How Retailers Can Build Relationships With Customers From a Distance
POSTED ON 24-08-2020

It’s often said that distance makes the heart grow fonder, that being apart can strengthen the bonds between loved ones. But what about the bond between retailers and customers?

The coronavirus pandemic created some major challenges for retailers. Social-distancing policies kept shoppers at home, and many businesses had to temporarily close their stores, which understandably put a strain on all types of customer relationships.

But the good news is that brands can still continue to connect with shoppers, even from a distance — and those who harness the power of customer data will be in the best position to make the most of these relationships. This is a chance for retailers to truly show how much they care by putting consumer needs first.

At the end of the day, the thing that builds customer loyalty isn’t brand or price: it’s meeting customer expectations with meaningful experiences. It’s why, today especially, retailers need a flexible strategy that allows them to handle rapid changes, update preconceived customer journeys, and understand what their shoppers are really thinking and feeling.

Practice empathy

True understanding — whether in friendship, romance, or business — always starts with active listening. For retailers, this means slowing down and paying close attention to how consumer needs and behaviors shift, especially in uncertain times. Brands not only need to understand where each customer is at on their individual journey, but also what got them there. It’s all about agility: figuring out habits in real time and meeting customers where they’re going to fulfill their needs.

For example, there’s a good chance that consumers will adopt new habits (like cooking at home or working remotely) even after COVID-19 has passed. The number of customers taking advantage of online grocery shopping, for example, has grown during the pandemic and is unlikely to slow down.  According to a study by Fabric, 20% of U.S. consumers made their first online grocery store purchases because of the pandemic — and our own research shows that there’s been a 110% increase in daily online grocery revenue during April. Now is the time for retailers to figure out how to adapt to these behavioral trends, immediately and long-term.

Learn to share

Retailers know that first-party data is critical for understanding customers, but second-party and third-party data can help to create even more robust profiles. Just think of what grocery stores and consumer packaged goods brands can learn from each other if data is shared compliantly.

Collect as much data as possible by partnering with vendors who can help tap into an audience. Studies show that organizations with superior customer experiences are nine times more likely to have analyzed and integrated data from multiple sources.

Sharing technology can be a smart move, too — online grocery retailer Ocado has made its proprietary software available to others, giving the company access to more data points and consumer behavior that it can use to improve its own offerings.