Few would argue that small, personalized messages can make a big emotional impact on customers.

Of course this isn’t new – retailers have been tailoring their content to customers for decades in a variety of ways, long before technology was around to do it for them.

I can remember as a child that my mother would receive a phone call from the local supermarket store manager every time they received a delivery of a particular brand of condiments that she liked which was hard to come by. Even more impressive, he would greet her by name every time she walked into the store. And while I’m sure my mother was a good, loyal customer, I don’t believe she received treatment any more special than the other good customers in the neighborhood. The store was just one branch of the leading supermarket chain in the country, but somehow those personal engagements initiated by the manager made it feel like a small town community store that we used to see in the movies.

The point is – those small gestures on the part of the manager made my mother feel special. And I bet they made her more loyal to the store.

Today’s retailers, especially those who track shopper behaviour via loyalty clubs, know a lot about their customers. Certainly they know what brands and products they like, and when is the right time to create personal offers for them. As a result, as consumers we are pretty much inundated with marketing offers, special promotions, personal coupons….all designed to get us to visit more and to spend more on each visit. But how many of these “micro engagements” really make us feel special? How many of them make us more loyal to the store or brand?

Don’t get me wrong – we’re all in favor of making sure that customers receive the most personalized and relevant offers possible – that’s how we make our living and keep our customers (leading supermarket chains) happy. But is it enough? Can grocers connect emotionally with their customers and develop long term bonds without trying to sell them something at every opportunity?

We believe that it can be done, and it can be done at scale.

One good example follows on naturally from the story above. Customers who have shopped online and tried to add a product to their cart only to find that it’s out of stock can easily be reminded by email/text once it becomes available again in a nearby store.

But let’s take that a bit further. Could you use the fact that a customer has shown a strong purchasing history of pet related products to send them notification of a donation the store made to a local animal shelter? Creating a perception in the eyes of the customer that “we believe in a common cause” is bound to create an emotional bond to the store, albeit without the added bonus of showing a short term sales ROI from the effort.

Or how about notifying loyal customers of the wine department of an up and coming free wine tasting event taking place at the store (without falling into the trap of including a BOGO wine offer in the same message)?

The technology to create the messaging, identify the relevant customers, and distribute the appropriate message is available to those retailers who are already personalizing marketing offers at scale. To take it to the next level simply requires a decision to use part of the marketing channels for micro-messages that are designed to drive emotional bonds, along with a certain discipline to resist the temptation to try sell something along the way.

In future posts we’ll explore some retailers who are excelling at these types of tactics. Stay tuned.