How to Get Customers to Fall in Love With Your Brand

Fondness for a store is built on trust, empathy and an element of surprise.
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An 'appealing distinctiveness' goes a long way when building a following of customers for your small business. (Photo: Mix and Match Studio/Shutterstock)

With Valentine’s Day approaching, romance is on everyone’s minds. But romance isn’t just celebrated between lovers — your store can also cultivate true love from customers.

“People’s love for stores and brands rarely exceeds in emotional strength their love for family and friends. But a deep affection on the part of consumers for the beneficiaries of their consumer dollars can become an influential motivator,” said Bruce Sanders, consumer psychologist and author of “Retailer’s Edge: Boost Profits Using Shopper Psychology.”

Customers do fall in love with stores and brands. But how do you get them to fall in love with yours? Here are some psychologist-approved strategies on wooing your customer with brand promises, special treats and distinctive retail experiences.

Keep your promises

Every romantic relationship is built on a foundation of trust. Customers love brands that build trust by keeping their promises, said Sanders.

“Loyalty to a store and a product brand develop from the hard reality of promises kept,” he said.

To figure out the right promises to make to customers, think about what your store does best. Does it carry a very wide variety of a particular type of item? Does it guarantee on-time deliveries? Does it offer the lowest prices in town?

“Those values become the basis for the most precious promises you can make customers,” said Sanders.

Once you set your promises, avoid trying to exceed them.

“Each time you exceed expectations, it nudges the expectations up for the next time the customer visits. At some point, it’s no longer profitable — or maybe even possible — to keep raising the bar for yourself,” said Sanders.

Sticking to your values is enough to win customers over.

Related: How to Turn Customers Into Loyal Brand Ambassadors

Show genuine care

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Build meaningful relationships with customers by showing empathy and support. (Photo: Kinga/Shutterstock)

Demonstrating empathy and care will build deep connections between your store and customers’ emotional sides, which help foster a genuine fondness for your brand, said Sanders. It adds an element of humanity to an otherwise transactional relationship.

“When the shopper is happy, reflect the happiness. When the shopper seems sad or angry, show concern.”

Self-improvement book author Dale Carnegie made a compelling point when he said, “Remember that a person’s name is the sweetest sound in any language.” Greeting customers by name whenever possible will show shoppers you care about them on a personal level, said Sanders.

“We each love to hear others say our name as long as it’s said to support us,” he said.

Related: The Friend Zone: Boosting Sales by Focusing on Relationships

Present an appealing distinctiveness

Think about a time when you fell in love with someone. Was it because that person was the same as 10 others you knew? Probably not. Your heart was drawn to a unique part of the person’s character that you hadn’t seen in anyone else.

If you want shoppers to fall in love with your store, present an appealing distinctiveness that they’ll adore, said Sanders.

“When your store has an appealing distinctiveness, customers will think long and hard about starting to shop somewhere else instead of at your place.”

Appealing distinctiveness goes back to your brand promises and delivering something different from your competitors.

“You have to figure out why customers are coming to you, then use that to make your store distinctive,” he said. “There has to be genuine substance behind it.”

Carrying a carefully curated selection of products from hard-to-find brands might be a defining characteristic of your store, and the main reason people love it. Or, the fact that you’re always willing to hunt down rare products as special orders for shoppers could be the way you stand out. Whatever it is, commit to it and promote it.

“Distinctiveness comes with finding out what is of greatest value to the individuals coming into your store. Share it in your interactions with customers and your benefit statements,” said Sanders.

Offer special treats

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Give special treats to customers — such as goody bags and product samples — to show them you care. (Photo: shepele4ek2304/Shutterstock)

Giving someone you love special treats will get them to swoon. Customers feel the same way about stores that offer little surprises, said Sanders.

“Special treats go along with love. Offering indulgent services and comfort products communicate professional love for customers,” he said.

When a customer makes a big purchase, you can reward them by pulling a special product off the shelf and placing it in their shopping bag, free of charge, said Sanders.

But you don’t have to give everything away to reap the rewards of special treats — having merchandise that makes a shopper’s life more comfortable or interesting can spark feelings of love, even if the products are for sale, said Sanders.

“It’s that bit of something extra that goes along with the more utilitarian parts of a relationship. Introducing indulgences, like bubble bath or something else that complements your brand, shows that you’re thinking of the customer.”

Related: Customer Service: To Make it Memorable, Make it Surprising

Prevent embarrassment

Occasionally, we all have to shop for products that might embarrass us. If you can minimize the discomfort of this experience, shoppers will find your store more endearing, said Sanders.

“An essential component of lasting love is tenderness, shown in such actions as helping customers escape embarrassment.”

Many customers are embarrassed to buy romance novels, for example, but they might be eager to shop for them this time of year. Place them, and other potentially embarrassing purchases, on a shelf with limited exposure or in small alcoves (rather than aisle end-caps), said Sanders. It’s not about hiding the merchandise, but giving customers an opportunity to browse without blushing.

When it’s time to collect payment, avoid ringing up embarrassing purchases first or last, as that will give them unwanted attention, Sanders added.

Related: How to Create a Culture of Kindness in Your Small Business

Encourage store nicknames

You know how you give pet names to the people you love? Customers do the same thing when they have a fondness for a store.

“Some people refer to McDonald’s as Mickey D’s. During the year 2011, it was not unusual to hear Target Stores called ‘tar-zhay,’ as if with a French accent, inspired by the retailer’s aspirational claim that year to a high fashion reputation. And in my hometown, many people refer to the locally-owned cafe Pure Grain Bakery as ‘PG,’” said Sanders.

Nicknames come about naturally, and there’s no smooth way to get customers to give one to your store. However, you can listen to how people refer to your store and subtly promote names that might stick, said Sanders.

“If you hear shoppers using a nickname, then get the salespeople to start using it. You can encourage use of the name by repeating it back to customers. When people say it, comment on it and let them know you think it’s great.”

Related: How Using Humor Can Boost Sales in Your Store

Just like a loving romantic relationship, fondness for a store is built on trust, empathy and an element of surprise. Court your customers like you would a suitor and you’ll sweep them off their feet.

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