With so many options available to today’s consumer, it’s safe to say that the choices they make about what to buy and where to buy it are intentional. Shopping is no longer all about convenience. In fact, there are many factors that influence a shopper’s decision to purchase from you: including their alignment with your company’s values.
Today’s shopper is an influencer in their own right, either consciously or subconsciously curating a lifestyle that is reflected in products purchased from stores that share their worldviews and personal principles. To stand out in the retail space, and continue to build a customer base beyond notoriously price-oriented baby boomers, you need to craft a customer experience that links your ethics and values to your customers’.
What is customer experience?
A customer experience is a culmination of the actions customers take within your store, your employees’ reactions to your customer, and the emotions that a customer feels while they’re interacting with your brand.
Creating an authentic customer experience within your stores is more important than ever before. Retail experts predict that in-person experience will be a key differentiator for brick and mortar locations in an age when so much of a customer’s interaction with a brand takes place digitally. When a customer chooses to come into your store, they are expecting to feel surprised, delighted, and connected to your brand on a deeper level through their experience – and it’s your job to make that happen.
Do customers care about your values?
Even though experience is the talk of the retail world right now it can be easy to think, “Do customers actually care about my brand’s ethics? Don’t they just want to find their preferred product at a good price?”
Yes, price and quality still matter, but a younger consumer is looking for more. They want to know that not only are they getting the product they want, but they are also supporting a brand that thinks like them, acts like them, and believes in the same things as they do.
The importance that consumers place on a brand’s values differs on a generational basis. Baby boomers and members of Generation X are still heavily influenced by their parents who may have grown up during the Great Depression or in the midst of world wars. Their main mission when shopping is to find the best value, making them unlikely to be brand loyal for the sake of shared values.
As may be expected, younger customers (those considered millennials or part of Gen Z) are more focused on a brand’s identity, as well as their internal and externally-facing morals. 70% of millennials would buy less from a brand they’re loyal to if they found out that the brand doesn’t pay their employees well, and 69% would buy less if they learned that the brand relies on unethical labor practices.
In the grocery space, this is particularly important as store owners are working with vendors from around the world to source their products. It’s imperative from a consumer perspective that the products represented in your store are responsibly sourced and that the creators of those products were fairly compensated.
Research has shown that retailers who abide by a set of strong values can create a more loyal following than those who stay out of the conversation. 52% of consumers surveyed said that a key influence on their brand loyalty is knowing that retailers are acting sustainably, especially when it comes to grocery (56%).
With a plethora of options available to your customer at any given time, loyalty counts for a lot in the retail space – and the focus on your store’s moral principles isn’t going away any time soon.
Gen Z is growing up, and they’re quickly cementing their place as the next emerging market for grocers. When asked about their stance on brand loyalty in relation to a company’s values, more than 50% reported that knowing that a brand is socially conscious influences their purchasing decisions.
Still skeptical of the importance of having bold, visible brand values? Let this stat sink in: 62 percent of global consumers would purchase a product from a different brand of similar quality if the other brand supported a good cause. Similarly, 86 percent of those surveyed believe that businesses should place at least equal weight on society’s interests as on its own.
Put simply, it doesn’t matter if you’re priced well or if your product is high-quality: consumers want to know that you stand for something bigger than your profit margins.
How to link customer experience to your values
Now that it’s clear that customers want to feel connected to your brand through your shared values, it’s time to consider the ways in which you can make your credo a significant part of your customer experience.
Train employees on values
Your employees are one of your greatest assets when it comes to generating a genuine customer experience. They are the personification of your brand within your store, and every interaction between them and your customers should reflect your company’s identity and ethos.
To ensure that your customers get an authentic feel for your brand every time they set foot in your store, it’s imperative that you train your employees to understand your values. As part of the onboarding process, include sessions focused on your company’s principles and give examples for how they can be put into practice through an employee’s daily responsibilities. Share initiatives that tie into your stores’ morals with your employees, and encourage them to mention them to customers when relevant. If your employees feel like they are a part of something bigger, they’ll not only be more enthusiastic in their role and provide a great experience for your customer, they’re also more likely to stay with your company in the long-term.
Display values in-store
Even if your customer does not interact with an employee during their trip to your store, they should still gain a sense of your values through your store’s aesthetic. In-store marketing and displays should proudly call out the causes your company supports, and make it clear to your customer how you are making an impact.
REI is one company to look up to for a great example of in-store values messaging. The company is known for its sustainable practices and focus on being a steward for the environment. Through that ethos, they have created their stores using sustainable materials and have become active members of the local community, even creating a community center within some of their brick-and-mortar locations as a way to foster connections between customers, all under the REI name.
Customers who feel connected to a company’s values are more likely to become brand loyal, and loyalty is nothing to scoff at in today’s digital age. At the end of the day, customers know that where they shop defines who they are, and they want to know that they’re making the right choice when they’re shopping with you. Look for ways to connect them to your brand’s values through their experience with your employees and with visuals throughout your store, and you’re well on your way to building a more authentic, loyalty-driven relationship with your customers.