Consumers these days are short on time, oversaturated with marketing, and bombarded by brands. So how can a company stand apart from the crowd and build genuine connections with their customers? The first step is to look at what’s worked for organizations with strong customer communities.
At Glimpse 2019, a thought-leadership forum co-hosted by Fast Company and The HydraFacial Company, leaders in industries from retail to technology discussed how they connect with customers—and how they turn those customers into loyal, dedicated fans.
Here are five strategies companies can use to build stronger and more genuine connections with their customers.
1. MAKE YOUR EMPLOYEES HAPPY
Online retailer Zappos has built a legion of loyal shoppers by delivering a customer experience well beyond what most retailers offer. Its secret: Focus on employee happiness first. “Employee happiness is near and dear to our heart,” said Audrea Hopper, Zappos’ head of “fungineering” and brand experiences. “We know if employees are happy, our customers are going to be happy, too.”
Hopper’s “fungineering” team focuses on building experiences that help keep employees happy and engaged. In Zappos’ typical over-the-top fashion, that might mean hosting a Bob Ross painting class taught by actor (and Bob Ross superfan) David Arquette, or building a 40-foot sledding hill in the middle of the Nevada desert for the company’s holiday party. But you don’t have to cast a Hollywood actor to wow your employees—even small gestures can go a long way toward boosting employee happiness. For instance, Hopper said Zappos tries to make employees’ lives a little bit easier by offering perks such as an onsite gym and educational opportunities to help build career skills.
2. CATER TO THE INDIVIDUAL…
HydraFacial CEO Clint Carnell told the Glimpse 2019 audience that the forum was created to address what he called a “seismic shift in consumer behavior.” These days, customers expect more from brands: More than 80% of customers say the experience a company provides is as important as the products or services it sells, according to an annual survey by software firm Salesforce.
So how can companies elevate that customer experience? For Amy Shecter, CEO of home beauty service Glamsquad, the answer is to treat the customer like an individual—not like a commodity. Glamsquad’s proprietary app helps track customer preferences, whether it’s a special hairdo or a specific makeup look. “The ultimate experience is a beauty pro walking in and saying, ‘Hi Sally, I saw this is what you looked like last time. Do you want the same thing?'” said Shecter. “It creates a very intimate and engaging experience for our clients.
3. …AND TO THEIR SCHEDULE
Brands can boost loyalty by recognizing just how time-strapped many of their customers really are. At Glamsquad, for instance, customers can request appointments when it’s convenient for them—even if that’s well beyond normal business hours. “Getting into a spa or salon is effort,” said Shecter. “The fact that she can have a service in the home at the end of the day, or she can get a manicure at 10 o’clock at night with a glass of wine, on her [schedule] really works for her.”
Meanwhile, brands also need to be able to get information to customers at any hour of the day. That may mean leveraging technologies such as AI and chatbots to help pick up the slack when humans aren’t available to deal with customer issues or questions. “People don’t have a lot of time, and you are never going to be the priority,” said Marco Ambrosio, director of growth strategy at LivePerson, a chat and AI company. “So if you want to engage and truly be customer centered, you have to be able to engage on a customer’s own time.”
4. LISTEN TO YOUR CUSTOMERS
When Amy Norman and Stella Ma started Little Passports, a monthly children’s-education subscription business, they beta-tested their idea on 50 families. The families filled out monthly surveys, and Norman and Ma used the feedback to refine the kits to meet both parents’ and kids’ needs. That focus on what customers really want has helped the company maintain a 95% retention rate, according to Norman— “off the charts” for a subscription-based company, she said. “People have to love what they’re getting,” said Norman. “And if you’re wowing and delighting the customers, they will come back.”
Norman and Ma have continued soliciting feedback from their customers. Recently, the company developed a science-themed subscription product based on the results from focus groups and customer surveys. “We asked them what they would like to buy from us, and science came up [because] STEM is a huge topic today,” said Norman.
5. CREATE REAL EXPERIENCES
Beauty retailer Sephora’s business model is built on catering to the customer experience. Visitors are invited to try out makeup or to see which perfume scent they like best—often with help from a knowledgeable staffer. They can dab on Sephora’s skincare products to see how they really feel. “One of the things that is so fantastic about beauty is it’s inherently a touch-and-feel kind of experience,” said Bridget Dolan, the senior vice president of omni experience and innovation at Sephora.
Dolan told the Glimpse 2019 audience that Sephora’s unique customer experience has helped the firm cultivate a deeply loyal fan base. The company’s site boasts three million ratings and reviews for its products and hosts an active online community where users can trade beauty tips. Dolan also noted that the Sephora in-store experience isn’t designed only to wow customers. “We’re not trying to just get someone in for some razzle dazzle,” she said. “We’re thinking, ‘What do clients really need?”
Building a loyal customer base doesn’t happen overnight. But companies would do well to consider the strategies these successful brands have used to create deep and enduring relationships with their customers. As The HydraFacial Company’s Carnell told the Glimpse 2019 audience, “hearing from some of the brightest minds in consumer behavior talk about what’s working in their businesses can hopefully help stimulate your thinking about what you can use today and in the future for yours.”
For HydraFacial, the focus is on the aesthetician and the consumer, connecting them along all points of the skin health journey. From their recently launched Skin Health Assessment to the incredibly popular World Tour, HydraFacial strives to provide meaningful experiences for both of their audiences. As HydraFacial heads into 2020, you can expect the innovations to continue, including even more immersive experiences as well as an entirely new treatment category that expands skin health beyond the face. Visit hydrafacial.com to see what they develop next.
This article was created for and commissioned by The HydraFacial Company. To learn more about HydraFacial’s personalized skin health regimens, visit Assessment.HydraFacial.com.