We all know the “old” saying that the customer is always king. But even in this day and age there are still businesses that focus solely on economic growth, forgetting about the customers who are at the core of all of it. We believe growth is only as good as the loyalty and trust a company can earn with the human on the other end. Without genuine customer relationships there really is no sustainable business growth. This is just one of the many reasons why firms must learn to place deliberate attention on building a culture that values creating relevant innovations with customers at the core. We believe, customer-centricity – looking at the world through a human lens (not consumer, not user) in order to solve their problems and fulfil their wants and needs – is the best way to build a competitive advantage and grow in today’s competitive marketplace.
Some brands and retailers still don’t put the customer first, because they believe that it’s impossible to focus on being customer-centric and win the market. But it’s not. Growth comes from unlocking insight and actioning it. In today’s market there are two major ways to win: convenience and access. Consider Amazon and Walmart with their unique fulfilment strategies that empower them to get ecommerce orders delivered to your door within a matter of mere hours. Or think about Restoration Hardware, and Nike Rise, and how they tap into experiential retail, connecting physical, social and programmatic experience. While the success stories of these brands might seem straight-forward, there really is an art to creating a consumer need, and then satisfying it, and immersing a user with something desirable.
Yes, it takes major capital commitment but what really will help you win in the market is having focus. Stop trying to do it all. Invest into unlocking one to two core insights relevant to your products or services. Then, start by simply doing one thing that is responding to a need which is memorable, and go from there. Understand that building brand loyalty will take time. 37% of consumers make at least five purchases before they consider themselves brand loyal – so have patience; it’s a marathon, not a race.
It’s also important to not stop once you have built a loyal customer base, assuming that growth will come automatically from here. The key lies in innovation. Brands and retailers tend to see innovation as overwhelming, especially when they see global brands like Apple and Adidas reinventing experience on a massive scale. But don’t let it get to you. Chewy, a big ecommerce pet supply retailer, has the right idea; they are asking big questions without fear, then translating them into actions that inform their strategy and culture. Think about your firm’s why, what and how. Ultimately, the why and the how matter most because the what is hard to own. Innovation can be as simple as introducing one critical feature at the right time. The beauty of the state of technology today is that there are so many options in immersive tech and OOTB products that can be customised. Farfetch, for example, recognized that consumers don't feel like brands are personalising experience, so they introduced RFID technology in-store to populate customer wish lists that show up online through the app, and it even pulls from their browsing history. This means high value and high impact for customers – the secret ingredients to innovation.
This type of customer-centricity in terms of strategy and innovation is crucial and it must be balanced with growth to achieve long-term success. Brands must realise the importance of their greater purpose and start tapping into their north star, the driver of every aspect of the company. If you have a north star, a clear value, you can establish how you are relevant to the people you are looking to connect with. It’s about the combination of brand DNA (what you exist to do) and human need (a motivation, or fear that you solve) plus demand space (what are the cultural dynamics that are relevant). This formula can help brands achieve growth, as long as the content they are publishing is consistent, relevant and meaningful. Consider retailers like Seventh Generation, Goop, the Honest Company – these are all brands competing in saturated marketspaces, yet they are clearly responding to a white space with a curated set of consumers, and with a clear purpose across content, product and experience. These brands are so successful because they are owning their brand signals which work together to give the illusion of commitment to a brand promise.
In this era of customer-centricity, businesses must empower their employees to never lose sight of their customers – what is it they want, how are they changing, what are they saying, etc.? By focusing on your brand’s greater purpose and connecting the why and how to customers’ needs, firms can build loyal customers to grow beyond limits.