When consumers are getting less for their money, give them more

I love a good scented candle and, as a work-from-homer, I typically light one with a citrus scent at the start of every workday to freshen up my office and spark some creativity. To wind down at night, I like candles with lavender scents.

I have go-to brands, including the utilitarian Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day candles, particularly the honeysuckle and basil varieties. (I got through a lot of candles!) But my current favorite is a small-batch, family-owned company called the Urban Loft Candle Co. (I’ve got its La Mia Casa candle — with notes of grapefruit, clary sage, lemongrass, cedar, citronella and more — burning as I write this.)

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It’s not just the company’s scents that I love. Into each box they mail to me, Urban Loft Candle Co. tucks surprises, like matches or a couple of travel candles to introduce me to its latest scents. These little extras make me unbelievably happy.

I enjoyed a similar experience at a boutique in Florida recently. After buying a new wallet, the sales associate encouraged me to pick a freebie from a small rack near the sales desk. I took nearly as long choosing a small notebook as I did the wallet.

Why do such gestures from brands and retailers stand out in my mind? Because they are so rare in an increasingly impersonal retail world. Let’s face it: It’s downright depressing to open a package from Amazon, even one containing something you’ve been looking forward to getting. Slice the tape across the top seam of the cardboard box or rip open the padded envelope and find the item just tossed in there. Nothing else, not even a receipt.

With prices rising the past couple of years across virtually every category of goods and services, consumers are tired of paying more and more for the same thing — or, in the case of shrinkflation, paying the same amount for less product.

That makes receiving a small, unexpected gift from a company especially delightful right now.

Set yourself apart and earn customer loyalty

Recent earnings news and 2023 forecasts from retailers have generally been bleak. Retailers report consumer spending on goods continues to slow and shoppers are choosing needs over wants.

Luxury brands are more inclined to pamper their customers with niceties both in-store and through e-commerce, but even high-end brands are feeling the squeeze of inflation, lower consumer demand and the pressure to keep profits up. Extras are an easy thing to cut from a budget.

I think that’s an unwise tactic. When consumers can buy a product from several different retailers with just a few clicks, they need a reason — beyond price and quick shipping — to return to a brand for future purchases.

Excellent customer service is one way to impress and keep customers. Extras also help consumers forge connections with brands, making them more likely to shop again and more likely to recommend the brand to others.

See Also

Think about what you can include with a purchase — not as an incentive to buy but as an unexpected gift of appreciation to customers. (The mattress industry learned the hard way that advertising free mattress protectors, sheets or pillows with a mattress purchase helped to devalue those necessary sleep products in the minds of many consumers.)

Luxury lighting brand Mavisten Edition packages its lamps, lighting fixtures and bulbs with a microfiber cleaning cloth. It’s a small, but meaningful gift, showing that the company wants its customers to value and care for its products as much as it does.

Fabric and leather care kits are a natural fit for purchases of upholstered furniture. Same with wood cleaning kits for case goods.

The extras don’t even have to be products. Pet supply giant Chewy thought outside the box — and thought of its feline customers — when it added a note to its recognizable blue boxes, reminding people that the empty ones make great toys for cats. Maybe you can invite your best customers to special shopping days to preview new products or meet with designers.

Even a handwritten thank-you note to customers shows you value their business. At a time when consumers are getting less and less for their money, offer them more.

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