Consumers Seek Brands with Authenticity, Aligned Values

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Is your brand selling or serving? It’s a simple question that can trip up even the savviest digital marketers.

While research shows that consumers do want personalized offers and deals, Hero Digital Senior Vice President of Strategy Kerri Drozd says consumers in 2022 also want brands to authentically care — to align with their values, help them with decisions, and make them feel understood.

Focusing on selling to customers, rather than serving them holistically, is a trap that many multi-location brands have fallen into while they struggle to find the right balance between promotionally-driven and content-driven engagement.

“At the core of every business is a meaningful purpose — solving a problem or making life better in some way. Too often, brands get trapped in an inside-out and product-centric mindset,” Drozd says. “To truly be customer-centric requires not starting from where you are today, but actually starting from where your customers are today — and redefining your interactions from their lens.”

​​Experts believe 95% of purchasing decisions are subconscious. What consumers say they value when making choices is often different than how they feel when recommending a brand, which is why more brands are looking to target the subconscious mind in their marketing efforts.

How are they doing that? They’re focusing on serving customers rather than selling to them.

Drozd recommends that brands looking to utilize this approach take a step back before blueprinting their customer experience. Marketers should try walking in their customers’ shoes so they can understand the pain points, goals, and needs that real people have. They should also define all the places where their companies can add value, which is useful in determining how to measure value on both sides of the equation. 

“Lay out concepts, messages, content, visuals or scenarios with how you would want the experience to feel if you were a customer — but then talk to and test with actual customers before you launch,” Drozd says. “An ounce of insight early on can ensure a great first impression and a positive new product, service, or experience launch to continue building upon.”

Website content, social media pages, and even email images should all be looked at through the lens of helping customers answer questions or accomplish goals. Microsegmenting audiences, and identifying the types of data necessary and useful for connecting to each persona, can also help maximize marketing investments.

In its own customer experience study, Hero Digital found that personalized recommendations consistently ranked low on a list of valued experience attributes. In aggregate, personalized recommendations ranked 45 out of 46 experience attributes. On the flip side, personal service based on interactions with a brand across channels and over time ranked consistently high, along with basics like trust, ease of shopping, product quality, and availability. 

Drozd says tailored content and offers can make shopping easier and improve the perception of quality, but multi-location brands should be leveraging more than just past transactional data to ensure their offers are truly relevant to their customers’ needs and interests. Ideally, brands should find a balance between two filters in assessing their immediate customer experience needs — overwhelming pain points that are driving churn and identifying new opportunities to create value that will differentiate the brand from competition. 

“Brands that excel in the market continually balance fixing the foundation with ‘innovation,’” Drozd says. “Brands that struggle are most focused on what’s broken to be fixed and don’t discern needs and priorities by high value target segments.”

Rising costs across labor and resources are heightening the need for efficiency in 2022, cinching customer wallets and forcing more selective decision making. Drozd says prioritization matters now more than ever — and getting the right data to make decisions confidently is critical for marketing success.

“The heightened and still rising sensitivity around data security and privacy means brands need to be extremely clear about what data they really need to capture,” she says, “[along with] how they will use it and how they will communicate that with their customers.”

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.