All Things Retail #6: Retail Ain't No "Field of Dreams"

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Retail Ain’t No “Field of Dreams”

“If you build it, they will come” was made famous in the 1989 movie Field of Dreams (some have different versions of this saying, but you get the point) with Kevin Costner.

It’s a great story, especially of you are a baseball fan. But I digress…

As a merchant, you simply cannot just “build your store”, be it digital, physical or both, open or re-open your doors, and expect shoppers to flock to you. It simply does not work that way. In Issue #5 we discussed running an out-of-the-box promotion to help increase customer traffic, site/store visits and sales. While promotions are a must, they are inherently short-term in nature. As a merchant, you need to leverage the events you create to “wow” the shoppers that visit your stores and keep them coming back on a regular basis. While there are many ways to do this (great product, great guest service), one of the most important tactics you can leverage is creating a robust portfolio of service offerings. An important equation:

Meaningful Services, Well Executed = Customer Satisfaction

But why is this so important? Here is one of many data points that speak to customer experience/ satisfaction:

“In our Customer Experience Trends Report 2021, we uncovered a startling statistic: about 50 percent of respondents said they’d switch to a competing brand after just one bad customer experience.”                 –  Zendesk 2021

So, let’s dig in. Here is a Top 10 list of “must have” service offerings. While some can be supported by investments in technology, none of them require that. So, there are no excuses! Here we go:

  1. Omnichannel: very few physical retailers will be successful without an online presence. Conversely, there is an immense amount of research that shows brick & mortar shops are accretive to digital merchants. Today, it’s more important than ever to engage with the consumer wherever she wants to engage. She’s the boss. Nearly 75% of consumers shop on more than one channel. As a result, 87% of retailers find omnichannel critical to their success.

    If you don’t have a website, there are plenty of inexpensive solutions (Shopify, Wix, etc.) which offer multiple add-on apps to enhance the functionality and effectiveness of your site. You don’t need to know coding to launch your website; in fact, you can be up and running in a day or so.

    If you are online seller, you can test physical retail via an inexpensive, low risk pop-up shop (see Issue #4) to learn the model and better understand the value proposition.

    Don’t forget than you can also sell on social platforms like Instagram and Facebook. This channel is growing in terms of revenue impact, and there is a dual benefit of growing followers and reaching new buyers.

    While Omnichannel is probably the most involved “service” on this list, many would argue it is also the most important. Companies with omnichannel strategies enjoy 23% higher rates of customer satisfaction. Don’t skip past this one; get started today.

  2. BOPIS & Curbside Pickup: BOPIS stands for Buy Online, Pickup in Store. The key here is providing convenience for the customer. While it’s always preferable to get shoppers into the store to browse and theoretically buy more, this isn’t always preferable for the guest. So, make it easy for her to buy and pickup. If you have a website, offer the service there. No website yet? Take orders via phone.

    Be sure consumers are aware of this service by promoting on social media, on your website, and in-store.

    For BOPIS, set aside a location in your store for guests to pick up their orders. This spot should preferably be located close to the entrance to support a convenient, quick visit. Be sure the pick-up area is well signed.

    For curbside pickup, ensure your customer knows specifically where the pickup will occur (in the front of your store? In highlighted parking spaces? At a specific entrance for mall merchants?). If possible, use exterior signage to highlight this area. Also ensure your customer has a way to contact the store when they arrive to let you know they are ready for their curbside pickup. If you have a tech solution for this, that’s great. If not, a simple phone call or text will suffice.

    For both BOPIS and curbside, set up a holding area in the store for orders that are complete and waiting to be picked up. Each order should be clearly marked with the customer’s name, order date and include the payment receipt.

    When handing purchases to the guest, do so quickly (limit wait time) and have them double check the order to ensure its theirs and it’s complete.

  3. Delivery & Shipping: this is an offshoot of the convenience offering of BOPIS and curbside. If you genuinely want to make it easy for a customer to spend their money with you, get their purchase to them in any way they desire.

