The Customer-First Approach

There is no brand without loyal customers.

The 18 billion dollar Zara, thrives in its category by “co-creating its products and leveraging its customers’ input on stock, prioritizing continuous customer feedback & benefitting from one of the most responsive supply chains,” according to Forbes.  Here we discuss how brands can efficiently provide their target the perfect offering.

Customers want what they want, when they want it and how they want it. So long are the days when brands dictate consumer trends and tastes, otherwise dubbed as ‘the push’ model.’ Recently and more often than not, we see that consumers are dictating the brands when it comes to offerings. Depending on what customers are asking for; be it through observed research, surveys or sales data, brands can now tailor their offerings, quantities, prices and materials based on hard sales data and qualitative evidence.

Further, in a post-Corona world, customers are and will be more risk-averse when shopping. They are financially conscious of what they are spending on. They may choose to prioritize their savings or opt to sustain mother Earth further by buying only ethically-sourced merchandise. For these reasons, brands must let the customers call the majority of the shots on their R&D strategies; otherwise they may forgo a substantial amount of sales and risk hurting genuine goodwill.

As an example, we can attribute Zara’s success to its ability to produce quickly and efficiently. However, the most successful brands may go a step further to form relevant partnerships that reflect their target audiences’ tastes or even form communities which constitute intangible attachments of empathy and excitement. Kim Lawton, founder and CEO of Enthuse Marketing Group, to Luxury Daily said, “while it’s essential to create an experience that connects them to the brand, connecting them to a bigger community of like-minded people makes a larger impact and builds long-term brand love.”

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Apple represents a stellar example of community building by creating a cult of followers who not only admire the product design but also want to be part of the ‘ecosystem.’ The tech giant attracts them by using tactical, discreet marketing to launch the new edition while logistically making it easier for them to cross-use Apple products such as iCloud and iMessage.

Regarding brand partnerships, Business Manager of Bentley, Paolo Fra, South Africa agrees, “Clever brand partnerships are a key part of the luxury marketing mix. Internationally, innovative co-creation activity among brands have become commonplace.” Which is why in 2016 Bentley instilled a cross-promotion whereby Bentley and Cruises International are offering luxury enthusiasts the opportunity to translate the high-end experience from land to sea when they buy select Bentleys.

Another example is Twitch, the live streaming gaming space that has earned 73% of all hours spent on major platforms. Cofounder Shear admits, “We thought we were starting an entertainment business, and it turned out we were starting a community-oriented business. What unlocks the next level of success if creating a moment where the audience has a sense of sharing something unique, and a feeling that “we were part of this.”

Photo by Fauxels on Pexels.

In summary, according to Entrepreneur Middle East, there are 3 main tactics for brands to form a community effect:

  1. Create a mission that helps the larger community
  2. Build a space for community connections
  3. Let the community drive the brand

While it’s important to keep the brand ethos in check, we know that without loyal customers, there is no brand. Finding the perfect balance of listening to customers but also driving your own brand DNA when it comes to the choice in partnerships or product design & offering are key.