Human truth – the need to feel empowered

The need for empowerment is one of our strongest and most basic drivers.  Over the last year, COVID has heightened people’s need to feel empowered. Australian brands who can help consumers address this need have an opportunity to build loyalty and drive brand success.

Striving for empowerment entails wanting to feel competent and capable, particularly in the face of the unknown. When we feel personally empowered, we feel capable of tackling life’s ups and downs. We don’t feel overwhelmed by circumstances or what’s happening around us. We can handle what life throws at us in our stride.

When the pandemic struck, most Australians were thrust into a challenging time of great uncertainty. Our work routines, our social lives, our day-to-day activities, our purchasing behaviours have all been disrupted. We have felt less empowered and less capable of living our lives the way we want to.

In the face of the uncertainty brought on by the pandemic, Australians are looking to feel more empowered than we did pre-COVID. As a result, we are looking for businesses who can provide ‘new’ solutions that empower us.

Empowering customers is about giving them the tools and resources needed to be successful. It’s giving them information so they can make informed decisions as well as providing seamless experiences that make things as easy as possible for them.  If customers feel they are being supported and listened to, particularly in a time of crisis, they tend to be far more loyal.

Seamless experiences that makes things easy

One organisation that has gone to great lengths to empower its customers as well as their staff and volunteers, is the Salvos Stores. The advent of COVID meant store closures, reduced opening times and access to less volunteers to help with the workload of receiving items, cleaning them and putting them on display in the retail outlets.

As well as trying to fulfill the mission of the organisation to generate revenue to fund its charity work, the Salvos had to make sure that staff, volunteers, customers and the community were absolutely safe. Many customers do not shop with the Salvos because they might find a bargain or something unique, they shop there because of the community aspects that they find within the stores.

Aife O’Loughlin, customer experience manager for the Salvos Stores, comments, “Our team members know their regular customers. They have great conversations with them on a regular basis. For us it was about how do we keep that team and our community connected. We found it was really important to keep our customers informed and take them on the journey; telling them what we were doing to keep them and our team members safe while they shopped in our retail space.” 

The Salvos also moved quickly to ramp up their digital strategy and develop an online shopping experience for their customers that was seamless and made things easy for them. Almost overnight, one hundred retail outlets essentially became fulfillment centres where the Salvos built the largest second hand online store in Australia. In the first two months the ecommerce website received over 700,000 unique visitors.

Power from feedback

People gain a sense of empowerment when they see brands taking action from the feedback they provide. Volkswagen’s response to COVID has been exclusively based on customer feedback and the desire to empower customers through new and innovative digitally enabled solutions.

Due the impact of COVID combined with feedback from customers, who wanted an easier way to book in their vehicle for service, Volkswagen Australia was inspired to launch its online store in April 2020. Since April, Volkswagen has sold 460 cars online as well as 550 customer car plans for servicing, a total sales value of $36 million. COVID has changed the experience of being a customer. Brands who can empower and support their customers with open, honest and relevant information combined with seamless experiences will be well positioned to encourage loyalty and growth.