They say that the proof is in the pudding. But what if I told you that I abhorred pudding? Would you go on spoon-feeding trite clichés that offend my culinary sensibilities?
Or would you listen and learn to keep pudding out of conversation and start talking to me about the many merits of kale instead?
As fast as we move nowadays, listening sometimes feels like a lost art – and that can certainly be true of the shopper experience.
As our population and stores have grown bigger, retail associates have become harder to find (“Is that one at the other end of the store?”), and shoppers roam face-down in their phones.
It’s more challenging for shoppers and retailers to have the conversations that build relationships.
But it’s not enough just to listen; active listening requires listening and responding to another person so that:
- They know you’re listening
- You achieve a better mutual understanding
The same technology that can in some ways restrict that connection can also become the key to improved rapport. The active listening trends already revitalizing other digital and experiential marketing efforts can be the key to a better shopping user experience and more sales.
Note that for shopper, active listening shouldn’t be limited to social listening.
It’s about cultivating the best of social listening, shopper data, qualitative input from sales associates, and more, then leveraging that information to drive your response.
Are you giving your shoppers enough opportunities to be heard, and creating enough opportunities to show you hear them? Retailers and brands that prove they know their shoppers best will be the ones to win them over.
Now, it’s not enough just to have some one-way communication funnel, like a comments box or push-push-push social media content, without any relationship-building dialogue. It’s about putting the right vehicles in place to empower your shopper community to be heard and show they’re valued.
The key is showing shoppers that their input is driving the retail experience, and balancing how overt you are in communicating that.
Sometimes, you’ll want to broadcast it loudly and proudly to grab their attention and earn your company credit for a job well-done. Other times, you’ll want be subtle and provide simple changes to improve their experience.
You can focus on providing your shopper community with real value in-store through…
- Connection (to your brand/retail chain and like-minded shoppers, or “the community”)
And in today’s world of instant gratification, amid a sea of clutter, the only way you get these right or improve them is to listen like you’ve never listened before.
Lay’s Potato Chips is a perfect example of a brand that knows how to listen. They started a conversation and community-building with their “Do Us a Flavor” campaign, which invited shoppers to suggest new flavor ideas and cast their votes, with continuity across packaging, retail signage, web, and social channels.
Recently, Target has brought a start-up mentality to the grocery section of their stores by virtue of their Future + Food Lab coLab with MIT and IDEO. Part of the approach hinges on being quick to market to test products and gain shopper input to accelerate the rate of success and failure, minimize costs, and maximize profits.
And in the case of an online community influencing in-store, Nordstrom’s use of Pinterest to curate consumer’s favorite products at retail had a powerful dual purpose, simultaneously leveraging the input of the people and promoting the Nordstrom Pinterest community.
As these examples show, your community-building should be centered around listening, with a heavy dose of testing, learning and adapting. Here are several ideas of how you can enhance their experience:
- Arm associates with a dedicated app that allows them to record and instantly reward shoppers who provide insightful feedback or testimonials, which builds community, content, and research
- Prompt shoppers to join interactive social discussions and product reviews via digital screens or in-app messaging
- Reward in-store app engagement with invitations to related exclusive events, like the unboxing of new products from an oft-bought brand, so they feel like an insider
- Enable shoppers to use your retail app to ping the nearest sales associate, and even include their question, so they don’t have to traverse the entire store
- Leverage omnichannel data and in-store tracking (where shoppers stop, don’t stop, etc.) to deliver smart suggested sell via dynamic screens in-store, on shopping carts, etc.
By building connection points to your store, brand, or other shoppers that center on active listening, you’re enabling your community to take action and develop real bonds.