Retail in 2012

Rundle Mall Adelaide
Rundle Mall Adelaide

My last couple of hubs have been about the decline of retail and the loss of quality customer service. 2012 offers opportunities to retailers providing that they can focus on what retailing should be all about – experience and exceptional customer service.

As I wandered through the main shopping areas in Adelaide today and saw lot’s of ‘sale’ signs but very little in the way of experiential shopping or great customer service. But people are buying. According to the Adelaide Advertiser today the top sales items this post-Xmas period have been:

  • Fashion and apparel
  • Electronic and electrical goods
  • Summer accessories and sporting goods
  • Beverages and takeaway food

Spending on these items are intrinsically linked to gift cards given to people over the gift giving period or gifts returned or exchanged against instore purchases.

One of my favourite examples at the moment is the Myer chain of department stores. Today I went and spent the balance of my gift cards, deliberately choosing a day which will be quieter. Once again there was no experience to be had instore, I had to ferret around all the bargain bins placed on the floor to store designer clothing until I found something in my size. Getting assistance to try on a shoe or getting generally uninterested staff to interact with me was a chore. So once again Myer underperforms with no experience and no customer service. No wonder profits are falling. If I didn’t have a giftcard I would not have shopped here today, online would have been a preferable experience.

When I left the store I notice the Swarovski shop with about 50 people in an orderly queue waiting to get into the shop in a one in, one out fashion. No doubt the offers instore must have been incredible, but why do people need crystals…?! It is about an experience and something that these people must have at a price at which they are happy to queue for a couple of hours. This store is developing an experience that their customers are willing to wait for and no doubt because the salesperson has time they can treat the customer as individuals with exceptional customer service.

It always concerns me when I see food concessions closed on busy shopping days. One in particular is a small donut shop (Donut Delirium, Citi Cross Arcade, Adelaide) who is never open on Sundays or on Public Holidays when the shopping crowds are in. Guess what, they were open today but had no customers. As we have heard food and beverages has been a big seller this sale season and this brand has missed out on providing an experience to shoppers that could bring more business out of sales periods.

Selfridges Shoe
Selfridges Shoe

Action Items

So, how do you change you behaviour as a retailer in 2012 so that you will still be around to trade during Xmas 2012. We’ll here are a few tips:

  1. Take a look at your fitout. Is it tired, does it need a refresh? Do you have an icon that is exciting enough to attract customers to have a look at it? Selfridges in London have a giant shoe and people queue to have their photo taken in front of it! Retailers need to provide an experience that engages with their customers.
  2. Exceptional customer service can be an icon as well. If your staff treat their customers like their friends, are generally interested in them and match product to their needs then you can become transformational, not transactional. People are buying from the web because they get the same level of service as if they were in a store, so when it is cheaper why not buy online? So, if we can make the shopping visit experiential, provide exceptional customer service and price fairly then we can get customers back into our retail bricks and mortar shops.
  3. Remember that the web is a retailer’s best friend. It creates more aware customers and markets the product to them. Retailers can capitalise on the buzz that they web can make about a product or service by providing something that online retailers cannot – exceptional customer service with a human. Remember people are generally social animals and prefer to deal with people when it is easy and exceptional.
  4. Get your store managers thinking that the shop is their own business. Get them motivated about serving their customers. At Disneyland Shops they have a mantra to be the best 30 minutes of a child’s day. At my store we want to be the best 15 minutes of a member’s day. So think about how you and your staff can provide the best few minutes of your customers day that make them want to return time and again.
  5. Train and coach your staff to provide exceptional customer service to each and every customer. This will become you competitive advantage to your business, over competitors both on and off line

Retailing in 2012 will be about offering your customers an experience and an even greater level of customer service. Are you prepared for this challenge?

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