By Cindy Hanauer
If there’s one thing we’ve learned about the modern customer, it’s that their expectation of personalization is at its highest point ever.
Historically, pre-scan data and pre-social media, the only way to a customer’s heart was offering weekly deep discounts through a front-page, low-priced loss leader.
Today, we’re in the age of the empowered customer, who expects that companies use their personal purchasing data to create better products and provide a better shopping experience customized especially for them! The science of consumerism continues to change dramatically, and the top echelon of retailers can’t get there fast enough!
So, what is personalization? To some, personalization may bear to mind the act of adding an enclosure card to a bouquet. But that’s not the meaning of today’s version of personalization. Today’s act of personalization is listening to the consumer first – and then acting in parallel with their needs.
How many shopping websites have we perused lately, only to notice a digital tickertape at the bottom of the screen suggesting “other” products we may be interested in? Amazon is a trailblazer in personalization – recommending other books and products to a customer that s/he may be interested in based on their purchase history. Netflix is another company who is top-notch at understanding their customers’ movie preferences and recommending other movies that they will likely love, as well.
So why should we begin a well-charted course toward personalization in the retail floral industry?
- It’s Modern Consumerism: Today’s customers are far less worried about saving a dollar in an ad than they are about knowing their local retailer intimately understands their wants and needs.
- It Brings Back Repeat Customers: Almost half of all consumers report that they would return to a retailer if they felt that the retailer understood both their visible and their latent needs. No doubt – a repeat purchase is the “Holy Grail” in our business, and in today’s world, we can’t afford to merchandise to a “cattle call” instead of fulfilling customer-specific desires.
- It Drives Additional Revenue: Almost half of all customers report that they spend more on the single item they intended to purchase OR they purchased an additional item if they feel “personalized” when they shop.
- Personalization Drives Impulse Purchases: Almost half of all customers report that they’ve purchased an item “that wasn’t on their list”, simply because of a personalized suggestion.
It’s easy to see that the top four benefits of personalization are specifically what we want most in our industry: attracting millennials, driving additional revenue, creating impulse purchasing and inspiring customers to come back to us for repeat purchasing.
So how do we achieve personalization in our business?
I’ll start with a question:
Have you ever called a company and you’re immediately put on hold. Then right away, a voice assures you that “Your call is important to us”. Five minutes pass – and the voice comes on again telling you how “important” your call is. Ten minutes pass – and the voice comes on again to tell you how “important your call is to us”. Fifteen minutes pass – you know the drill.
How does that make you feel? Does that make you feel important?
Personalized “words” without personalized “action” is worse than no action at all. The old way of customer satisfaction was tossing the “discount ball” into the yard and hoping someone grabs it, brings it into the store and drops it into your lap. The new cornerstones of customer satisfaction are at the forefront of the process: understanding preferences first…then suggesting products, receiving feedback, and acting upon it.
How does “personalization” translate in the floral business?
- Associate Training
Train store associates that there’s a difference between passive service and personal service. Teach employees to introduce themselves in a personal way instead of the over-used greeting, “Can I help you?”. Teach them to recognize repeat customers – welcome them back – address them by name.
- In-Store Events
Utilize in-store educational events to register customer names and request their email address to follow up on future promotions, design tips, holiday reminders, and more! In this case, customers who attend in-store floral educational events are your premier consumers and have a desire to interact more deeply than purchasing a simple cash-n-carry bouquet.
- Delivery Service
Do you have a delivery service? That’s a perfect way to personalize customer engagement by understanding the occasions that each customer celebrates and knowing when to offer future products and additional services to them such as a customer subscription service. What about “bounce-back communications” for those who receive a floral delivery? Were they satisfied? Are there any follow-up products that would be complementary?
- Website Statistics
Almost every business has a website these days, but is it being fully used? Within seconds, a report can be generated to illustrate how customers are navigating on the website – what items are getting “clicked” the most? What copy is getting read the most – what items are NOT being clicked? From this simple data, offers can be tailored in a more focused manner. And by creating a partnership with your marketing department, a program of even finer products and content customization can be created in the future.
- Search Fields
Did you know that search results can be exported from most websites? What are the top products and/or pieces of information your customers are searching for once they log onto your website? Are those products offered when they look for them? Is the content available when they search for it? Search data is a great way to learn what your customers are trying to find, and it presents us with the opportunity to offer more personalized information, accordingly.
- Social Media
Today, almost every retailer has developed a robust set of social media accounts. Social media is meant to create a 2-way dialogue…not a one-way dialogue. With a quick search at the top of your company’s social media sites, you can immediately understand your customers’ reactions, wants, and needs from noting the following:
- Pictures/Selfies posted.
- Comments (positive and negative).
The most important way to offer personalized customer service is to simply respond to questions and comments on social media, regardless of whether they’re positive or negative. We all love it when Mom tells us that we’re the brightest and most beautiful! But what about those negative comments about our business that come to us from “strangers” online? They cannot be ignored! Remember….no response is a response. No response means “I don’t care about you” and “I don’t want to have a personal relationship with you”.
Learning how to create a personal relationship with your customer is paramount, and it paves the way for modern success. One size no longer fits all, and not understanding the wants and needs of each specific customer is the best and quickest way to drive them to the competition.