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Retail reinvented: how companies are forging closer connections with their customers

From responsive service to personalised after-sales experience, today’s digital consumers are expecting more from retailers. The smartest companies are meeting these expectations by creating deeper and more intimate relationships.

As more and more shoppers discover the seemingly unlimited choice of online shopping, they are starting to reassess their priorities. If retailers are to stay relevant, research from EY suggests, they must move beyond traditional “customer centric” strategies and create new value by finding the right mix of “the three I’s”: invisibility, indispensability and intimacy.1

This move away from transactional interactions and towards much closer relationships, the research says, will bring retailers into the customer’s circle of trust.

There is a pent-up desire for new experiences and to explore says retail expert Gordon Fletcher, Director of Business 4.0, University of Salford Business School

“The ever-present danger in retailing, of creating a race to the bottom based solely on price, has been moved off the table,” says Fletcher. “With consumers increasingly and consciously basing their purchasing decisions on other factors, retailers increasingly need to bring out their full range of qualities.” He adds, “Consumers who have remained in work [during the pandemic] have saved money and want to apply it well when they spend it.”

Elevating the customer experience

Fletcher observes that customers now automatically expect responsive service. They are looking for “a great experience during and after a purchase,” he says.

Fast-growing retailer Lounge Underwear has been laser-focused on the full customer experience since its launch in 2015. “We’ve built a real community around female empowerment and self-confidence,” says Daniel Marsden, who co-founded Lounge with his partner Melanie. “As our chief brand officer, Mel is motivated by improving people’s lives,” says Daniel. To that end, Lounge provides regular empowering lifestyle content to its subscribing “tribe” — what it calls its “Female Family” — including advice on everything from going for a smear test to general self-care.

Lounge also runs social media campaigns with content relating to Pride Month and Mental Health Awareness Week. The company is mindful that today’s consumers look to brands to be aligned with the issues they care about.

Most of Lounge’s work in this area happens organically, says Marsden. “We started with influencer marketing and then built our Instagram following and it naturally became this community of like-minded women.” The process is still social media-focused, says Marsden. And crucially, it is reactive: “Mel goes through all the DMs personally to make sure she’s engaged with the customers and has a real sense of what they’re looking for and that everything’s on point. This is really important to us.” The same approach is applied to their products. “We’re unusual in that we don't work to seasonal collections or trends — we essentially just ignore the market and create what we think will work.”

Personalising the payment   

Another key element of the personalisation process is the payment offer. 

Lounge uses PayPal and PayPal powered Braintree as its payment platforms. “I think people feel safe when they use them,” says Marsden. It’s important to build good relationships with payment partners, he adds, “especially early on when your brand is new and not that well known.”

Having a direct relationship with a PayPal account manager has been invaluable, offering some integrations that he says the other payment companies simply don’t have, as well as the ability to “Pay in 3,” PayPal’s buy now, pay later service. “All of this makes the entire shopping experience smooth and safe for our customers.”

According to a recent IDC survey, 71% of enterprises polled said they accept PayPal for online purchases. 2 The PayPal network itself extends to more than 400m consumers. 3

Brands must deliver a personalised process, but Accenture research shows that algorithmic recommendations based on demographics and past behaviours and purchases don’t always accurately reflect shopping intention. 4

The ‘store of the future’ will be omnichannel and experience rich says Vincent Belloc, managing director, PayPal UK

“Retailers need to create seamless, personalised experiences across multiple consumer channels and touchpoints, and think about customer engagements in terms of journeys instead of a single point in time,” says Belloc. “With the right technology, you can personalise everything.”

“In the UK and across EMEA, we work with top enterprises to help them reach, convert and retain customers retain customers — PayPal users. We connect the dots with our versatile platform, using insights and trends from our rich consumer and wallet data to help enterprises grow their businesses, help protect what they’ve built and optimise their operations. Delivering end-to-end commerce experiences across multiple channels and payment methods is important today, and PayPal enables that,” says Belloc.

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View Sources

1 EY, Three I’s that could reframe the future of retail, 2020
2 IDC, The Future of Enterprise Payments Is Focused on Enabling Seamless Customer Experiences, June 2021
3 PayPal 2nd Quarter 2021 results
4 Accenture Interactive, Consumer Pulse Survey, 2020

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