The Heart Of The Matter: Why Retailers Need Sentiment Analysis To Connect With Customers

By: Dheepan Ramanan

March 30, 2015

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This post originally appeared on Retail TouchPoints on March 20, 2015.

Viktor Frankl, the Holocaust survivor and writer of Man’s Search For Meaning once remarked, “Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how.’”

“Why” is the fundamental reason for action, the root of what creates meaning for people in their lives. People innately seek meaning in the choices they make. This is true in business and in life. Consumers today want their choices to align with a “why” — something more meaningful than the best value or the most features.

Whole Foods, the biggest winner in the organic foods revolution, is one of the best examples of a company driven by a “why.”  The growth of Whole Foods plots neatly with the rise in organic grocery sales. Organic grocery sales have increased 573% since 2000, with Whole Foods growing store count 183% in the same period. However, this market has only gotten tougher.

Conventional grocery stores like Walmart and Kroger have added organic produce, and regional upstarts challenge Whole Foods dominance with upscale consumers. Even with this fierce competition, Whole Foods has maintained enviable margins and revenue growth. What creates such fanatical loyalty among Whole Foods customers? Simple: It deals with a “why.”

When I buy food from Whole Foods, I connect with the mission of the company: To live healthier, to be environmentally responsible and to create a quality standard of living for the people who work there. Whenever I visit my local Whole Foods, I notice that the employees look happy to be there and the products are well organized and stocked. Every time I begrudgingly venture into the Whole Body section with my girlfriend, I see John Mackey’s book (CEO of Whole Foods) Conscious Capitalism.

As I check out, I see the big blackboard denoting the thousands of dollars donated during the last community giving day. I feel that my choice to shop at Whole Foods has positively impacted the world, and this feeling overrides any concerns I may have had purely based on price.

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Dheepan Ramanan is a data scientist at Clarabridge. Follow him on Twitter @DheepanRamanan.