The Strategist

Not Sell but Interact

05/28/2015 - 17:58

Marketers seek closer cooperation between its brands and consumers, but direct contact with the customers always goes to retail. Retailers diligently study the needs of customers, their motivation and behavior in order to improve the perception of visitors to its stores. But they do it more for its own benefit and not for the benefit of the individual product brands (except for its own brands, of course).

Marketers that promote product brands face a lot of difficulties when trying to affect the retailer. It's like inviting yourself to someone else's party – but you simply have to do it. Today, when it becomes more difficult to obtain a good return on investment in brand communication, the question arises: do brands has other ways to influence buyers during the shopping?
The good news is that there are many such methods indeed. You just have to follow the essence of the word "commerce", one of the values ​​that (according to Webster) sounds like "social interaction: the exchange of ideas, opinions and points of view." It follows that trade is a manifestation of human relationships. To succeed, marketers must focus on the use of the possibilities of direct interaction with people.

An article ‘The Clue Train Manifesto’, published in April 1999 on one of the sites of four experts in the field of (then still nascent) Internet. This manifesto describes the new reality of online communication.
"Markets are the talk" – says the first of the 95 theses. The beauty of this observation is not only how it predicted unprecedented growth of social media and the revival of interest to the "word of mouth", but also in its ability to remind us of the simple human truth that we have somehow forgotten in this part of the world: the trade as such is a transaction between two people. Ever since the ancient bazaars to modern street markets, shopping malls and online stores, people like to interact.

The thing is genuine needs of the people

With thousands of interviews conducted each day by departments of qualitative research around the world, we get an understanding of the needs, desires and motivations of buyers. At the same time in different countries, we note similar strong trend. As the globalization of the world spreads, people are increasingly feeling the need to feel at home. Since the production of goods is becoming more massive, people tend to individualize. As our world becomes more complex and digital, people are beginning to especially appreciate human warmth and participation.

Brands can benefit from these trends, offering customers products and sensations that have personal significance, in an atmosphere of human warmth and hospitality.

Beware of the zone of turbulence

In a book ‘Creating Passion Brands’, Helen Edwards and Derek Day had highlighted three areas of brand perception - areas of mediation, discovery and intimacy.

The zone of intimacy is a place where people physically interact with brands: hold the package in their hands, read the labels, smell, taste the goods. This is the area where perception and brand image are most intensely felt and created.

Of course, the brand affect the sensory quality of the product, but if the product is sold through a retail network of intermediaries, the brand has no direct interaction with customers. Thus, it lose a significant opportunity to demonstrate its real and memorable advantages. But there is a solution to this problem, which turned out to be very successful, - create its unique atmosphere around the brand at the point of sale. This will help ensure direct interaction, which is built on the basis of virtuous circle of trust leading to customer loyalty and therefore profit.

Such an environment can be a store where your brand is delivered directly to customers, but for the majority of brands such an option is hard to realise. However, there are some still unseen opportunities to attract buyers in the space of your brand, whether it is a department store aisle or shelf.

Create your own shop

When you create your own store, the brand builds its own ecosystem. But, more importantly, at the time it fully utilizes the capabilities of the human contact at every stage of customer perception: kindness, care, participation, approval, trust, engagement and intimacy. There are numerous examples of how brands started selling its products through a network of intermediaries, and then set up their own stores - Sony, Apple, Lego, Nike, Nespresso, Hershey and Microsoft.

Sometimes one flagship store is enough. The main goal is to create a memorable effect. Shop must change the sense of reality, which is formed in the visitor’s mind, acting on his perception of space, time and matter. It must transform the act of buying into something much more interesting, thus demonstrating real generosity of the brand.

If you think only major brands may afford this privilege, you’re wrong. There are a variety of alternative solutions, including small departments in department stores or mobile kiosks located conveniently. These mini-stores can create a unique atmosphere of the brand on a small scale, but more importantly, they will make it possible to interact directly with the buyer.

Add Services

One promising idea is to add service to acting business model: that is to provide added value product, made for the particular consumer. One possibility is the delivery of products, and here we have France as another example. Evian offers delivery service, aptly called Evian Chez Vous, or Evian at your home.

By itself, the delivery of products at home may not be an innovative idea, but when it comes to bottled water, it's perfect. Who likes to buy bottles of water at the supermarket? They are too heavy to upload them first to the cart, then at the cash counter, and then into the car (if you have any). In addition, water is often has the most unattractive place in the store (for example, next to the utility rooms). Home delivery cannot stop people from using tap water, but it adds an element of personal contact when purchasing water.

Hot line for consumers is an example of personalized service, but brands can also offer its customers the opportunity to personalize the product itself. Some brands have managed to turn it into a real advantage. Apple, which gives people the opportunity to engrave an inscription on their iPods the iPod, and the US Postal Service, which allows users to design and print their own personalized stamps.

The role of your voice is very important

In ideal circumstances, you pay more attention to your valued customers and strive to make their interaction with the brand both enjoyable and memorable. But what occurs there is something wrong with your product? Often this is the only time when people personally interact with your brand. To maintain a high level of customer satisfaction, it is crucial to have the ability to effectively solve problems, and this problem can be particularly difficult if it has to be done over the phone.

We are all faced with such annoying situations where we had to move down the telephone menu item by item, wait for the "free operator" and hear the phrase that "your call may be recorded for the purpose of improving the quality of service" before we connect with a live person. And when this live answer sounds too standard and rehearse, and ends with the phrase "We are very sorry, but ..." the moment of truth turns into a moment of pain. Here you can learn from the crisis hotlines: tone of voice should be firm and responsive - so they give people confidence that their concerns will be heard.

The tone of voice adds a number of important aspects to the message. The voice should be the first criterion for selection for operators of telephone lines - the same is customary for leading radio stations. If you think this is nonsense, let me give you another example. Peter Simpson, founder of First Direct, the first online bank in the UK, puts the candidates for the post of telephone operator before an unusual test. "Banking is a simple affair - he says - in contrast to the ability to speak." So he asks the candidates: "What would you tell to a lemon?" - and hires only those who are able to engage even fruit in a conversation.

based on 'Shopping: Not about product or place, but interaction' by Cecile Conare (Millward Brown)

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