How To Make Customer Values the Core of Your Retail CX

As markets mature and more products become available, understanding the values motivating customer behavior is essential for brands that want to be distinct and gain competitive advantage.

This article offers four tangible methods for getting to the heart of what matters to your customers and how best to honor what they value.

  1. Embrace lean research

  2. Quit searching for answers in behaviors

  3. Dig deeper to reach customer values

  4. Be proactive about problems in the retail customer journey

Our recent white paper series, Five Strategies for Differentiated CX, explores five main elements of emotive and outstanding customer experience: empathy, personalization, satisfaction, trust and values. Despite general awareness of CX fundamentals, the vast majority of CX plans don’t return financial results. For retail brands, having a thorough appreciation of customers’ values is imperative, especially since most consumers rank a positive experience as more effective than advertising.

1. Embrace lean research

As Peter Drucker once said, people don’t buy products, they buy satisfaction. It, therefore, makes sense to ask your customers what satisfies them most. Research is often the first step to uncovering that and it’s worth noting the effort needn’t be overly elaborate. Nielsen has found that for usability testing, five people are sufficient. What’s important is that customers have a means of fully expressing themselves since multiple-choice questionnaires can miss their true sentiments. 

Regular pulses of lean research in the form of interviews and surveys can provide the ethnographic research required to gain an empathetic understanding of a brand’s customers.

2. Quit searching for answers in behaviors

There’s a psychological principle that states the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. While the concept certainly has merit, as an explanation for customer behavior it falls short because it assumes influencing factors remain constant. But everything is relative, and for brands, the landscape is always changing.

A more accurate predictor of future behavior is customers’ underlying attitudes and motivations. Brands must understand not only what their customers are doing, but why they’re doing it.

It can be tempting to hunt through your abundant data for revelations about customers’ purchasing decisions, but be careful not to let metrics cloud your priorities. Not every issue highlighted by data needs to be solved immediately. Having a grasp on customers’ motivations helps you decide what warrants your focus.

3. Dig deeper to reach customer values

About 95% of our mental processing takes place in our subconscious minds, that busy and intricate space where things are not always what they seem. What people think they want isn’t necessarily what’s actually driving their behavior. When building experiences, it’s worth asking what your customers truly value.

To uncover that, we’ve developed the Value Index, a methodology that helps brands attract and serve audiences by providing an in-depth understanding of their motivations and attitudes, especially those on a subconscious level. The study focuses on three human-centered value sets:

  • Transcendental: What moves people
    • Whether offering a sense of hope and optimism, or inspiring people to be their best selves, brands that meet transcendent values often turn customers into raving fans.
  • Emotional: What people need
    • Emotional values often represent the real reason people buy from brands. After all, people don’t buy products, they buy satisfaction. These deeper, less conscious motivations include values such as reducing anxiety and feeling connection and belonging.
  • Functional: What people want
    • Quality, value for money, and saving time and effort are vital, but they are also fast becoming table stakes. While the majority of brands focus their energies here, functional values aren’t why people buy to begin with.

The Value Index scores are analyzed to identify patterns that can inform strategy and solution design. The Index results may contain a lengthy list of values, but companies shouldn’t feel they need to tick every box. A digital solution that delivers on one or two values exceptionally well can be enough to set the retail brand apart as a market leader.

While working with a leading automotive brand, we built a digital product designed to accommodate the customers’ emotional value of peace of mind. The approach was infused into every aspect of the solution, from the way users interacted with the digital space to how they managed their accounts. 

The key is to find growth opportunities in the research outcomes and then leverage that knowledge to create unique and meaningful customer experiences.

4. Be proactive about problems in the retail customer journey

The most surefire way to transform findings into impactful experiences is by solving potential problems before the customer is even aware they exist. Investigate each point along the customer’s journey and consider how it aligns with their values. Wherever a possible issue could arise, either fix it now or put a solution in place that preempts the customer’s need to raise it themselves. 

Recognizing customers’ growing concerns around the environmental impact of denim, iconic apparel company, Levi’s, put a range of practices in place to combat climate, water, chemical and labor issues. Multiple areas of their website are dedicated to describing their efforts and they use their social platforms to inspire customers to make their jeans last longer or recycle them when the time comes to part ways. 

By taking a more anticipatory stance, consumer companies can find creative ways to impress their customers and encourage them to form a positive overarching impression of the brand.

Acting on customer values requires a shift in thinking, from convincing and selling, to empathizing and helping. Paired with effective digital solutions, retail brands can use this simple but powerful notion to differentiate themselves with human-centered and memorable customer experiences.


To discover more strategies for enhancing your customer experience, download our white paper, Emotional Meets Digital: Five Strategies for Differentiated Customer Experience.


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