With the rise of social media, "humanizing business” has been a buzz phrase that represents the ultimate consumer company goal of creating a sustainable relationship that endures beyond a single transaction.
Companies that build authentic relationships with their customers are not only rapidly gaining market share, they’re gobbling up mind and heart share by putting buyers in control and enabling them to make better, more appropriate choices.
Many early-stage consumer companies focus on product and lead with functionality. While this is undeniably important, the brands investing in building relationships with consumers that are finding more success in the long- and short-term.
Brand loyalty is the foundation of every successful consumer business. Large players are actively acquiring early-stage brands that have figured this out. Consumer startups can learn a lot from them.
Empowerment. With the advent of the Internet, consumers have gone from making choices from a limited pool of big brands to the era of endless alternatives and abundant information. No longer limited by what is available on local store shelves, consumers are more selective about want they want and how they want it.
Finding companies like Madecasse or Bhakti Chai that keep trade fair and help the communities from which they source ingredients is now easier than ever. Brand honesty and transparency empower the consumer to take control of their buying decisions unlike ever before.
When brands make it easy to acquire information about their products, it tells consumers they have nothing to hide while sending the message that they care about the needs and wants of their customers.
Trust. Truly caring about the consumer is an important component in building and sustaining an authentic brand-consumer relationship.
Michelle Higdon, principal and CEO of Solid Gold Pet explains, "Trusting your pet food brand is important to today’s pet parent. To earn their trust, you need to be completely transparent every step of the way from sourcing ingredients to quality control standards.”
When buyers make purchases, they want to know their decisions are good for their family and align with personal or charitable interests. Trust can’t be bought. It must be earned. Consumers want to understand exactly what they are buying, and rightly deserve the knowledge they seek.
Loyalty. Brand loyalty can be extremely difficult to earn when most products have been commoditized by the Internet. Companies that inspire advocacy amongst consumers have established a shared and genuine emotional connection with their customers.
Buyers are yearning for a connection and the companies doing things right empower people at every turn. Whole Foods not only sources local products, allowing a consumer to invest directly in their own community, they also have a timeline for full labeling transparency which will enable their customers to make more informed decisions about what they purchase.
Despite clear evidence that consumers want a stronger, more transparent relationship with the brands they support, the trend toward consumer empowerment is a very small ripple in an extremely large pond. Proactive consumer education, accessibility to product information and brand openness are still rare in the consumer world.
While there is a growing number of companies, particularly in the natural and organic space, that have made names for themselves based on openness and honesty, the recent POM vs. Coca-Cola Supreme Court decision suggests we still have a very long way to go.
When greater honesty equals greater success, it shouldn’t be something to fear or avoid. Consumers and buying trends are speaking volumes about what people want. Help your customer become the hero of their household. Empower them to make better choices. They will thank you for it.