An article in Inc. Magazine by Tom Foster entitled, “Reprogramming Retail” recently highlighted several successful online retailers who are doing something many would consider counterintuitive.
They are opening stores. Yes, physical locations that customers can walk into and touch products and talk to employees. Crazy, huh?
Foster explains how and why certain retailers either moved away from physical stores or chose not to establish a physical store presence in the first place. It is pointed out that with most traditional store distribution, 80% of products’ costs are tied up in real estate, distribution, and marketing.
The arguments for reducing real estate expenses (which include labor, inventory, insurance, etc.) are obvious. But retailers in past decades had few options. Ubiquitous high-speed internet access has changed that.
What the internet hasn’t changed, however, is customers’ desires to physically experience a brand. Sure, that may involve touching or trying a product.
But as important are the experiences customers get from a store’s atmosphere and their interpersonal experiences with employees.
As the online world has made our choices of products and suppliers almost limitless… the ability to physically experience a store or brand takes on added importance. Customers do not have to visit a store to purchase a product.
But if they trust the experience will be a positive one, they want to.
What particularly interested me was that many of these newer store designs are a fraction of the size of older stores. More and more allow for “shopping” including talking with employees, trying on apparel or examining a product.
Then the actual purchases are made in-store, but on-line… with the product then being shipped to a customer’s home.
Similar dynamics are in play for banks today. Most of our products and services can be delivered online. But our brands are still driven by our physical presence (branches) and the human interactions they provide.
As the industry is commoditized, those elements matter more than ever.
Branches will pop up in different places and serve evolving purposes, as well. But their roles, and the bankers they house, will continue to define brands. Each customer experience affects a brand.
How will your interactions define yours today?
Some of the largest checks I’ve had to personally cut over the years have gone to contractors working on our homes. And some of the worst headaches and cases of heartburn I’ve had to deal with have come from them, as well.
I tell friends that I’ve learned if people aren’t very responsive from the very start, you should stay away no matter how impressed you are with their portfolio.
If folks prove themselves to be somewhat less than trustworthy on “small” things, it gives you a window into how they’ll deal with you on the bigger ones. Those words rang in my ears lately.
We recently decided to add an outdoor living room/kitchen to our home. I initially called three established companies that I found online.
I gave them an idea of the size of the structure and various amenities I’m looking for and assured each that I was comfortable with their initial price ranges.
In each case, I gave a range of days and times I could meet to let them size up the project. I let each company choose an appointment time.
And in each case, I later received an email or text an hour or less before my appointment times, stating they couldn’t make it and asking for a new appointment time later in the week. In each instance, I replied, “Thanks for your time, anyway.”
My educated guess is that business must be pretty good for those companies these days. They likely figure that scheduling appointments they aren’t likely to make isn’t that big of a deal.
I don’t concur.
I’ve preached to bankers for years now that one of the keys to sales success is simply keeping your word. Yes, real rocket science there.
There are few things more powerful in building relationships than in a person knowing you are good to your word.
If you tell customers you’ll get answers for them…get answers for them. When you give them an estimated timeframe for something, move heaven and earth if necessary to deliver.
And in the (hopefully rare) instances you cannot, go above and beyond with gestures to make things right.
Whether it’s selling to others, managing people, working with peers, or even parenting our kids… folks need to trust you mean what you say.
Strive to make promises judiciously and over-deliver on those promises when possible. In our increasingly competitive business environment, that’s truly constructive behavior.