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Note to Retailers: Going Old School for Relationship Building

Incorporating the human touch into customer relationships can help online retailers increase buyer spending. A simple, inexpensive, and effective way online retailers can achieve this is by using handwritten notes or photocopies of such notes. However, the impact of these notes is reduced if they are combined with other promotional offers like discounts or giveaways. Finally, retailers should send handwritten notes only to loyal customers as they don’t influence nonloyal customers to spend more.



Despite technological advances, people still prefer to experience the human touch in their

retail experiences. Despite changing buyer behaviour, relationship management is an integral part of retail, including online retail. For online retailers, especially, establishing a personal connect with buyers is challenging despite its importance. Therefore, a study looks into a simple tool for establishing a personal connect with buyers—including a handwritten note with deliveries. It tries to answer the question: Does the use of handwritten notes have a positive economic impact on online retailers?


The study found that including a handwritten note positively influences customer spending.

The note can be an original or a photocopy. In either case, there is a significant impact on buyers’ willingness to spend more. However, a machine-printed note does not have the same impact on buyers. Handwritten notes work so well because they convey a sense of warmth. In this case, warmth refers to a mild, positive emotion involving the experience of a love, family, or friendship relationship. The empathic gesture encourages buyers to make more purchases. Since machine-printed notes fail to convey warmth, they do not have the same effect as handwritten notes.



Surprisingly, an additional marketing incentive like a giveaway or a discount reduces the

impact of a handwritten note. This finding may seem counterintuitive, but marketing incentives often have a detrimental effect when retailers focus on relational benefits like warmth. Buyers view this additional incentive negatively as an instance of the retailer’s self-interest. The perception of self-interest negatively affects the feeling of warmth conveyed by the handwritten note, ultimately reducing its impact on buyer spending.


Price discounts can be a double-edged sword for online retailers. This post discusses how they can maximise their benefits by “building” their product discounts.


Interestingly, this effect of a handwritten note works only for loyal customers. Even the

negative effect of marketing incentives is found only among loyal customers. Being loyal to the retailer, they appreciate warmth more than nonloyal customers. They give more importance to relationship factors, whereas nonloyal customers emphasise economic factors. Therefore, both the positive impact of a handwritten note and the negative impact of discounts or giveaways is higher among them. Nonloyal customers are largely indifferent about their relationship with the retailer and are affected less by both the note and the incentive.


Developing customer loyalty is a major goal for retailers, and they often use loyalty programmes to do so. But are such programmes useful? Read on to find out!



The study has relevant insights for online retailers looking to increase customer spending. A handwritten note is a simple intervention they can use to increase customer spending. It is also a highly cost-effective method, although writing multiple notes by hand can be time-consuming and high on effort. Using a photocopy of a handwritten note is an excellent alternative since it works just as well and is low on both effort and cost (though marginally more expensive than handwritten notes).


However, retailers looking to use this strategy must ensure that they do not combine the note with other marketing efforts like discounts or giveaways. Avoiding such promotions will also help to keep marketing costs in check. Finally, retailers wishing to utilise handwritten or photocopied notes should also ensure that such notes are sent to loyal customers only as they have no impact on nonloyal customers.

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