When was the last time you put yourself in the shoes of your customer’s experience? With the reliance on data to tell us how well products and promotions are being accepted (or not) do we truly understand all of the stumbling blocks or successful conversion techniques behind a purchase?
With so much debate about the value of four wall vs online purchasing, I decided to spend some time in the nitty gritty world of the mall store to see for myself how much the purchasing experience had changed from the time I first began my merchandising journey. Bottom line, not a whole lot. These things are still of critical importance to a customer:
- A friendly, helpful greeting by an attentive (not hovering) and knowledgeable sales associate. This includes checking in with them even after an “I’m browsing” response.
- “Knowledgeable” includes familiarity with the product assortment, sizing, promotional activity in store and online and store set up, as well as quality vs. competition.
- A neat, well merchandised selling floor, including markdown merchandise.
- Consistent refreshing of the merchandise focus to keep the customer entertained and engaged with new products in the front of the store and windows. As we all know, this is invaluable marketing real estate.
- A sense of community interacting with the customer and a thank you with a ” It was fun working with you, we’re looking forward to seeing you next time” message as they leave.
The other key component in a winning store experience was and continues to be a selling staff who is committed, well informed and is supported and empowered by the entire organization. These people work very hard juggling multiple priorities which are also physically demanding and at times unpredictable. Two of the leading frustrations which impact an associate’s interaction with customers are:
- Conflicting prices and promotions online vs. in store. Many four wall customers follow online assortments and promotions very carefully challenging the sales staff on pricing over which they have no control. A policy giving the stores the ability to price match on the spot would solve this. Better yet, synergized promotions for a seamless omnichannel experience.
- Systems which apply in store online returns against store sales goals. While there is often an opportunity to exchange online product for additional product in the physical store, many customers order a range of sizes to find the best fit and then return the other sizes for credit, reducing the overall metrics for the day including for which stores against which stores are bonused and reviewed. This also skews the amount of business attributed to the online channel in relation to the four wall. Doubt many store customers are returning their four wall purchases to the online channel. (This is not a new challenge. Mail order/catalog has long done the same thing. With the sophistication of systems these days, though, it should be recognized and addressed.)
Do you choose to be a Good Witch: https://youtu.be/TP_wx0qrKu0
Or a Bad Witch: https://youtu.be/Leb83bRkXDg
To be successful, our customer needs to know where to find her ruby slippers. From us, of course.