I, like a lot of shoppers, love going to places where the service stands out. There’s something they do that makes this store different, maybe it’s obvious, maybe it’s not. Sometimes it’s as simple as the team member engaging with me in a conversation. I recently experienced this at Myer, where I was buying a pair of shoes, the team member had enthusiasm, he made me feel welcome and it was no trouble finding the right pair of shoes for me. He was serving three or four customers at once but always looked over to see if I needed any help. It was great, yet pretty basic.
Unfortunately, as I have reported a number of times, this level of service is getting harder to find. At the most crucial time where competition is at an all-time high, service has to be a priority as one of the key components of the shopper’s experience. If retailers can’t get service right, then it provides a perfect reason for a customer to simply go online.
Service is just one aspect of the customer’s experience, in my mind a very important part though. Retailers have to stand out from their competition, otherwise all the customer has to judge them on is the price. And we all know where that battle ends up, it’s a race to the bottom and only those retailers with deep pockets will survive. Interesting that even on that front Coles and Woollies are now moving away from just focussing on price as they have seen their margins eroded badly.
In the words of the famous Beechworth Baker, Tom O’Toole who puts it simply – “If you are not utterly determined to stand out you’re history. There are too many me-too businesses out there.”
Here’s a couple of tips on how you can differentiate from your competition:
- By offering amazing consistent customer service. This one sounds easy, and lots of businesses think they do when they don’t. Your team needs to understand what amazing service is, how they can deliver it and why it’s important to the customer.
Once you have these three steps in place you are just starting, it’s all about putting this amazing service into place every hour of every single day. Think of the Apple Stores, they are the closest to being at this level.
- Experiential retail. This is a game changer and very few companies are getting this right. Combining technology with knowledgeable and passionate staff is the answer here. Millennials are wanting more and more experiences on their shopping expeditions and when they find it they will buy, come back and instantly message their friends.
Sephora is a great example of a company that has embraced this wholeheartedly. They balance passionate, knowledgeable staff with digitally-enabled experiences and a great variety of product to wow customers. Customers can physically try products with beauty workstations and use iPads to offer digitally-enabled self-service.
Another example is Lululemon stores, who sell active wear. They run free yoga classes and other events for their customers. What a great way to connect with their customers who are fitness focussed. This builds strong loyalty.
In both of these examples (Sephora and Lululemon) the emphasis is on providing an amazing experience which clearly stands out and this also takes the focus away from price.
What are you doing or what can you do to differentiate from your competition?
Roger Simpson – CEO, The Retail Solution and Author of “The Ultimate Retail Sales Experience” With over 35 years’ industry experience, Roger Simpson is recognized as Australia’s #1 Authority on customer ROI in the retail industry and as a global expert on staff coaching, customer service, and selling skills.