Making it easy!
The perils of having a poor shopping experience. Lessons from the major outlets!
This week I was delivering a session at the Power Hour Network in Sheffield. For those that don’t know, the Power Hour is a monthly gathering of 30 or so business owners who meet, mingle and learn about a topic of business improvement from a sector expert. It’s a great networking event in Sheffield that has grown nicely over the course of the past 12 months.
For this specific event, I required the addition of a flip chart presentation stand. Sounds exciting right?! Bear with me.
I looked online on Amazon on the Sunday prior to the event but I didn’t purchase at the time. The point here is I could, on a Sunday afternoon, have sat on my sofa and clicked two or three buttons and within 24 hours, the flipchart stand would have been delivered, at no extra cost, direct to my door. Without fail. How easy is that? What an experience, all done from my phone, with no input from real people, with a guaranteed delivery of 24 hours after I place my order (in some cases you can even get same day delivery!).
Making the customer journey easy.
What is a customer journey?
In marketing, we often speak of the customer journey, user experience or customer experience. If we were to meet in person for the first time, or I was to visit your shop (physical or digital), what would be my experience of finding out more about you? in the first meeting with your potential customer, would it be easy for me to refer to your reviews, your social media feeds? Would it be obvious what you do to help me understand the solution you offer to my problems?in the first meeting with your potential customer, would it be easy for me to refer to your reviews, your social media feeds? Would it be obvious what you do to help me understand the solution you offer to my problems? Click To Tweet What processes do you have in place to make it easy for your potential customers to a) understand what you do, and b) make the experience of shopping with you painless? Click To Tweet
Answering your customer experience
Can you ask yourself a question and answer honestly? The question is simple but I hope it raises some genuine queries around your business and your services which you offer currently. If your business is slower than expected in terms of sales and profits but are certain that your product is the perfect solution to your chosen audience then maybe you should ask, explore and answer this question: how easy is it to shop with you?
Do you make it easy for your prospective customer to actually buy from you?
I referenced before the Amazon experience of sitting in my house, on my sofa, on a Sunday, having the option to click two or three buttons and purchase my required product and have it guaranteed to be with me within 24 hours. Now that ladies and gents is pretty easy! What a seamless experience. Amazon makes it easy for me to give them my money.
But how are you doing the same? What process and steps do you have in place to make it easy for your prospective customer to buy from you; whether that be online, in person, or in a physical outlet?
My painful retail experiences.
What drove me to write this short blog was my decision this Sunday to not buy from Amazon, but instead, trust the powers of actual face to face retail. The good old fashioned brick and mortar shopping experience. How I would regret that decision!
My first visit was the Office Outlet, formerly Staples on the Moor in Sheffield. A safe bet I thought. I asked the assistant where to find a simple flip chart stand. He knew what it was which was a start but as we turned the corner, I was met with 4 blocks of empty racking. I asked if there were likely any in the back waiting to be added to the store front but was met with somewhat of a disinterested shrug of the shoulder and the helpful words “I doubt it”
Thankfully he was more helpful advising me of a store 100 yards up the road who were more likely than them to stock what I needed – why a smaller store is more likely to stock what I need than a huge and market leading chain store I’m not sure but hey, he tried…
My journey continued to Rymans, another leading office and stationery store where surely, in the heart of a city the size of Sheffield, you could find a my desired flip chart stand.
Unfortunately for me, however, I was wrong. This time, the store did sell the paper needed for the flip chart stand, but not the stand to make any use of the paper I would buy. What is happening? Why is it so difficult to buy a pretty standard piece of kit for a business presentation in Sheffield??
Beyond the city
I was getting agitated. My trip so far had seen a wasted visit to the massive international Office Outlet and now Rymans (where I did buy the paper!). I had now wasted an hour driving into town, battling traffic, wasting time and money parking, all to be met with difficulty and no solution to my needs! But I was determined…so my trip now took me out of the city centre and towards the retail park near Meadowhall where I was hopeful, no, adamant that I would find my product at The Range, a very large wide-ranging home hobby, craft, and office store, ‘it sells everything’ said the Mrs
Another 20 minute drive we arrived at The Range.
The basic things you need to know when facing customer questions
How to make it easy for your customers to give you money!
I popped quickly in to The Range in a determined fashion and found the nearest shop assistant I could see. I asked politely if they had in stock flip chart stands for business presentations but the answer I received was neither a yes or a no. It left me confused.
“if we sell them, they will be over there”
The keyword here is “if”.
What sort of a response is this from someone who works in the store? You as business owners or employers of staff simply must make aware to those responsible what it is you sell!
How much trade is getting lost from the lack of education of workforce or lack of enthusiasm and professionalism in the workplace?
It baffles me that a member of staff for a reputable store can offer the reply “if we sell them..”. This is totally different to “if we have any in stock” (which assumed they do indeed sell them) or “no we don’t have any” (which suggest they never stock them), but to simply reply “if we sell them” – meaning the person wasn’t sure not only if they had the product in stock or not, but actually they didn’t know if it was something they sold at all regardless of stock levels!
Online experience vs physical experience
The greatest opportunity for physical outlets to still be on the high streets and retail parks in 10 years time is the ease of use, the product knowledge, the value-adding experience and the overall enjoyment of using these facilities. What Amazon provided was a human free shopping experience but guaranteed to get the product I needed to my door without seeing a person or having to lift a finger.
What I experienced at Office Outlet, Rymans and The Range was (just) the human interaction but at best it was a disinterested reception and at worst, just rude, awkward and in one case, completely clueless about the product range available.You have to make it easy for your customer to give you money in exchange for the product or service you profess to offer! Click To Tweet
Some of the biggest retail outlets in the land are getting this wrong, and it is terrifying how quickly they are handing the power to the online marketplace who make it a painless and easy experience (if not particularly enjoyable). It should be fun and engaging to speak with real people and it is where the opportunity lies to secure a high street.
In terms of small business and your marketing, customer service, and sales provision….I want you to ask yourself…” how easy is it to buy from me”?
You will find yourself digging up some interesting answers I’m sure!
For more from the marketing blog please do browse the page within!
I’m on a mission to help Sheffield City region business owners understand, apply and implement effective marketing on their business to grow sales and profits. How can effective marketing help you? Contact me for a quick chat, there are so many options available that every business can afford! Be sure to check out the Facebook community of over 500 Sheffield business owners growing and sharing knowledge, tips, and referrals to actively grow business in the region!