The shopper today is changing. Customers are more discriminatory of brands they want to build a relationship with, and the foundations of that relationship is trust based on how customers see brands upholding the values they share. Today, 71% of consumers prefer buying from brands that align with their values. Consumers’ product purchases are increasingly motivated by a desire to connect on a deeper level —a brand association that, apart from the visual imprints or its “badge value”, includes an emotional bond with brands.
With the economic impact of the pandemic, it’s time for brands to win back the customer and re-establish its basis for relevance. This starts by getting down to brass tacks and understanding the shopper at a more intimate, psychological level. If we consider a familiar construct, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, there are five basic and fundamental human needs identified that ladder from the most basic, functional needs to higher-order emotional needs that lead to personal fulfillment. The goal for brands is to understand each level and develop strategies that clearly address those needs for consumers. Once a brand has successfully addressed these needs – relevancy, bonding, and trust are achieved – brand loyalty becomes more deeply entrenched.
Meeting the basic needs in Maslow’s hierarchy is something all brands need to consistently perform against in order to meet the minimum requirements of awareness and attraction.
These include convenience, performance, functionality, value, transparency and accessibility. To satisfy their basic needs, shoppers build their own personal ‘ecosystem’ that provides them with the security and stability they seek. Shoppers choose the platforms and define their system of shopping – channels, brand repertoire, where they seek information, service consideration, etc. – that deliver the comfort and efficiency they would like to receive. Meeting the most basic needs is the beginning; if brands stop there, they run the risk of achieving a weak bonding with their customers, putting loyalty at risk.
Connecting and bonding with the customer is more important than ever.
Membership in communities, social networking, and connecting with people who share similar passions and same values have been on the rise for some time, but now are more important than ever. Beyond the product itself, customers are increasingly evaluating brands based on a company’s ethics and values, and actively seek to buy from a company associated with value propositions that ladder up to a greater good – whether social, lifestyle, environmental, or political ideals. This shift to values-based consumers means that brands must strive to understand the reciprocal benefits their customers are seeking and respond accordingly. This will help brands in their quest to connect with customers in a unique, relevant, and differentiated way. Power brands are able to push beyond price competitiveness and build stickiness with other attributes that are part of a customer’s value equation. Building strong emotional bonding will convert customers into loyalists and brand advocates. It is from here that optimization and monetization of the brand-customer relationship occurs.
As customers travel up the hierarchy, brands must create perceived distinction in consumers’ minds.
Brand reputation is more important now than ever and trust is one of those critical building blocks in building that reputation. Once trust is established, brands can influence the relationship by looking for more profound meaning in how they connect with customers by understanding their needs and desires. Proper brand-building tactics can then be deployed across all customer touchpoints with lasting impact. In today’s emerging new retail landscape, bonding is more sought-after but more difficult to achieve and sustain.
As mentioned in the Great Reset: Series 1, the brand-customer relationship is becoming more important as ecommerce is creating brand promiscuity. While customers might change the way they like to do things and how they spend their time, and they may gather information and shop differently, but their basic psychological and philosophical tenets are the constants that brands can count on.