Friday, June 19, 2009

Help Older Customers to Help Others

In my opinion, retailers have an ethical obligation to be charitable even if it doesn't build profitability. But done in the right ways, charitable activities WILL build profitability for the retailer, and doing well financially can make doing good feel even better. An example of this is with senior citizens. When you provide ways for seniors to help out other people, you'll get and keep more of them as ongoing customers. Here's why:
     Researchers find that altruism is especially important to elderly consumers. Seniors like to give their business to retailers who are compassionate, and they like to view themselves as generous. One dynamic behind this is a desire to leave behind a legacy of love. Maybe behind this, in turn, is a calculation of what will be required on the résumé submitted at the Pearly Gates. A related dynamic is a sense among senior citizens that they want to compensate for other, less positive, legacies their generation seems destined to leave behind—-stupendous government deficits and possible fallouts from global warming, for instance. A third dynamic is that senior citizens often want to fill unscheduled time to ease loneliness and boredom, and few people will turn away offers of charitable work.
     All this opens up opportunities for you to build relationships with older consumers. Whenever you organize a charitable activity, offer a variety of ways for your older customers to pitch in to help. Then after they've helped, recognize their contributions with a certificate of appreciation so fancy it could even be attached to the Pearly Gates résumé. Including your store's name and logo on the certificate of appreciation is part of making it fancy, of course. If you add in a gift certificate, keep the dollar amount small. Otherwise, it takes away from the senior's feeling of contributing.

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