Are You Fluent in “Customer?”
One of the most powerful secrets about communication is that words, ideas and symbols have different meanings for different groups of people. Take the word “life,” for example. Zen Buddhists consider “life” to be an adventure, while executives in Hartford, Connecticut – the insurance capital of the world – see “life” as a product line. And criminals? Well, they think of “life” as something else entirely.
The same holds true in the world of retail. Marketers and retailers have to be especially sensitive to the many possible interpretations and meanings of the words and ideas they use. They will utilize a word with very specific intentions, but their customers, depending on who they are and where they come from, might come away with a very different understanding.
Consider the word “value.” For a discount chain like Dollar Store, or in the case of a store-brand grocery shelf, the word “value” is pretty much interchangeable with “cheapest.” It indicates which product costs the least. At Coach or Kate Spade, however, “value” speaks to quality rather than price. When these high-end retailers say “value,” they mean that whatever you buy may be expensive, but well worth the price.
The difference, then, between the luxury definition of “value” and the Dollar Store version is that in the Dollar Store example, the concept of “value” is absolute; it is literally the lowest possible price. In the luxury example, “value” is extremely subjective. It all depends on the perspective of the customer. To most people, a $750 suit is expensive. For others, $750 is a good price to pay for what they recognize to be a $1,700 suit.
For high-end brands or retailers, if the concept of “value” is to be effective or meaningful, it has to be perfectly in tune with what matters most to the customer. The customer will judge “value” based on their understanding of what something costs in relation to their reasons for seeing that cost as reasonable (or at least reasonable enough to purchase the product). Retailers can’t sell “value” by itself. It is critical to know what the word actually means to your customer, and with a certain measure of precision. To do that, smart retailers consider perspective and speak to them in their own lexicon – literally defining those meanings.