Do retailers need to work on making more emotional connections?
Two sessions at the 2017 National Retail Federation Big Show explored how developing emotional connections with consumers can help retailers avoid competing as much on price as well as factors such as selection or service.
At one session, Bruce Cohen, senior partner, North American practice director, Kurt Salmon U.S., introduced his firm’s Brand Devotion Index (BDI). Based on multiple studies of more than 7,000 consumers, the index identifies three attributes that reflect consumers’ devotion to a brand:
- Authentic: The brand has to be distinctive with a strong position on what it stands for.
- Personal: Well beyond monogramming or personalizing products, the brand makes the consumer feel like the brand was made just for her or him.
- Tribal: Consumers want to be with other people who feel the same devotion to the brand and what it represents.
According to a related white paper, creating that “extra, palpable bond” can drive a consumer to spend more with a retailer, advocate louder and be less motivated to wait for promotions. Ranking high on the index were Lululemon, Amazon.com, Cabela’s, Peet’s Coffee & Tea and Michael Kors.
At another session, Kevin Kelley, principal at Shook Kelley, similarly lamented that too much of retail is driven by price, variety, convenience, and even service and quality rather than around emotional connections. But his talk particularly focused on the tribal aspect.
While previously looking for status brands, consumers are now looking for group experiences, he asserted. But beyond experiences, it’s equally important to deliver a purpose and meaning. As an example, he pointed to the “shared values” that builds a “group identity” for fans of Harley Davidson, which stands for freedom and revolution.
Other businesses benefiting from forming communal bonds include Whole Foods; SoulCycle, the indoor cycling studio; WeWork, the shared-office startup; as well as shopping centers such as The Grove in Los Angeles and Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica.
“Humans are not only experience-seeking, they are meaning-seeking,” said Mr. Kelley. “And so retail has to move to become more participatory, rather than simply transactional.”
- Brand Devotion Index – Three Characteristics of the Most Loved Brands – National Retail Federation
- How to Be One of the World’s Most-Loved Brands – Kurt Salmon
- The Secret to Turning Stores Into Gathering Places: The Bonfire Effect – National Retail Federation
- The importance of creating meaning, as well as experiences – GDR Creative Intelligence
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you think that delivering intangibles such as “meaning” and “authenticity” are practical goals for retailers? What traits do you see emotionally-connected brands sharing?