Winning the hearts of connected shoppers
Karthik Venkatakrishnan 
Shoppers tend to look to family, friends and influencers to understand their experiences, before they make their own purchase decisions

When it comes to winning hearts, impressions matter. This is not just the case with people; it is the case with brands too.

And for today’s connected shoppers, a good first impression is not enough.

Every subsequent interaction matters and every touchpoint is an opportunity to develop an emotional connection with the customer.

In a recent study, 57% of respondents said product demos help them in making purchase decisions, followed by 56% who said in-store displays and advice from salespersons in store are effective too.

To win hearts, you first need to recognise what customers desire. The retail environment today is transforming, and the power rests with the customers. The result? You get demanding, impatient, and sometimes unforgiving shoppers. These connected shoppers are no longer satisfied with simply purchasing a product or enjoying a service.

What ultimately creates that high level of satisfaction is the process of getting there. In other words, they want experiences, not transactions.

A five-principle framework can help brands conquer these connected shoppers throughout every touchpoint and across all channels, segments and industries.

For the holistic framework to work effectively, customers need to start off by having a favourable, or at the very least, a neutral view of the brand in question. The more they resonate with a brand, the more likely they are to progress from consumers to browsers to buyers to loyal customers.

Another survey shows 62% of respondents also said their previous experience with a retailer or brand is a contributing factor to their purchase decision, while 65% said past experiences with the brand or item would influence their decision.


Understanding emotions that inspire action and defy norms

Truth is, people buy based on emotions and use logic to justify their decisions. That’s why buyer’s remorse exists, and that’s why your brand and customer experience is crucial. The battle to conquer today’s connected shoppers is about winning hearts, not wallets.

If you are able to leave a positive emotional imprint right from the beginning, customers are more inclined to view you favourably, and predisposed to experience your brand.

These emotions inspire a purchase action, which helps to shorten the introduction stage in the product lifecycle where companies usually experience losses.

This is also exceptionally important, as shoppers tend to look to family, friends and influencers to understand their experiences, before they make their own purchase decisions.

This notion corresponds with survey findings as 61% of respondents said they look to online reviews from experts prior to purchase; while 59% turn to online reviews from other shoppers, and 58% seek the opinions of family and friends.

As with every relationship, your brand-customer relationship is constantly developing. That means every additional positive experience will strengthen it – and every additional negative experience will weaken it. Brands that forge deeper emotional connections with their customers gain a competitive advantage that’s impossible to rival. In terms of the product lifecycle, this helps them achieve a maturity stage that is longer than the norm and delay the decline stage indefinitely.

That’s why products that deal with the emotional (for example, nostalgia) often survive longer.

With insights into brand and customer experience across all touchpoints, you will be equipped to rouse emotions that inspire action and defy norms, while resonating with your customers every step of the way.


Using data to proactively build enduring customer relationship

Like they always say, relationships need to be worked on. The goal is not just to win the connected shopper’s heart, but also to retain it for as long as possible. To cultivate an intimate brand-customer relationship that lasts, it is not enough to merely adapt reactively to the changes that inevitably crop up.

It is necessary to proactively predict changes, so that you are prepared to respond appropriately.

Our research shows that while both rapid-fire digital metrics and brand mindset affect sales, the latter is a much better predictor of future sales. That simply means that all the work you’ve done to forge an emotional connection with your customers from the beginning accumulates and contributes to your long-term brand success.

However, that’s no reason to rest on your laurels. With predictive analysis on brand and customer experience, you can gain smart, actionable insights that will constantly push your brand one step further so you don’t just get a brand-consumer relationship that lasts, but one that gets stronger over time.

To win the hearts of today’s ever-connected shoppers, you need research intelligence and smart insights to understand their desires, stir up emotions that inspire action, and build a brand-customer relationship that gets better over time.

Karthik Venkatakrishnan is the regional director of GfK Asia

This article first appeared in Focus Malaysia Issue 256.