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4 ways empathy will drive the digital shopper journey

by Claudia Mennen

To intensify the shopper experience, retailers globally have rapidly adopted new technologies over the last few years. Digital is now globally recognised as a competitive necessity, rather than a “nice to have”. But once shopper journeys are digitalised, all empathy disappears. Ask yourself this: Have you put yourself in the shoes of your shoppers during the design process of your digital shopper journey? 

It’s time to eliminate the guesswork and satisfy your shoppers’ real needs through empathy.


1. From functional to emotional
Aljan de Boer, Head of Inspiration at TrendsActive, recently shared in one of our Studio sessions that 10% of a person’s happiness is based on life conditions whilst 50% is genetic. More interesting is that 40% of our happiness results from the activities we engage in. Companies can become part of that 40% by building customer-first experiences. 

When introducing new technologies in-store or online, the process often starts with functionality instead of shopper experience, fulfilling the basic needs of a self-service device, an application or website. Based on research, Harvard Business Review identified a pyramid including all elements of value. This research shows that brick-and-mortar stores are twice as likely as online-only retailers to score high on attractiveness, affiliation and belonging. Also, welcoming emotion into the digital shopper journey has proven to have a stronger payoff for loyalty and sustained revenue growth. 

2. Engage throughout the entire shopper journey
Our colleagues at IceMobile constantly challenge the status quo when it comes to user experience throughout the customer journey. While many businesses might see online and offline as two different worlds, we believe that digital experiences should be no different from those in-store. For example, physical retail stores might be neat, whilst entering a retailer’s website overloads you with confusing pop-ups and messages such as cookie consent requests, product recalls, closed order slots, to name a few. 

Yet the entrance is only a minor part of the whole shopper journey. Nowadays, communication touchpoints are multi-channel, multi-medium and always-on. As a result, more touchpoints lead to more complexity. It’s time to take a holistic approach and focus on managing the entire shopper journey instead of individual touchpoints. This is especially true when designing loyalty campaigns. Depending on the retail landscape, local shopper needs and loyalty mechanics, BrandLoyalty weaves the shopper journey with the campaign journey to make sure shoppers are aware, excited, inspired and ready to participate. 

It's amazing to see the excitement at a retailer throughout such a 360-degrees campaign. An A-Z integration ensures shopper involvement from beginning to end. A great example is our Be More Super campaign at United Supermarkets in the United States that inspires shoppers with all the favourite Marvel characters throughout the shopper journey, with gamification elements and incredible in-store experiences translated into the custom-made app. At Carrefour in Brazil, shoppers are offered a unique experience too. We’re currently running a short-term campaign within its already existing long-term campaign. Instead of collecting the traditional stamps to redeem against rewards, shoppers are rewarded for their loyalty through coins in Carrefour's app. 

Empathy and experience will lead the way in the next retail revolution. Claudia Mennen, CEO BrandLoyalty

3. Bringing emotion to measurement through predictive analytics
One thing is certain; people are just not doing what they say they do. The number one reason: they are driven by unconscious urges, and the biggest is emotion. Using predictive analytics allows retailers to pinpoint ideal shopper experiences as they happen, so retailers can optimise the shopper journey and meet shoppers where they are. 

However, identifying shopper’s individual needs is still the exception rather than the rule. Combining operational, shopper and competitive research data may be challenging, but the reward is worth it. For example, imagine a Loyalty Coach integrated into your self-scan application or device, that navigates your shoppers throughout your store and reminds them about their progress and additional stamps with supplier-collaborated products. Making an emotional connection with your shoppers will pay off – but don’t be too pushy and build the connection slowly! Shoppers don’t like overpromotion; they want retailers to care genuinely.

4. The potential of supplier involvement 
During a loyalty campaign, retailers can involve suppliers and take them along with the campaign’s success. For specific weeks, shoppers get additional stamps with these supplier-collaborated products. It’s a method that has proven to make more impact than regular price discounts. So, next to improving the offer significantly, it also helps suppliers to build brand awareness by giving an extra something to the shopper. A win-win-win!

Also, in this stage of the shopper journey, many opportunities could arise. For example, ‘scanvertising’ on self-service devices. Add gamification elements once shoppers purchase a product or implement geo-location into self-service devices to guide shoppers to their favourite or supplier-collaborated products. We've been very successful recently, for example, at Mexico’s biggest chain of convenience stores, OXXO or Magnit, one of Russia’s leading food retailers. We’ve developed a Super App that is always-on, connecting all touchpoints of the shopper journey. From promotions to loyalty and payment, the app increases interaction and strengthens the emotional connection between shopper and retailer.

Empathy and experience will lead the way in the next retail revolution. Empathy is a crucial attribute if you wish to create a lasting and positive impact amongst your shoppers. Without empathy, you won’t be able to see what they are seeing and understand their experience the same way they do. 

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