The “Relational Economy” is Here: Why Emotional Customer Connections are the Foundation

Given all the disruptions that have occurred in retail shopping, humanizing the shopping experience for your customers and building face-to-face relationships is an important bounce-back tool. Learn why.
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The global retail market still faces a great deal of uncertainty as it slowly rebounds from the pandemic, but that’s not to say improvements haven’t been made to the way we shop. Innovations such as curbside pick-up and same-day delivery have fast become customer favorites - which suggests that a willingness to work with customers, rather than pricing alone, is what will help dictate success in the post-pandemic economy.

According to a recent Deloitte report, 80% of consumer retail decisions are based on emotions. This isn’t earth-shattering news. Connecting with people emotionally, especially in challenging times, has always been a method merchants have used to garner sales. Brands know that returning, loyal, customers are the best customers of all. 

However, in light of the pandemic, forging an emotional connection with customers has never been more valuable. Why? Myriad hurdles such as manufacturing shortages continue to plague the supply chain. Masks and social distance protocols continue to inhibit in-store visits and a labor shortage has impacted the stores that are up and running. Empathy is one of the only sales tools that has survived the pandemic, and it’s something we could all use right now. Which is why appealing to our customers at an emotional level - and forging relationships with them - is more important than ever.

While it’s true artificial intelligence and the automation of repetitive customer service functions have made new online features such as chatbots and virtual assistants viable, these widgets are terrific when it comes to handling the common, easy-to-rectify issues most customers experience. Their track record for initiating and closing sales is a little less impressive. Chatbots are great script readers, but they haven’t yet developed the relational skills necessary to build trust.

That’s why we’re seeing a rise in “live commerce.” This is a shopping experience in which the product knowledge and friendliness of the traditional sales associate meets the convenience of online shopping. GetBEE, which empowers brands to provide e-commerce site visitors with live, social, shopping concierge services, finds brands leveraging the emotional and personal capabilities online are actually seeing an impressive 25% conversion rate – a rate that rivals in-store sales and which is a drastic improvement over the 1-2% conversion rates typically seen in e-commerce. We see it as the dawn of the “relational economy,” and anticipate it will be highly prized moving into the post-pandemic marketplace. 

What we have discovered, interestingly enough, is that even in our Shopified world, consumers still crave the counsel of a talented sales associate and expertise.  It’s been a missing ingredient to the online shopping experience up until now. Thanks to expanded bandwidth, it’s possible to initiate live video consultations to a customer’s mobile device and guide them through product features while at the same time instilling trust and confidence in them that they’re making the right buying decisions.

Online sales associates are forging emotional connections with online shoppers, converting prospects to sales and even initiating strong upsell traffic. More than strictly product or pricing, it is one-on-one engagement that many customers value in their shopping experience. Technology is also changing the role of the traditional sales assistant.  Live commerce shopping hosts maintain their own online profiles, detailing their areas of product expertise. Consumers can actually “follow” the associates who have provided them with the best shopping advice - and recommend their special “personal shopper” to their friends – adding a whole social layer to the connection.

Given all the disruptions that have occurred in retail shopping, humanizing the shopping experience for your customers and building face-to-face relationships is an important bounce-back tool. It introduces a genuine personal touch to the digital shopping world. 

Comfort and emotions are a major part of sales success, eclipsing previous mainstays such as pricing and traditional brand loyalty.  Ironically, retail associates have always been fearful that technology would replace them. The reality is, technology has helped shape a new identity and assigning these sales associates new worth, in a relational economy. And it will be interesting to see how these roles transform further and enhance sales forecasts as live commerce grows in popularity.

-Thea C. Myhrvold, founder and CEO of GetBEE

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Thea C. Myrhvold is a globally recognized founder and CEO of GetBEE, a B2B knowledge-sharing platform designed to improve consumer shopping experiences and transform the future of work. With a track record of accomplishment in technology and innovation for more than 10 years, she is known for strong leadership and communication skills with an innate ability to build and scale technology startups. As a fierce advocate for women and diversity in technology, Myrhvold is a strong believer that technology can be a force for good, for people and the planet.