Using Authenticity to Attract Brand Ambassadors

June 2015

Last month, we had the pleasure of attending and sponsoring the annual Imperial Capital Consumer Summit.  A key theme discussed throughout the event was the need for retailers to evolve in response to consumer behavior. Ultimately, staying competitive in today’s environment requires that players more effectively engage with and form long-lasting and powerful connections with their customers. Between technological shifts such as mobile and in-store analytics, and demographic influences, including millennial shopping behaviors, retailers face new challenges and opportunities when it comes to fostering engagement with consumers.

For brands to capture consumers’ attention, it is now all about demonstrating authenticity within a certain affinity group, activity or lifestyle, as modern-day shoppers crave authentic, memorable and customized shopping experiences. Rather than focusing on attracting customers with discounts and promotions, it’s important for retailers to also invest the time to thoroughly understand target consumers’ interests and values. To build these intimate experiences, brands should consider emphasizing local culture or community interests.

The New York Times reports that several studies have proven the impact that authenticity – real or perceived – can have on the bottom line.  For instance, outdoor clothing store Patagonia has embraced an “environmental ethos,” appealing to customers that also value sustainability. In a recent campaign, the retailer urged consumers to repair clothing instead of purchasing new, and it engaged with advocates and customers alike to support the sustainability movement. Throughout the year, sales reportedly increased almost one-third to $543 million.

Through showcasing their authenticity and demonstrating a clear understanding of their shoppers, brands are also able to cultivate unpaid brand ambassadors who can move more shoppers toward the retailer.

The unpaid brand ambassador is the customer who has a memorable shopping experience, and proceeds to share the experience (and sometimes the purchase) with their social circles, whether in-person or online. Millennials, in particular, are known for seeking validation and feedback from their friends and social networks. According to a report from ShareThis, nearly 70 percent of millennials say they are likely to make a purchase based on their friends’ social media posts.

When retailers create these genuine experiences for shoppers they are better positioned for the short and long term. They are able to not only foster an immediate sale, but also convert what is hopefully an unpaid brand ambassador for life.