It’s fair to say that customers have never been so demanding and expectations continue to rise rapidly. In the past few years alone we’ve seen personalisation, targeted ads and a seamless multi-channel experience become “must-haves” rather than “nice-to-haves”, and the level of personalised attention consumers expect from brands is staggering.
Brand owners need to ensure they live up to these expectations, but this is easier said than done. One way to go above and beyond and prove to customers that they really are valued is to continue the service – and conversation – after the purchase. Yet the type of after-care expected, and required, differs depending on the retailer.
For a cornershop customer, good service will involve being open at the most convenient times, and implementing relevant promotions, whereas for a high street shopper, service after sale is about easy returns policies, and feedback opportunities.
For a luxury retailer, such as Louis Vuitton, the aftercare will focus on providing attention and care to the customer post-purchase – building a connection with the customer over time and demonstrating to the customer that they are not only valued at the point of sale.
The luxury sector is arguably leading the way when it comes to meeting these rising consumer expectations. Luxury brands have had to prove their value to customers far more extensively than other brands by providing top-notch service that complements the product.
In an effort to differentiate by enriching the brand experience, luxury brands are extending the focus of the brand-customer relationship beyond pre-purchase encounters and shopping experiences to come after the sale.
But the concept of luxury is changing as luxury brands seek to make themselves more accessible, and worldwide volumes are increasing. As a result, “true” luxury brands are turning back to ideals of discernment – creating desire with distance and targeting “the chosen few” in an effort to set themselves apart from “masstige” brand connotations.
Most often, execution of these messages has been through retail. Stores have become ultra-sensory “temples” of luxury, where brands showcase products and materials. The provision of excellent, personal service leaves a lasting impression and it’s this that forms the foundations of the customer’s relationship with the brand.
Checking customer satisfaction with the product and the experience, communicating brand news in a relevant and personal way and working sensitively and efficiently to solve any queries or issues, are all vital tools brands can deploy post-sale to achieve a loyal customer relationship. Pre-sale, purchase and aftercare are the new holy trinity of the (luxury) retail experience, and it’s brands that activate this that are the ones seeing the results.
The old adage that it costs less to retain an existing customer than it does to attract a new one holds true, and in an age where customers expect so much and have a huge choice of providers to select from, brands need to work increasingly hard to retain their fickle customers. Continuing the pre-sale and purchase experience beyond this is an obvious stepping stone in gaining loyalty, and therefore returns, from customers.
Helen McCall is an account director at engagement agency Tangent Snowball