- Brands and retailers are looking to building personal connections with their customers to increase loyalty and retention in a difficult economic climate.
- Personalisation is proven to provide a better shopping experience and more relevant product recommendations, which improve those key metrics.
- At a time when increasing scrutiny is being applied to environmental and ethical practices, brands are focusing on building trust with their customers by increasing transparency and value alignment.
- Evidence is emerging to indicate that AI-led chatbots (built on ChatGPT, the multi-modal GPT-4, or other models) are becoming a key tool for personalising interactions and gaining insights into customer behaviour, preferences, and needs.
- Vast scale and real-time connectivity between brands and their audiences is still well-served through social media, omni-channel shopping, and community-building – all of which can be catalysed through greater technology adoption.
Customers are demanding a more personal connection with the brands they engage with, for a variety of reasons: from authentic interactions in today’s fast-paced world, to the need to feel like they’re being understood and valued. With the rise of social media, customers now have a direct line of communication with countless brands every day, and they expect them to be responsive.
But building a personal relationship with your customers is about more than just responding to the occasional DM. Research has shown that customers are more likely to be loyal if they feel they have a connection with a business, so it pays for brands to focus on developing those long-term relationships as soon as possible.
Why personalisation is necessary
Personalisation can offer several benefits for customers where fashion brands are concerned, including an improved shopping experience, increased customer loyalty, and more relevant product recommendations. Personalisation can help build stronger relationships between customers and fashion brands via tailored product recommendations and marketing messages to the individual preferences and behaviours of the target audience.
Studies suggest that 66% of customers expect companies to understand their needs and expectations, and 71% expect offers to always be personalised. With the rise in online interactions, expedited by the pandemic, businesses have had to raise the bar when it comes to personalising offers, content, and product suggestions. So much so that customers now expect it as standard, and companies that fail to deliver find themselves losing out.
Building a relationship with new customers, and nurturing existing ones, isn’t easy. But it offers benefits for both parties. It improves customer retention and loyalty for brands, because people like to buy from businesses they know and trust, and encourages word of mouth recommendations to friends and family, with 92% of consumers prepared to buy from a brand if they’ve been referred by a friend.
What defines a connection between customers and brands?
Connection is about more than just metrics and page views. It’s about loyalty, customer sentiment, and an attachment to a particular brand over a competitor. Trust plays a big part, and customers want to feel that they can depend on the brands they buy from, especially where fashion is concerned because it’s so integral to our sense of identity and expression.
Brands serve as a connection to wider communities and networks, and they bring people together. For example, finding a brand which aligns with your own unique set of morals and ethics around the environment can encourage you to buy from one sustainable business over another, and that ties you to other customers with the same values.
Customers want to buy clothes from brands they connect with because there’s such a strong relationship between personal identity and aesthetic, and the brands we buy from. People want to buy into a brand, not just buy from them, and personal connection is critical to helping customers find those brands that they relate to and want to support.
How fashion brands use tech to build personal connections
Chatbots encourage personal connection in various ways. They provide 24/7 availability to assist customers which means that people can connect with a brand at any time, regardless of time zones and business hours.
But they’re also a more convenient form of communication — queries can be replied to quickly without the customer needing to wait around for a member of staff to become available. It’s instant gratification for those who need a quick answer or a solution to their problem, which in turn builds a more positive relationship with the brand.
With AI-led chatbots, you can personalise interactions based on their past purchases, preferences and browsing behaviour. It enables customers to feel valued and understood, which fosters a stronger connection. In 2017, 44% of UK fashion retailers were at risk of bankruptcy because they were failing to adapt to the need for personalised experiences. But AI chatbots elevate the customer experience, providing the same level of personalised service that an in-store employee can, with recommendations based on products they have searched for or bought in the past.
The launch of the highly-anticipated GPT-4 has the potential to significantly impact customer development by providing businesses with valuable insights into customer behaviour, preferences and needs. With its advanced natural language processing capabilities, GPT-4 can be used to analyse customer data and identify patterns in customer behaviour, engage with customers and provide personalised recommendations and support.
Businesses could use it to generate content that resonates with customers, gather customer feedback and insights to inform product development, and map out the customer journey to identify areas where businesses could improve their customer experience. By leveraging the power of GPT-4, businesses could gain a deeper understanding of their customers and develop more effective strategies to meet their needs and preferences, ultimately driving growth and success.
Social media engagement
Building those personal connections with customers requires constant management, and in today’s digital world, social media is the place to do that. Brands often establish huge communities but then can’t sustain them, which leads to negative effects on engagement and loyalty.
Fashion is such a visual industry, so it plays right into the strengths of social media channels, and is the perfect way to elevate your brand presence online and build an audience. In fact, a study by UK Statista found that over 25% of industry professionals believe social media is the most effective digital marketing channel. From influencer marketing to direct shopping through channels like Instagram, or user generated content, social media is a fantastic way for brands to build connections and increase brand engagement.
Authentically sharing values
Authenticity is vital when building connections with customers. Consumers are savvy and they can see through a disingenuous attempt to draw them in, so your brand’s values need to be aligned with your audience. Surface values and the occasional post won’t cut it. Customers want to see that your values and ethics run through the entire brand and that your business is relentless in its approach to raise awareness.
Ethical fashion company Everlane is a prime example of this. While they preach about radical transparency and environmental awareness, there are gaps in the information they supply to customers and their traceability is lacking, which leads to concerns for educated consumers as to their authenticity. Customers want to be confident that a brand is acting on their claims and providing evidence of the steps they’re taking. Without this transparency, audiences feel like they’re being sold a lie.
When it comes to brand engagement, we can see that building those personal connections with each customer is imperative. Consumers want to know precisely who they’re shopping with and whether those brands align with their ethics, so businesses need to be clear, transparent and authentic in how they approach their target audiences and take steps to build relationships which are built to last.