We’re All Human After All

We often buy products not for what they do but for what they mean to us. Retailers must turn the customer journey into an emotional journey.

Artificial intelligence, augmented reality, virtual reality, facial recognition, the Internet of Things … the list goes on and on.

More than technology alone, this is where the battle for our wallets is playing out. Think same-day delivery, smart fitting rooms, checkout-less stores and payment solutions making the shopping experience easier, more convenient and faster.

But are these innovations making our shopping less human? In the relentless quest for deep personalization, are we actually doing the exact opposite? Are we merely beholden to technology?

The human touch

We all have feelings and emotions that drive our behavior.

But do we consider ourselves sufficiently human? Are we in danger of sleepwalking into a state where the smartphone limits our individual creativity? What makes us special?

Individual technologies are, by nature, ephemeral and should always complement — not replace — what makes us human. We must drive the agenda rather than become bystanders to technology.

Indeed, we can liken technology to high-rise apartments. We have adapted to living in this unnatural habitat, just as we adapt to new technologies.

But I ask: Is the proliferation of technology having an adverse impact on our emotional well-being? Is it time to take a holiday from tech?

An essential ingredient

We can conclude that technology in retail is one of the essential ingredients for the digital and physical customer journey of the future, but we must view it through the proper prism: human first.

The most successful retailers will deploy technology to enhance the human experience, not just out of necessity.

Most of our purchasing decisions are emotional. So, we may begin with logic, but our emotional state eventually takes over.

In other words, your customer needs to be in the right mood and right frame of mind when browsing your store. Any minor hiccup on their path to a purchase can act as a tipping point and turn them away for good.

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Technology in retail is one of the essential ingredients for the customer journey of the future.

It’s almost pointless to ask them why they didn’t purchase as they’re leaving your store because often they either won’t know the answer or will just give you the answer they think you want to hear.

What then is the answer?

The answer lies in understanding a little psychology to explain why we behave the way we do.

Head versus heart

Most consumers today are in search of an immersive experience. When we buy, we expect enjoyable, memorable and wonderful experiences that stir our emotions — allowing us to transform a tedious, ordinary transaction into an emotional journey.

When it comes to purchasing, from food to clothes to technology, our emotions and senses are continuously stimulated.

But what do we do when we experience information overload during a purchasing decision? We employ our logic, right? Wrong.

According to the latest findings in neuroscience, decision making isn’t logical. It’s emotional. Antonio Damasio’s research discovered that it’s difficult to make decisions if we lose the ability to feel emotions.

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If you’re seeking loyal customers, turn the customer journey into an emotional journey.

A human-centric approach

There is always an opportunity to create a wonderful customer experience through emotional attachment.

We often buy products not for what they do but for what they mean to us. With so much information overload, we use emotional filters and subconsciously assign meaning to products. Often that meaning reflects who we are through the products we buy.

So, in the case of that expensive handbag or watch, our purchase decision can be very personally significant — we are often making a lifestyle statement about the type of person we are or want to be.

The human-centred approach is ultimately about making the shopping experience a memorable and remarkable event.

If you’re seeking loyal customers, turn the customer journey into an emotional journey that creates a positive experience. They’ll love you for it and might just come back for more.

Next time your customer puts down that item you thought they were about to buy, ask yourself: Did I create the right environment for them to want to purchase?

The results might just provide some startling and useful insights.

Andrew Busby is Founder and CEO of Retail Reflections and an IBM Futurist.

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