I’m brand obsessed. Yes, like many, I am that girl who sees a questionable Free People sweater in TJ Maxx and tries it on just because of the tag–sue me.
However, a discussion in Creative Strategist about brand loyalty made me question my own choices in regards to which brands I choose to give my valuable time and loyalty. We examined brands such as Nordstrom, where my mom can return six purses in the span of two weeks without being questioned, and Target, where I’m suddenly inclined to buy 18 more things than the mascara I went in there for.
Why do we love these brands? For stores like these it’s a matter of trust. Nordstrom’s customer service is unparalleled, treating its shoppers like royalty. They have been known to special order, special deliver, and (questionable but awesome) accept a return on a set of tires. We respond to this; Nordstrom’s shoppers are extremely loyal to the brand. Target highlights itself as a corporation who constantly gives back, donating to education and the community. We trust Target because it treats us well and has proven that it cares.
But the brands that I love and visit most often don’t have these qualities. Should they? Do I simply have low standards for the brands that I choose to spend money on?
I have grown to expect that I’ll have to wait ten minutes for someone to let me into the dressing room, and that I’ll only be given store credit for a return. My freakish online shopping addiction often results in me knowing more about most stores inventory than its own employees do, but this doesn’t stop me from coming back. My priority is not how they treat me in the store or what the brand does for the community. I shop for the clothes.
My mother, on the other hand, will not step foot in a store that doesn’t treat her with the utmost dignity and service. Her jeweler offers her cookies and coffee as she walks in, immediately taking her jewelry to be cleaned as she shops. Not that she expects this from every store, but any store with slow employees who don’t know their inventory will surely not be revisited. Quite the contrary; it will be scoffed at. Our parents grew up with better customer service and a different brand ideal than we did. In their eyes the customer should always come first–a quality that is a rare find in my own shopping experience, and one that I do not expect.
I believe that this difference has to do with the target audience of the brands. Stores such as Free People and Forever 21 target my generation, who usually don’t base brand decisions on anything other than the quality and style of the product. The stores can have slow service and we’ll still come crawling back like puppies when they have a sale or get new inventory. I couldn’t tell you about anything these stores have done for my community, and that doesn’t really bother me. Brands who target adults, however–such as Nordstrom and Target–do not have this luxury. For them to maintain their customer base they must continue to prove themselves with impeccable customer service and dedication to the community at large.
Will I expect more from my brands as I mature away from the Forever 21’s of the world? Or will my expectations continue to lower, along with my concern for what brands are doing for me and for the community?
Many brands are focusing their attention on a different “community”–the online communities that make up social media. These are today’s preferred customers; the ones that companies are trying to target most. Companies reach out to the online audiences to gain the loyalty and interest of the younger, online world, striking conversation and building hype about the brand and its products. My generation reacts and responds to this–we can literally interact with the brand’s online presence via Facebook, Twitter, and the like.
However, my mother’s generation still bases their decisions on what happens inside the store, so the in-store customers cannot be forgotten. A funny facebook page does not make up for sub-par service and policies.
Stores must remember to treat us correctly, or my mom won’t let me go inside. Instead, we’ll continue on to Nordy’s.