    It’s perfectly appropriate to charge an additional service fee for delivery and shipping.

    While you can ship essentially anywhere, a delivery zone should be established that is manageable for the store team. Typical zones are 3-5 miles in suburban areas.

    Ensure you vet your insurance coverage for delivery drivers, be it team members or the store owner.

    Establish delivery drop-off procedures for the driver and the customer (where to leave the order? How to inform the customer the delivery has occurred?).

    Be clear with your customer how long a delivery order will take as well as your turnaround time for shipping orders.

    Set up a UPS (or similar) account. You will save on shipping and shipping supplies plus you can typically get in-store pickup of outbound orders.

  4. Safe & Clean: the past year taught operators how to truly keep their stores clean, safe, and secure. While local requirements may be relaxed over time, don’t relax your standards. Consumers have become accustomed to new levels of safety and cleanliness, and there is no reason to back off from your current standards. While things like plexiglass barriers and 6 ft. distancing (and related signs/ floor decals) will eventually go away, regular cleaning, disinfecting, use of contactless procedures and availability of hand sanitizer and cart wipes make perfect sense. Frankly, these services should have always been a part of an excellent retail experience.

  5. Checkout Speed: people hate to wait. Period, end of story. If you make a guest wait longer than they perceive is reasonable to give you their money (think about that!), they will not be happy. Further, they may abandon their shopping cart (in-store and online) and most likely will tell their friends about their disappointing experience.

    Keep your checkout process lightening fast. Store merchants should open additional registers before a line develops. They should also train cashiers to put phone calls on hold while they assist the paying guest standing right in front of them (better yet, use portable phones that the floor staff can answer rather than distract the cashier).

    Online sellers should make a test purchase and go through the checkout process. How quick and efficient is it? If there are pain points, eliminate them. Most platforms allow easy shopping cart/ checkout configuration. If your site is custom programmed, bite the bullet and fix the process. Why? A recent survey shows that 28% of shoppers abandon their purchases during checkout, citing “too long or complicated checkout processes”.

  6. Return Policy: it’s simple…make the customer happy. Return abuse is negligible but many merchants see a customer return as a negative. It isn’t. It’s a part of retailing. So, flip your perspective. A customer seeking a refund, who is blown away by the positive way you handle their return, is an opportunity to:

    Reinforce how consumer friendly your business is.

    Gain positive word of mouth support.

    Sell them something else.

    Secure their e-mail address to add to your database for future marketing efforts.

    These are the top 6 services that you should (must?) offer. Here are 4 more that are almost as important. Let’s go a bit quicker to allow you to get to work on all of these!

  7. Customer e-Mails: Collect e-mails and build your mailing list. There is no better way than personalized messaging (other than face-to-face), to build a relationship with your customers. How? Contests, giveaways, sign up list, during returns, online pop-ups, etc.

  8. Build Community: Become a part of your community. Donations to local organizations? Local charity tie-ins? Teacher discounts? First responder discounts? Participate in local savings cards (little league, etc.). There are plenty of ways for you to become more engaged with your community. Create a set of community services and promote them. The payback is superb.

  9. Personal Shopping: Customer’s time is often tight. Offer to do the shopping for them (a la Instacart). Have the customer provide a shopping list (best for commodity products) or fill out a questionnaire about their likes/ dislikes/ sizes (for non-commodity items like fashion) and do their shopping during quieter times in your store. Oh yeah…promote this service.

  10. Social Media Friendly: everyone seems to enjoy sharing on social media, especially Gen Y and Gen Z consumers. Create inexpensive backdrops or props (ideally with some store branding) for visitors to snap some selfies. Encourage your team to suggest the use of these and they will result in a bunch of free promotion.

Once you finish up executing (not just reading) this Top 10 list, check out the Field of Dreams movie!


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Quote of the Week:

"I attribute my success to this: I never gave or took any excuse."

-Florence Nightengale


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