Today as I was driving to work I heard on the radio that the Central Bureau for Statistics in the Netherlands had concluded through their research that “OFFLINE clothing stores are still the most popular with consumers”. Compared to webshops. Wow, really? Interesting.
The theory behind this is that the physical shops can deliver a stronger, more differentiated customer experience. ‘True dat’ as my daughters would say. But then you better be sure that you deliver on that differentiated experience at every opportunity.
I can relate to preferring to buy in a shop and I like to buy local whenever possible to support the local business owners in the small village where I live just outside of Amsterdam. I’m also by nature an impulse shopper and buyer. When I have the time or when I’m in the neighbourhood, I pop in to see what’s available.
I did just this last week when I was making the rounds to stock up on a few essentials, I decided to pop in to one of the women’s clothing stores to look around. The shop is casual fashion and I was looking for inspiration with the intent to buy if I saw something that struck my fancy. Lots of nice things and I was hopeful that I would find something.
I started to look around as the two women who worked there started discussing their evening plans. They didn’t acknowledge me or say hello. I kept looking and saw only size 34 in all the pieces. I started to look around to see if the shop was organised by size so that I could look at the things that were relevant for me; I was a size 34 somewhere in grade school so this just wasn’t doing anything to help my self-image. I was feeling a bit self-conscious that I was in the wrong place. Who wears size 34 anyway except for runway models!
I started to look at scarves. I found something I liked and put it around my neck and started to look at it in the mirror. Finally, one of the women turns to me and says, “did anyone tell you that we only have the smallest sizes out on the racks?” I say “no”, while wondering exactly who would have told me this since they were both talking to each other the whole time I was there. Then she went back to talking with her colleague and I walked out the door thinking “this scarf is from Espresso so I can buy this anywhere, including online.”
- Did I feel they took my visit seriously? NO
- Did I feel like they were interested in helping me? NO
- Did I feel valued? NO
- Did I buy anything? NO
- Will I go back? NO
- Will I recommend them? NO
- Will I order that item online? CHECK
This is such a huge missed opportunity. Who decided to only put out the smallest sizes? It doesn’t encourage anyone to try anything on? It creates an extra barrier in the sales process where I need to ask a salesperson to find out if they have something in my size. Assuming that I know that they have other sizes in the back.
It doesn’t encourage me to want to shop here. As an impulse buyer, the threshold to try something on needs to be very low to move me to the next step. Especially when I don’t have a salesperson who is paying me any attention.
And if you’ve decided that for some insane reason that putting out only the smallest sizes is a good idea, then you better have salespeople who are going to work with customers the minute they step in the door to proactively engage them and encourage and coax them through the buying process. In Dutch, we have something called the ‘gun factor’. It’s a positive feeling of connection where in this case I want to give you my business – I want to buy from you because you make me feel understood, heard and valued.
In today’s retail climate, local shops can have a huge advantage in customer experience if they take the customer seriously, genuinely value their business and help them to make their visit a warm and welcoming experience where the customer wants to buy. Help me give you my business! It’s in both of our best interests.