James Smith, Brand Experience Director at Retail Marketing Group explores the next steps in digital consumerism.
As the eCommerce industry continues to grow exponentially in a post-pandemic world, it is clear that businesses need to adapt to a more digital-savvy consumer. To be able to do this, businesses must meet new demands and needs from their audiences around how they operate their customer experience (CX) strategies. A Walker study found that at the end of 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product availability as the key brand differentiator.
There are many aspects that combine to create a great CX, and it is seen that inventory management, customer reviews, and personalised product recommendations are today’s industry benchmarks. Consumers want the security in knowing that what they are buying is a good product; this is why reviews are one of the most important aspects of a customer experience. Nearly 95% of shoppers read online reviews before making a purchase.
To stay ahead of the competition, businesses must look at implementing their own trustworthy people that will step into the role of trusted advisor to their customers to give honest peer commentary, otherwise known as Brand Ambassadors.
What are Brand Ambassadors
Brand Ambassadors live and breathe a brand. They represent and promote a company in a positive way, used by businesses to build trust with an audience of potential customers, ultimately to bring consumers closer to their products.
There are three main types of Brand Ambassadors that businesses can look at.
- Celebrity endorsers – They will advocate a brand through their social media, allowing the brand to access their large audience base.
- Peer advocates – They are already customers of the brand. They will embody what the brand stands for and more often than not, need prompting in promoting the brand.
- Employee ambassadors – These are the people that are directly employed by the company to be where their customers are and engage with them at the right time, at the right place.
With over 92% of customers preferring the recommendations of their peers to promotional ads, all three types of Brand Ambassadors act as friendly faces and are clearly distinct from members of staff. However, with employee ambassadors, brands can ensure that they’re in the right place at the right time, engaging in direct conversations on the brand’s behalf, helping to build trust in the company, and ensuring that their audience is aware of everything they have to offer.
With a little bit of brand affinity and a structured word-of-mouth marketing campaign, businesses can use the love of their favourite customers to boost brand awareness, expand selling potential, and increase profits. Brand Ambassadors can accelerate this and skyrocket companies to higher levels of customer loyalty and ROI.
Through Brand Ambassadors businesses can improve awareness and recognition for their company, and show their customers the human side that they need to connect with in order to do business with them.
Importance of Employee Brand Ambassadors Post-Pandemic
Consumer behaviours have changed in many ways as a result of the pandemic, and the increased appreciation of face-to-face marketing is one of the most significant developments by far. While the vast majority of customers will research brands and products online before making a purchase, people want human interactions. This can be for a variety of reasons; one such example is that it’s a chance for customers to be seen and heard. By having the option of in-person contact, open dialogue is created, lighting that first spark of interest, turning it into a sale, and nurturing all-important lasting loyalty.
Employee ambassadors are perfectly placed to be able to work in what is now a hybrid retail environment: being available through live chat streams online, whilst working from their brand stores to enable that face-to-face interaction.
As much as virtual experiences have kept the world turning the past year or so, now is the time to re-emerge into a world that is eager for physical and in-person contact. Over half of consumers have expressed their excitement at returning to brick-and-mortar shops. Human connection has been a feature that many people have missed from their lives recently, which is why an Employee Ambassador’s role requires an expert to truly connect on this level with a contact starved audience.
What makes a great Employee Brand Ambassador
Whether launching a new business or adapting an existing brand to the post-pandemic era, strong client interactions are an integral feature. Now more than ever, establishing the human connection is vital. Choosing the right people to fill the Employee Ambassador role is a key part of building the right strategy, as the relationships we create, wherever we engage, will bring your brand to life, telling stories and making it personal.
Over 93% of communication is non-verbal, so whoever a business has appointed as their Employee Ambassador, must be confident, open, and able to interact perfectly with the key target audience. A strong appearance followed by the use of clear communication, compassion, and empathy will put consumers at ease. Ultimately, studies show that 71% want to align themselves with brands that share values and show a similar personality.
Firstly, Employee Ambassadors need to feel passionate about what they are representing. Ambassadors are not salespeople heading out to make as many one-time sales as possible. They exist to foster strong, loyal relationships between customers and the brand. Customers can smell a phony a mile off, but people who are truly passionate become infectious with who they are talking to and soon enough customers will feel passionate as well.
Being passionate includes passion about the brand, the mission or values of that brand, and the product or service being promoted. It also means what they are passionate about in their day to day lives. Their own personal interests and hobbies should align with those of the brand’s target audience. This gives them common ground, and helps break the ice, allowing them to connect more with the customer and generate deep relationships.
Secondly, they must be skilled at conversation. One of their main responsibilities is to talk to strangers and create a working relationship from very little. This means that they will need to enjoy talking to strangers, be open and friendly, and be able to think on their feet when presented with tricky questions or problems. Being an Employee Ambassador, they are potentially out in the field or on live stream by themselves, therefore they will have to think on the fly and have the ability to come up with fun ideas and responses in the moment. They will have to do all this whilst also collecting as much information and feedback as they can, as the brand can then use this information to generate insight that will help them improve products and services in the future.
Lastly, Employee Ambassadors must understand that with representation comes responsibility. Anything they do will now link back to the brand, either positive or negative. A great Employee Ambassador will be able to connect to customers yet maintain a professional approach.
How to find the perfect Employee Brand Ambassador
Knowing what to look for in an Employee Ambassador is only half the battle, businesses now need to find and engage with them. There are many platforms and recruiting agencies that you can look at, but when it comes down to finding the perfect Employee Ambassador, these platforms and agencies will only know the top-line information of the brand. The best options are either field marketing solutions or putting the trust in themselves.
Field marketing solution providers are experts in finding the perfect Employee Ambassadors. They are connected to a wide range of audiences and can pinpoint the right personality needed for a specific brand. They are specialists in human connection to generate leads and lasting loyalty, as they not only hire the right people, but also train them so they know the brand inside and out. This method is quicker and more streamlined as the providers are experts in their field, allowing brands to receive the perfect Employee Ambassador without the time and effort in finding them.
On the other hand, no one knows a brand better than themselves. Businesses need to take the extra time to recruit Employee Ambassadors and train them up so they live and breathe the brand. Businesses can do this by scouting social media or even looking at the customers who engage most with them on social media. This would mean that they already know the brand inside and out and shows a passion for the brand that can’t be trained into other recruits.
Another method of actively recruiting candidates is through sites like Indeed or LinkedIn. Businesses should post job descriptions and consider including a questionnaire along with the application that can help filter out the bad candidates from the good.
However, when doing this, businesses should be sure to fully vet any potential ambassadors by confirming that there is nothing problematic or contradictory to their company’s values on their personal social media accounts. As mentioned, they represent the brand through their actions and if they contradict the brand’s own values this could be very problematic.
Brand and Employee Ambassadors are crucial in a post-pandemic era, and entering into a more hybrid eCommerce environment in 2022 they will be pivotal in the customer’s shopping experience. The ideal Brand Ambassadors are out there, finding them is simply a matter of sticking to brand values and seeing who reflects them back.
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