One thing that should be no surprise to many fair trade retailers, is that the retail marketplace is becoming increasingly more challenging.
Much has been written and speculated on the topic, but one truth remains constant: It is essential to build an emotional connection and meaningful relationship with your customers. A 2016 Harvard Business Review article titled “An Emotional Connection Matters More than Customer Satisfaction” found that on a lifetime value basis, emotionally connected customers are more than twice as valuable as highly satisfied customers. It suggests that customers that do not receive good customer service are much more likely to remain loyal to a retail outlet that they have an emotional connection with.
Fair trade retailers obviously have a huge advantage; the relation each product has with the artisans, producers, farmers that created it as well as their stories pave the way for this connection to occur. Also, fair trade retailing is (in my opinion) much more than just selling products. It is an emotional exchange of values. In that context, it is much more important to express your values with customers, rather than selling techniques. It reminds me of the below quote by Ron Willingham:
There are many other ways to consider how to leverage this exchange of values, and create long-term, emotional connections with your customers. Here are a few suggestions as we start 2017:
Make the customer a priority. Give long-term customer relationships priority over short-term sales. Don’t have what they need? Direct them to someone else who does. They’ll remember the gesture in the future, and feel special. Emotional connection achieved!
Interact, and listen. Try to find out what they need, and what they might not know they needed! Ask genuine, non-scripted open-ended questions. And again, be honest if you do not have what they are looking for. If you do this, your customers will feel cared for. Emotional connection achieved! Of course, there’s always chocolate.
Develop your store’s personality. Do you play loud music, laugh, and play with your customer’s kids? Do you provide fair trade style-makeovers? Do you encourage dog walkers to pop by, and provide water bowls and treats? If so, your customers will feel happy. Emotional connection achieved! In addition, whatever you store’s personality is, own it and incorporate it into you marketing and messaging.
Use your store’s brand—not product categories—to determine your business strategy. Ground your brand identity in emotional values. There are many ways to connect your customers to your store without a focus on product. Music, book clubs, events, etc. are all ways to achieve this. But there are so many more.
Fair trade retailers . . . how do you create emotional connections with you customers? FTF members share your ideas with other members here.
Chris Solt (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the Fair Trade Federation’s Director of Member Education and Events, responsible for research, development, and implementation of comprehensive educational programs to help fair trade businesses grow.