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Secret Weapon of Greater Customer Relationships: Information

March 27, 2017

Smart brands use artificial intelligence and the latest technology tools to help craft enduring relationships. But the core tenets remain unchanged: trust, value and compassion.

By Melissa Gonzalez, Founder The Lion’Esque Group

The foundation of all enduring relationships, whether a new or longtime one, is built on the same core tenets: trust, value and compassion. Thanks to technology, brands are positioning themselves to have a more intelligent read on consumers’ needs and wants, sometimes before customers even realize the desires exist. Tools alone aren’t enough to develop these core tenets; but brands can use artificial intelligence to change the game.

Trust: Step one in building the foundation

Every relationship is a give-and-take, and that exchange begins with trust. Brands can use technology to learn a plethora of information from customers (via Wi-Fi, beacons, sensors, cameras and more). But in order for brands to gain the most valuable insights, customers need to not only opt-in but also embrace and value the interactions.

Because of increased skepticism about security, one of the first things a brand must instill are privacy policies as part of their core values, ensuring the integrity of keeping data safe. Some of the biggest names in the world, such as Apple, Facebook and Google, go to extreme lengths, even battling governments to uphold their customer promise that individual information will not be compromised. Through their brand ethos, the foundation of trust begins at interaction zero. Also known as the Zero Moment of Trust (ZMOT), as coined by Google, this stage is critical in understanding the mindset of customers. It enables brands to learn what customers are searching for, what their pain points are and, ultimately, to position the brand to answer when it’s most relevant.

As a frame of reference, Google answers more than 100 billion searches a month, according to internal data. Think about that amount of intelligence and how many people trust using Google. Amazon tailors recommendations based on customers’ search and purchase history; its analysis became so powerful it patented “anticipatory shipping” in 2014 based on its intel and capabilities.

Value: The experience enhancements

Saying hello is only the first step in establishing a trusted relationship. People don’t want to feel like they are being sold to, even though they are. They want to feel surprised and delighted.

To create value, brands must continue to build and retain trust as well as provide unique experiences throughout the customer’s journey and across the entire ecosystem from mobile to desktop to in-store. The best result is for a customer to feel like you are delivering a gift, even though he paid for it. Thus, a brand must also be sure the communication is relevant to the receiver and, ideally, actionable to encourage continuous communication.

Getting your product into a customer’s hand is step one. Getting him to convert to purchase may feel like a victory, but your romance has only just begun. Brands that excel in customer experience use customer engagement to identify the moments that matter, when they matter and act on them across communication channels. Second Moment of Truth (SMOT), as coined by Procter & Gamble, is defined by the resulting experience that supports your pre-purchase promises and helps build a relationship with your customer. Maintaining your promises (or product/service offerings) will shape how he perceives the brand and future purchase decisions.

Compassion: The unexpected delights

A recent study led by Google Research found that 85 percent of consumers would shop more in-store if they received personalized offers. By building a relationship on trust, increased engagement will develop organically, positioning a brand to be present in the moments that matter: touching base just before a customer needs a replenishment, alerting her of a sale on a product she has been coveting, guiding her to better incorporate a past purchase into her life.

Consumers are actively and publicly communicating more than ever. In return, there is a heightened expectation of trust and personalization, and customers will gravitate to brands that can deliver both. By building trust, a brand can open lines to communication that allow them to build value; and with value, compassion can be established.

Melissa Gonzalez is the founder of The Lion’Esque Group, whose experts in pop-up shops have produced more than 100 retail experiences in New York City, Los Angeles and the Hamptons for brands including COTY/Marc Jacobs and Puma. Contact her through www.lionesquegroup.com.