For an out-of-pocket cost of maybe $50, a random act of kindness has earned online pet supply retailer Chewy millions in positive PR while standing as a stark reminder of the importance of treating customers you never see with gratitude and respect.
In a now-viral Tweet, Chewy customer Anna Brose from Alaska wrote: “I contacted @Chewy last week to see if I could return an unopened bag of my dog’s food after he died. They 1) gave me a full refund, 2) told me to donate the food to the shelter, and 3) had flowers delivered today with the gift note signed by the person I talked to?? 😭”
As of 9 a.m. EDT Thursday (June 16), that publicly posted thank you note had been shared over 25,000 times and liked by another 450,000 users, creating a literal tsunami of positive publicity that no brand could buy at any price.
“What is interesting is that retailers can use the post service sales experience like this to cement customer loyalty,” dog fanatic and PYMNTS CEO Karen Webster said upon seeing the news. “This is a nice story to show what happens if you take a different approach.”
Oh, to be Different
Chewy’s moment of differentiation comes at a time when retailers of all persuasions, both physical and digital, are facing declining sales and widespread consumer belt-tightening in the face of rampant inflation.
Further compounding problems is the fact that many brands have been left with a glut of the wrong inventory that they now need to liquidate as well as a shortage of many high-demand products that they can’t seem to keep in stock.
Add in a 10x increase in inflation-driven value scrutiny that customers are giving to the growing number of subscription services — including Chewy — that they’ve built up through the pandemic, and the need for retailers to differentiate from their peers and to reconnect with and retain their best customers has never been more urgent.
“I think merchants will experience churn of consumers if they’re not thinking about ways they can deliver more value along with the convenience,” sticky.io President and CEO Brian Bogosian told PYMNT in a recent interview discussing the many ways high and rising prices are impacting retailers and their customers as detailed in the new Subscription Commerce Conversion Index.
If nothing else, Chewy’s response to the passing of “Gus” is also an example of how savvy retailers are turning potentially negative or stressful daily occurrences — especially returns and disputes — into something positive.
That said, the proverbial art of “turning lemons into lemonade” appears to have been lost on many players in the retail industry. According to the U.S. Edition of The 2022 Global Digital Shopping Playbook that was published by PYMNTS in April and distills responses from over 13,000 consumers and 3,100 businesses in six countries, even though U.S.-based retailers outperformed their global peers, they also saw their index score slip a bit last year.
“U.S. merchants introduce friction into several features [that] shoppers value highly, namely digital product reviews and recommendations, easy returns, and price-matching,” the study summarized. Specifically, less than half (46%) of domestic sellers currently allow shoppers to access product recommendations digitally, while 56% are promising to price-match competitors.
While these are only two small examples within a sweeping analysis, it serves as proof and a reminder that little things matter a lot when it comes to serving customers, whether that means streamlining interactions or offering creative, caring solutions on the fly, such as Chewy’s effort to honor Gus the dog.