Retailers find purpose and share it with customers

Ninety-six percent of Americans are now shopping online, according to a recent study from CPC Strategy.

Building meaningful connections with local communities is one way to captivate today's consumer, says Etienne Veber, president of Field Trip Factory, a firm that helps design, schedule and promote interactive learning experiences within retail environments.

“Technology provides greater convenience and lower prices,” Veber says, "but it is not a replacement for human interactions."

The value of purpose

When companies express a sense of purpose to their customers, it has a profound effect on confidence in the brand. Eighty-five percent of companies with a strong sense of purpose say they are backed by their communities, because they are seen as “good and helpful corporate citizens,” according to a survey by Deloitte.

Of firms with a purpose, 89 percent say clients and customers trust the quality of their products and services — versus the 66 percent of firms that do not have this sense of purpose.

One example of an interactive program comes from food retailer Giant Eagle Inc., which developed a program that connects with local school children. “Be A Smart Shopper” helps young students and their families learn about making healthy food choices.

It has been a very effective way for Giant Eagle’s retail team members to uphold the company’s common purpose to improve people’s everyday lives and well-being in a community-centered way, and more than 600,000 families have been reached across Pennsylvania and Ohio. Educators say it supplements classroom curriculum and gets students engaged.

“Our Be A Smart Shopper program is an important part of how we fulfill our commitments to education and health and wellness,” says Giant Eagle CEO Laura Karet. “Through the program, our retail team members are able to meaningfully impact how the children in our communities think about the foods they eat, and encourage involvement from the children in family meal planning.”

Expressing purpose

A retailer can build trust and loyalty by expressing values in innovative ways:

Hosting in-store classes and events: Business leaders, store managers and longtime employees, with their industry knowledge, are community gurus. With that mindset, what better way to connect with the community than to open the doors for an on-site event? Businesses are offering things like hands-on demonstrations, seminars, consultations and even heading up an ongoing club to share knowledge and help people solve their most common problems.

Championing local causes: Company values and industry knowledge are being transformed into a community asset, and resources are being directed to solving problems in the community. Reaching out to local nonprofits, being a major sponsor to make a local event even bigger and better, or paying employees for their time to volunteer are all ways a business can build a meaningful community presence.

Working with a partner: Most businesses do not have the in-house expertise to organize, plan and publicize in-house events and initiatives, which is why some turn to a trusted partner for expertise in that field. For example, as Giant Eagle planned its Be A Smart Shopper Program, Field Trip Factory took the lead with the curriculum (with input from educators), and created the online tool that makes it easy for teachers to discover the program and sign up their class for an event.

Today’s retail climate is a challenging one, due to the rise in technology. To learn more about how businesses are engaging with customers and communities, visit fieldtripfactory.com.

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