Connect with your customers on the real—please


A few weeks ago I was forced into a retail decision. My gym bag of countless years, a perfectly fine navy canvas get-up, finally gave up the good fight. The cloth portion that the zipper was attached to, already frayed, completely detached itself from the bag, rendering the zipper useless and, therefore, the entire bag.

The bag that had served me so admirably for so long had carried its last pair of gym shoes, its final pair of shorts. As I bid adieu, it quickly dawned on me: tomorrow was shoulders day—what was going to tote my gym wears?

My ordeal is not unqiue. Millions of people every day are forced into replacing expired items with new ones. So, there I was, scouring, researching online for the perfect gym bag. I was looking for the perfect combination of size, style and material. Once I settled on one—not unlike booking travel—I clicked around to find it for the lowest price (I’m like that, yes).

Now, I’m loathe to reveal the brand or model, in fear that everyone will run out, get one, thus elbowing in on my style. Can’t have that. But what I will say is, wow, the company behind the bag sure knows how to speak to its customers—and I didn’t even buy it from them. Let me explain.

I had shopped around on said company’s site, having even added the bag into my cart. I never checked out, however, because I found the same bag, for $15 cheaper, on another site. Fine, I wasn’t buying direct from the maker, sue me. (Again, I’m like that, yes.) I bought the bag from site B, closed my laptop and dreamed about all the joy me and my soon-to-arrive gym bag would have.

Green bag
The gym bag in question.

The morning after, I logged into my email, as one is apt to do, and there was a message from a Jen. Jen appeared to be a real person—I mean she had a real name and everything. And she knew my name. “Hi David,” she opened, “I’m Jen from—insert company name—and I noticed you found a product you liked on our site, but for some reason didn’t order. Let me know if I can help you with anything.” She, Jen, added that if I signed up for the retailer’s newsletter, I could get 10 percent off on my purchase. She closed with, “Hope to hear from you soon!”

I was crushed. I didn’t have the guts to tell her I bought elsewhere. But if I ever have needs that said company could fulfill, and with a customer approach like that, I’d be back.

Why don’t more hotel companies speak to me like Jen? Ok, Jen may have been some bot, but her message resonated, it was real. The hotel industry, on the other hand, has a hard time speaking to its guests and potential customers in an authentic manner. I receive tons of emails everyday from hotel companies touting that deal and telling me about this loyalty perk. Not one has ever been unique. Not once have I ever felt special, dotted upon, like I did from Jen. I know I am just a number. What a missed opportunity.

The key to customer engagement is personalization. In fact, one study I read revealed that 56 percent of consumers are more inclined to use a retailer if it offered a personalized experience. Further, personalized emails, like the one I got from Jen, are six times more effective than bulk emails at lifting transaction rates.

Do yourself a favor and make sure your email game is on point and on message. You have thousands of customers on your loyalty program rolls and others who shop around on your sites, each day, looking for a great hotel, in a great destination. Talk to them like a real person, like you really know them. They’ll appreciate you for it. I promise. Right, Jen?