Make no mistake: customer experience will make or break traditional brick and mortar retail.
Also make no mistake: traditional brick and mortar retail is losing that battle.
Ask anyone you know about their average shopping experience, and you’ll get a earful of just how bad it really is out there – and if you make your living in “bricks and sticks,” you should be horrified.
While we have a ton of material about shopping experience, right now we’re only going to talk about one component of shopping experience. And that’s how sales plays a huge role in the shopping experience.
What is the shopping experience, and why is it important to focus on sales as part of the shopping experience?
Well, going back to 2009, Forbes wrote an article about a survey referenced in the retailcouncil.org and Forbes summarized five major areas of shopping experience.
2009? That was a long time ago? Well, when you think about the list, you’ll realize quickly that nothing has changed. Quoting directly from the article:
“Engagement: being polite, genuinely caring and interested in helping, acknowledging and listening.”
Wait a moment. Who are they talking about here? You guessed it – people on the SALES floor (most often, the retail sales associate.)
“Executional excellence: patiently explaining and advising, checking stock, helping to find products, having product knowledge and providing unexpected product quality.”
Again, who are they talking about? You, if you make your living on the selling floor. By the way, an interesting note here is that most often when we think of retail execution we are thinking about right product, right shelf, right time. But here the execution is quite literally speaking in all examples except the quality of the product – about how you are delivering the sale! By the way, you can – and should – do everything you can to learn WHY the products you carry are great, and be able to communicate that!
“Brand Experience: exciting store design and atmosphere, consistently great product quality, making customers feel they’re special and that they always get a deal.”
You can do your part about keeping the store in top-shape, learning why your products are great – and the last half of the sentence is all about you building rapport, creating empathy, providing service, helping – and helping the customer to understand the value of their purchase! If they truly understand the value, they get a great deal!
“Expediting: being sensitive to customers’ time on long check-out lines, being proactive in helping speed the shopping process.”
Here again, it’s on you. Get so great at what you do that you can help the customer accomplish all of his/her goals in the shortest time – and do your part to watch out for them along the way (like making sure they don’t end up in a long line wherever possible.)
“Problem Recovery: helping resolve and compensate for problems, upgrading quality and ensuring complete satisfaction.”
Ok. First, seek not to create problems. Second, if a customer has a problem, care about it and help them get it fixed. If it’s “above your paygrade,” get them to somebody who can fix it. And by the way, when you become a master, you’ll turn problems into sales opportunities…returns into exchanges…complainers into advocates.
The article goes on to mention things like “salespeople who “immediately acknowledged you” or “could easily explain a product to you” or “seemed genuine.”
So, yeah. You’re on the very front line of the brick and mortar, traditional retail selling war that is going on with online buying every day. And you’re part of the team that will not only save traditional retail, but do a really great thing in the process. Because…
While online has its advantages, there is something absolutely awesome about being able to walk into a store, get great help, have a conversation with a human, walk out immediately with a perfect solution to whatever it is you wanted, feel great about yourself and your purchase – and get on with your life.
And that’s what you give people when you’re in retail sales done right. A perfect shopping experience.