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Monday, April 20, 2009

Front & Center: Customer Retail Experience

The Pattaya Experience originally uploaded by davis80.
The customer retail experience needs to be front & center in our minds. Why? Because no aspect of our customer interactions is immune. Not even the final purchase of our lives!

Before going there, though, think about this.

Product merchandising benefits significantly from focusing on customers. Take this article titled "5 Ways to Improve Product Merchandising - Improve your customers' shopping experience and boost your bottom line."

It recommends the following:

1. Create a hands-on experience

2. Be simple and direct

3. Highlight the benefits

4. Appeal to your customer

5. Listen to the locals

All ideas that keep the customer front & center, but also start from the perspective of our customers and what makes meaning for them and simplifies their lives.

In Extreme shopping - Retailers see rock walls, petting zoos, classes and concerts as good business [$ to access article] from 2/4/2008, the author discusses the strategy of "attracting customers by turning shopping into an experience." Perhaps by hosting knitting groups, or staging concerts or hosting a petting zoo [our local library now has animals in the children's section - Algernon the white rat and a frog, too.].

Those retailers offering memorable experiences such as these do so to be "more than a warehouse of products to our customers." They consciously offer fun, engaging and interactive experiences purposely to "build stronger loyalty with ... customers." In so doing, they "engage and connect with consumers without playing the price card."

That's because interaction creates an emotional connection, which leads to a sense of community, when done successfully.

Definitely worth paying attention to.

Another benefit: "retail events can motivate staff as well as customers."

And, for independent stores: "locally based stores have more of a knack for creating excitement than national chains. Independents often understand their markets better and exude real enthusiasm." Yes! I personally believe that local stores are what create a strong sense of place, something that we are increasingly looking for.

The article mentions than many new stores are designed specifically to accommodate activities. [For example, read about Michigan Tile & Carpet Co. and what they have created in their store].

Although dated [we're talking 2002], this IBM survey titled "Making CRM Work for Retailers 2002" includes fascinating observations about the customer retail experience that I believe remain extremely relevant:

+ To succeed, retailers need to place a greater focus on the Total Customer Experience [i.e., person to person and store experience].

+ Unprecedented customer complexity and competitive intensity are driving retail into a world of extremes [i.e., the middle is absolutely completely gone].

+ Lack of true differentiation is a key reason that some customers are not loyal to any retailers.

+ Customers are clear about what they want, but, their needs are still not being met [i.e., they want a store that is easy to shop and one that adapts to customers' changing needs].

Moving on and finally making it to the final purchase of our lives, consider The Funeral: Your Last Chance to Be a Big Spender from the 4/19/2009 New York Times. I find the range of options and creativity in delivering a true 'experience' for both the living and the dead to be absolutely fascinating. From customization [motorcycle drawn hearse], to uniquely thoughtful [Good Humor Truck], to environmental consciousness [rented coffins] to marvelous simplicity [custom made shrouds] - it's all a matter of the customer experience being front and center.

Which means: never stop innovating with new and relevant services, pay close attention to your customers and be sure to make your offerings truly memorable for the right reasons.


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Anonymous said...

Hi Christine, I always loved your post and this one gets to the "nitty gritty." Every new retailer I meet tells me their showroom is the greatest; at this point I say, If you have a Ferris wheel in your showroom call me!Michigan Tile has done a wonderful job of providing an experience for the community. Keep it up, Lisbeth www.lisbethcalandrino.com

CB Whittemore said...

Lis, you're right. A ferris wheel would definitely be worth checking out. You showcase some terrific examples in your recent post about Home Valu. Thanks for visiting and good luck with your book!

Ted Hurlbut said...

The concept of customer experience is critical to success, but going forward the most successful small retailers will go beyond to engaging customers on a highly personal level to give the experience even deeper meaning. This engagement revolves around the shared passions of retailer and customer and opens up a number of possibilities for extending and strengthening the relationship.

CB Whittemore said...

Ted, you are absolutely right and it will be fascinating to see how that evolves. Some retailers get it and will have a blast; many others will struggle with creating and delivering a high touch customer experience. Thank you for sharing your perspective.

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