The theatre of retail
Would drama students make better sales assistants? Probably. Shoppers now expect all the choice, convenience, access and speed of online, but with the added value of the ‘theatre’ of retail stores. Of course, retailers have always understood the need to create drama and focus. Just remember back to the days when we were wowed at the shop windows on Oxford Street and marvelled at the gigantic Lego displays in the windows of Hamleys! That was pure magic.
But consumers have changed. Shop windows compete for the attention of passers-by as they gaze downwards to their mobile phones, swiping, clicking and liking endless posts and images. Pinterest is akin to a personalised shop window where individually curated desires are displayed and trends and ideas noted. Customers who venture into the high street often have more product knowledge than the sales assistant who competes for their attention in person against the demands of the small screen in the shopper’s hand.
And if all that wasn’t enough, shoppers blatantly stand in-store, comparing prices with competitors online, often placing click-and-collect or home delivery orders while in-store. How is the retailer meant to compete?
Simple, by being a better story for the consumer. Research shows that millennials and Generation Z prefer the physical store experience and want to ‘go shopping’. It isn’t about finding things to buy; it is about what the purchase adds to their personal story. Is it worthy of an Instagram selfie? Does it make a personal statement? Will the interaction with the sales staff give them an experience that is unique and relational, worthy of comment and repeating?
Here are some simple things you can do as a retailer to set your shop on a better path to success:
Make it a destination that wows
When you walk into your shop, what catches your eye, is it tempting, do you want to touch it? Does the display tell a story and enable a customer to put themselves into that story? Would it make a great Instagram or TikTok post?
Create some drama
Let your staff present products with flair and character. For example, don’t just sell chocolate. Sell the full-taste experience that matches the chocolate to the mood of the customer or the occasion for which they are buying. Do this by giving your staff the time and opportunity to engage, build rapport and tailor their conversations. Train your staff in how to create conversation, don’t just assume they know how to do it.
Give your staff freedom
The store team need to be enabled to fulfil a customer’s desire. For example, if a product is out of stock, allow your staff to place a click-and-collect or home delivery order for the item right there and then for the customer.
Technology enables your team
Give your team access to product information and stock levels on the go. Encourage them to complete transactions on their mobile phones so, they don’t have to leave their customer’s side.
Data capture more than the customer’s contact details
Here comes the added value. Attach the name of the customer to the staff member who served them. Enable emails to be sent automatically, recording their purchase in the name of that staff member and future mailings as well. Build character and personality, tailor the ongoing relationship to the purchase and experience of purchasing. Word of mouth recommendation is still one of the highest factors in winning new customers.
Retail is constantly changing, but one truth remains – you must know your customer. It will never get easier for retailers, but it will get easier for customers. Embrace it and win.