Customer Empathy in Action

In today's competitive marketplace, where countless brands vie for attention, what builds loyalty? The answer lies in a simple yet transformative element: empathy. 

As consumers increasingly seek meaningful connections and authentic experiences, brands have recognized the immense value of empathy in building lasting relationships. Gone are the days when transactions were the sole focus; today, successful brands understand the importance of genuinely caring for their customers' needs and emotions. 

Here are three guiding principles for building empathy, along with successful examples of each.

1. Cultivate camaraderie in your community

During the pandemic, 100,000+ small businesses were forced to permanently close. So eBay swiftly launched the program "Up & Running,". Small businesses gained access to a free ecommerce platform, along with marketing tools and shipping discounts. Survival became a matter of community. Here, eBay announced themselves not at the center of the ecosystem. Rather a sum of their parts. Simple, gracious and decisive brand action.

eBay’s brand purpose states “empower people and communities to unlock possibilities for growth. Our marketplace uplifts and brings people together. The magic of eBay is how we connect people and build communities to create economic opportunity for all.” We think they nailed it. 

2. Lower the stakes to trial

If you shop at Trader Joe’s, you’re probably unsurprised by this feature. Underneath the breezy 80s vibe is a spiritual undertow of authenticity and integrity. 

Shopping for groceries isn’t complicated. But for brands, changing shopping behavior is. So how has Trader Joe’s gone about spurring new product adoption? By flipping the script. Give shoppers the leg up, not themselves, and let their products do the talking. TJ’s upholds a "Try Anything" policy for its ready-to-eat products (please don’t ask for a burger). It’s a simple action that not only lowers the stakes of product trial, but also creates spontaneity, and facilitates genuine interactions between the brand’s frontline workers and shoppers. 

Could people take advantage of this? Yes. Do you see it happening? No. That’s because the relationship with their loyalists isn’t transactional. It’s personal.

3. Find ways to be “human” in online channels

It can be hard for brands (especially DTC) to lead with empathy when interactions are limited to mostly online. But industry disruptor,, has mastered virtual customer service. Chewy finds opportunities in their data to create meaningful interactions for pet owners: like tailored product recommendations, handwritten birthday cards, and a 3,000 person customer care team on call. When informed about a pet passing, the brand sends flowers, resources and refunds for recent transactions. 

Chewy has reaffirmed its commitment to portraying its brand as more than just products, speed, and convenience. Instead, it aims to be a steadfast companion during every aspect of pet ownership, supporting individuals through the highs and lows. Backed by a dedicated team of genuine individuals who genuinely care about the well-being of pets  goes the extra mile even if they haven't had the chance to meet them personally.

Not only has this led to competitive differentiation, but to a devoted group of brand advocates with life time value. 

These three tenets are not the only ways brands can be empathetic, but they serve as unique examples for how to act in the interest of a desired audience. Often, a customer-first view allows brands to connect with people in ways their competitors simply can’t.