you.

But it goes way deeper than greeting them with their name, when they login or enter your business.

Building strong relationships, no matter what type it is, takes commitment.

You can’t just have a chat one day and expect them to love you forever. It involves constantly staying in tune with their changing needs and values, and acknowledging them as real people.

Now before you say “yes, but I don’t want a personal relationship with every customer”, I’m clearly not talking about friending them on Facebook, or inviting them around for dinner!

Instead by treating them like real, flesh & blood people, not data-points, you can engage on a new level.

Imagine the valuable insights you’d access to create new concepts and emotionally-charged marketing campaigns. And how much more engaged they’d be every time they entered your premises. So bonded with you they wouldn’t even look at your competitor. Now that’s bankable.

If you understand their frustrations, loves, and desires it makes your marketing job so much easier. No more endless team debates on what customers might or might not like.


A client told me about a packaging issue, where they couldn’t decide on which of two options customers would prefer. So instead of actually asking those most affected, the internal meetings went on and on, the hours adding up as a very expensive exercise. And they were still guessing.

I was once advised by a fellow retailer to regularly walk across the road from your business, and look at the shop front from the customer’s point of view. Fine, but a more detached perspective will come from having an ongoing relationship and conversations with your audience.

By now, you may be visualising an expensive research project! But in future articles I’ll share my tips on implementing a new approach. To have your audience raving about the experience.

And the good news is, not only do you gather actionable insights with a deeper understanding of your audience, it’s actually an extension of your brand marketing.

Traditionally research has accepted that you’ll upset some customers in the low-engagement process. Which is not good enough!

In our online, social, 24/7 environment everything you do must be of value to your audience, and enhance your long-term customer relationship. Let’s face it, it took great effort to attract them to shop with you in the first place. So let them know how special they are!

This article first appeared on the Retail Learning Channel site 

Hungry for more? Marketing = Customers + Heart is your road map to building your growth strategy.

Marketing = Customers + Heart by Judy & Eriks Celmins

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