Consumers have endless choices and only open their wallets for the brands they really love, ones they feel they can relate to, and ones they feel care about them.

With this in mind, it’s important for marketers to start thinking less as big companies and more as friends of their customers.

Formal language is long gone, ads are featuring ‘normal people’ and in-store employees are working with shoppers by name.

This is a transition that consumers are welcoming, and we’re only continuing to see more brands jumping on board.

The brand-consumer relationship is growing closer; in order to stand out, you better buddy up.

Speak their language

To relate to customers, it’s a wise idea to familiarize yourself with ‘what the kids are sayin’ and how they’re saying it.

Recently, brands have been doing this in spades. IHOP’s “Pancakes on fleek” was the tweet heard round the world, cementing the brand’s reputation as charming, funny and relatable.

Taco Bell’s Twitter operates similarly, engaging with consumers on any and all topics. What sets Taco Bell apart from how brands have operated on social historically is a willingness to interact on topics beyond just customer service (the norm for many other brands on the platform). Taco Bell tweets at you like your best friend would.

Also, Chevy shook up how we view press releases earlier this year, when they issued a news release published entirely in emoji.

As a marketer, it’s understood that press releases won’t get your news in front of your customers, but with Chevy’s foray into emojis, not only did customers take notice of their new vehicle, but it put Chevy on the map as a fun, approachable brand.

Showcase your customers

Marketers realize that in order to appeal to customers, those customers have to be able to imagine themselves using your brand. It sounds simple, but the execution can be difficult.

Instead, take a page from brands like Gap, Dove and Apple and put your customers front and center, spotlighting them in your marketing.

Gap Casting Call allowed parents to submit photos of their children for a chance to have them included in Gap’s campaigns.

Dove has been highly celebrated for eschewing typical models in its Real Beauty campaign and instead featuring everyday women with a variety of body types, a move that has solidified it as a beloved brand, celebrating its customers of all shapes and sizes.

Another way to show your customer appreciation is to spotlight how customers engage with your brand. Apple replaced its usual ads with photos taken by everyday users on the iPhone. By highlighting users by name, consumers feel closer to the brand and appreciated for their talents.

Have a hospitality mentality

Many of the most elite hotels, resorts and restaurants are well known for the personal touches they impart on the customer experience.

Greeting a guest by name without an introduction, remembering personal preferences and catering to special requests are all par for the course in the hospitality industry, and offer lessons for marketers of all brands.

In order to win extra points and ultimately brand loyalty with your customers, it’s all about improvingthe experience you’re delivering.

For instance, when shopping at retail stores, many brands have in-store associates introduce themselves and then refer to customers by name throughout the shopping process.

Personal styling service StitchFix sends a personalized letter with each shipment, explaining why each piece in the package was selected specifically for you.

Online, algorithms like the ones Amazon has become famous for, offer suggestions for customers based on his or her prior purchases. These sorts of personal touches make consumers feel cared for individually, rather than just being one in a sea of other shoppers.

We know that consumers expect more from the brands they know. They expect personality, attention, respect, and appreciation. With this in mind, brands will need to rise to the occasion to emerge on top.

In fact, advancements in technology may be the key to truly drilling down on how to properly care for consumers.

Imagine a world where we can offer unique greetings and product recommendations to each customer, both online and in-store automatically.

While we wait for this to be the ultimate in delivering an uber-personalized experience, much is possible now through learning about your consumers through gathering their preferences and communicating to them through your app, iBeacons on location and personalized communications via wearables.

It’s wise to look into your own marketing strategy and ensure you’re delivering on these customer experience expectations at every junction.

You can learn even more about engaging customers on social at our two day Festival of Marketing event in November. Book your ticket today and head to the Social stage to learn how to manage brand perception and reach new audiences.