The National Retail Foundation is predicted that retail sales are going to surge when more individuals got vaccinated and the economy reopened. Prognosticators also believe retailers are going to seize the moment and open more stores.
The lingering question:
How will retailers, banks, quick-serve restaurants and other branded environments serve these eager, evolving post-COVID-19 customers and earn and maintain their trust and their loyalty? In short, how to build customer trust and loyalty?
Here are five areas of focus that will help businesses build customer trust, post-COVID-19.
Respond to Evolving Customer Preferences
Store environments play a critical role in building shopper relationships. Therefore, retailers need to ask how their store design and merchandising meet customers where they are.
How do different elements of the in-store environment contribute to a sense that the retailer wants to make the shopper’s trip better, easier and more satisfying? How could recommendations, curated assortments and ratings be showcased most effectively within the physical retail space to drive trust?
Stores must be clean, well-lit, organized, easy to navigate and make it easy to access product info, whether that’s with digital or print signage or on a customer’s phone.
The most important factors driving retailer credibility and confidence are those which help shoppers find the right products, at the right price, easily and with associate guidance, when needed.
Create Seamless Online and In-Store Experiences
A recent survey by Tango revealed that “83% of consumers want a seamless online to in-store experience when making purchases.”
Restaurants, retailers and banks need to fully integrate their online and in-store experiences. That means it’s important to be aggressive with innovation, upgrading apps to improve and support the in-store experience and upgrading websites and BOPIS environments and service.
Individual customers can become many different types of shoppers depending on their circumstances at that specific moment -- casually browsing in-store or online, or urgently in need of the most efficient service possible with BOPIS.
Falling short on any platform hits loyalty and trust as a whole.
Provide a Curated/Personalized Response to Feedback
Jeff Bezos famously said, “We don’t make money when we sell things. We make money when we help customers make purchase decisions.”
Shoppers are often overwhelmed with choices. When they received personalized help that provides appreciated guidance on purchase decisions, trust is built.
This can be as basic as updating members of your loyalty program when items they often buy are on sale. Or it could be as involved as shopping by appointment.
Customers who feel they have a personalized relationship with a retailer will go out of their way to frequent its stores.
Further, as a new shopping cultures emerge post-COVID-19, businesses need to listen closely and quickly react to customer feedback, whether it’s provided live, in a comments section or on social media.
An agile response to a customer’s negative experience often not only overcomes the negative review, it creates a more meaningful, positive one. And increases trust.
Demonstrate People Matter More Than Profits
Last October in response to the pandemic, Edelman updated its "2020 Trust Barometer" with a special report that noted “71 percent [of consumers] agree that if they perceive that a brand is putting profit over people, they will lose trust in that brand forever.”
Edelman’s 2021 “Trust Barometer” said that 61 percent of respondents believe addressing climate change has grown more important over the past year and that when businesses embrace sustainable practices, “The likelihood of trust is up 5.7 percent.”
Of course, both trends existed before the pandemic.
Supporting your community matters. Supporting social justice matters, particularly with younger shoppers. And customers want sustainability to be a priority.
Making sure customers understand you care about doing the right thing ends up being good for the bottom line.
Take Care of Your Associates
An associate at a home improvement store guides a customer to a less expensive and better solution for a project. A restaurant server throws in a free dessert for a parent who looks overwhelmed by his three screaming children. A bank’s mortgage advisor provides patient support — and great rates — for a first-time homebuyer.
Well-trained, emotionally intelligent associates boost your brand. As the saying goes, “They may forget what you said but they will never forget how you made them feel.”
Good associates truly help customers, both with expertise and attitude. When trusting relationships develop, they overcome customer worry about potential buyer’s remorse, particularly with big-ticket items.
While training and retaining good associates often costs more, they tend to provide a boost to both the brand perception and to profits.
They are fundamental to building trust.
Trusting customers are retained and become loyal. They spend more. And spread the word as the best possible advocates for your brand.