There is a renewed commitment in America to shop local. And for good reason. Shopping local provides a direct return on investment, driving your local economy.
Shopping local also provides control over the source of the products you purchase, from food and beer to clothes and home goods.
Another bonus – local business owners and employees are your friends and neighbors. Small businesses are an important economic driver and the backbone of our communities. Like you, they too are invested in your community because they are part of the community, so you can feel good about how your dollars will be recycled locally from sponsorships of youth sports to the purchasing power of local business owners and their employees.
Knowing a customer by name, and his/her interests, needs and buying patterns offer small business owners the opportunity to leverage limited marketing budgets. Not to mention, they receive the benefit of word-of-mouth and personal endorsements by friends and family. In addition to the economic impact a small business has on its community, this personalized approach to marketing and customer engagement is one of the reasons driving consumers to shop local.
For larger, national brands, personalized engagement with consumers looks different than that of small businesses. Sure, marketing automation and artificial intelligence makes it possible for mega brands to maintain detailed consumer profiles that track birthdays and purchasing history that allow them to create customized messaging. Birthday messages with a special discount offer are great, but for many consumers, what is missing is the personal connection – feeling like they are valued and not just a number.
In addition, 79% of retailers are investing in personalization, the most of any industry – “in a world where the vast majority of companies are focused on improving personalization, companies that don’t prioritize creating a tailored experience run the risk of getting left behind.”
While customer service automation reduces expenses for companies and can provide consumers with basic, frequently-sought information fast and easy (most of the time) the challenge a consumer experiences is typically something only a real-life person can solve. According to one study, 90% of customers who call a company want to speak with a representative. We crave human connection.
If companies can figure out how to use automation and artificial intelligence to personalize their marketing initiatives, then surely they can figure out how to leverage modern technology in combination with its human resources to humanize the customer experience.
Chewy is a great example of a national brand that makes its consumers feel like they are working with a small business. Returns are simple. Personalized birthday and Christmas cards are sent each year. And when a customer loses a pet, the sympathy doesn’t end with an email. They send flowers. From a local florist.
Our founder recently lost her baby – a 15-year old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. The night he died, she arrived home to a Chewy order on her porch. She emailed Chewy the next day inquiring about returning the senior dog food that had arrived. Not only did Chewy provide her with a refund and a recommendation to donate the food to a local animal shelter, two days later a bouquet of flowers from a local florist arrived with a card that read:
“We’re so sorry to hear about your loss. We’re thinking of you in this tough time, and our deepest sympathies go out to you. If you need anything, we’re always here.
Love, Joveto at Chewy.com.”
Large, national brands can personalize – truly humanize – its engagement with consumers. Get creative. Be innovative. Leverage your technology assets. Train employees to treat consumers with compassion as if they were their friend or neighbor. With a little creativity, and a strong marketing strategy and SOP, any brand, no matter its size can make its customers feel seen and a valued part of the business.
The return on investment will be worth it – after all, it can cost 5x more to attract new customers than it does to retain an existing one.
“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” – Theodore Roosevelt