“Let me know if you have any questions.”
As a shopper you hear that every so often from store associates when you visit a store, right? It’s part of the retail experience.
Recently I went shopping, on two occasions, for two specific items and my experience reminded me of an “area of opportunity” the in-store retail experience.
Goldie Locks And The Three Golf Shoe Stores
Father’s Day this year I had the opportunity to golf with my dad for the first time in nearly two years. I hadn’t touched a club in that time, but I knew that the soles were falling off my old golf shoes. So time to bite the bullet and buy new shoes. My only prerequisites in my mind were I like black, I like the Nike brand, and my budget was around $80.
I walked into the golf department of a sporting goods store (store “A” let’s say) and examined my footwear options.
“Let me know if you have any questions.” The store associate said.
Most of the time I politely say “thank you” and go back to browsing. But you know what, it’s been a while since I bought golf shoes, and I didn’t do any online research, so why not?”
“Hey, are there any trends in what people are buying in golf shoes? It’s been a while and I’m not sure…” I inquired, thinking this was a fair and honest question from my perspective as a guest.
The store associate looked dumbfounded.
I’m not sure what I expected. I’m not a sales person. Never have been. If it were me I’d probably go into which brands were selling the best and maybe an antidote or overview of something I read in a magazine to help my fellow human select a product.
“Um, yeah people just buy whatever they like…I guess.” (I paraphrase.)
“Ok. Thanks.” I went back to looking at the shoes by myself, tried on a pair and noted the price. Out the door I went.
Store “B” was a golf store. I went in and was quickly hit with a polite: “Let me know if there’s anything we can help you with” as I prowled the golf shoe area. They were having some sort of district sales meeting on site it seemed, so I had a flurry of sales associates ready to pounce on me at the mere hint of a question. The problem was their pricing. For similar or same shoes, as the first store, their pricing was too high for my budget. The selection was good, just canted too high for my liking. Onto store three without even a question…
Last, but not least, store “C” was also a golf store. Their pricing and selection were great, and I even found the pair of black Nike Air golf shoes I wanted for around $80; not as cheap as store “A” but they were close and in the right color. (If you can’t golf good, look good, I say). I tried on the shoes; walking around the department in them. Felt comfortable, and I looked stunning.
Shoes on, I made my trend inquiry when asked by a store associate “let me know if you have any questions”. Amazingly we had a great conversation, not even a sales pitch. We talked about my shoe needs, some of the most popular brands, new technology and even her other job as a golf instructor. I was happy with the selection, pricing, merchandising AND the associate experience. Their reward was my hard-earned cash in exchange for a shiny new pair of shoes. I even impulse bought some golf balls based on their recommendation after I inquired.
We Just Need A Mattress
The other recent shopping endeavor was for our little guy: he’s ready for a twin bed, so we needed a mattress, box spring, frame; the whole nine yards. This time we did our homework online and decided to goto a well-known department store who was running a sale.
We drove out to the store, and were informed that we’d have to goto another location that actually sells mattresses. Ugh, a slight convenience but we were bent on getting a mattress so we hopped back in the car.
On the way we decided to cross shop a mattress only retailer, out of curiosity.
What an awful experience. They had a ton of mattresses and we were soon approached by an associate.
“How can I help you?”
We explained our need: a twin mattress set, don’t want to spend too much but don’t want garbage either.
“What’s your budget?” inquired the salesman.
“Around $250 max.” I replied.
He then proceeded to show us one mattress that cost $350. I was the one who had to walk over and check out the $199 mattress set on my own. Complete and utter “used-car-salesman” tactics. I’ll spare you all the gory details. Suffice to say I will never, ever, ever in a million, billion years subject myself to that archaic form of “customer service” or salesmanship again if I can avoid it.
High tailing it out of there we ended up in the mattress department of the big department store we originally intended on going to. We found ourselves looking at a long row of queen beds with rectangular signs on them. Pricing for mattresses is crazy high. Our budget was $250 for mattress and box spring. All the ones on display were high end mattresses, and only a few were even available in twin. We hunted down a sales associate who was more than happy to sell us a $2,000 mattress but had little knowledge beyond that. I deduced that ordering online was the only option from this retailer.
“I could order it for you here, online, if you’d like” the associate sadly offered. At this point the associate had been rendered useless.
As a side note, naively I just assumed you can goto the store, buy a mattress and bring it home. Nope.
Onto the next stop – another department store in the mall. A store whose product and pricing we did not research. By then we were beaten down and just wanted it all to be over with. What we found was a pleasant associate who gladly showed us a few options in our price range. The associate was educated about the products, had good opinions and represented the interests of her merchant valiantly. My wife was able to ask pointed questions and receive knowledgable answers. The kids were able to test out the mattresses easily. Info-graphics and displays were easy to understand.
We ordered a set for around $179. We had no choice but to pay for home delivery for an additional $75 but we didn’t care at that point. We could see the light at the end of the tunnel. And we’ll just order the bed frame online; the department store wanted over $80 which was a bit too steep at double a reasonable price.
Guests and customers remember bad retail experiences more so than good ones. They often do their homework, so they may not need help in-store. And sometimes they do require or want help, like I did in the examples above. Focus on every aspect of your business to assure customers don’t leave your store disenchanted. Make sure the faces of your brand know your brand, products and the marketplace, otherwise why bother wasting money on payroll (or displays, or fancy interiors), right?
No matter how great your products, brand, pricing or physical store is, if customer service and sales are part of the equation, they need to be top-notch as well to compete in today’s marketplace. Otherwise, shoppers are just going to goto another store or shop online.
What are your retail experience horror stories?
Where have you experienced great customer service when shopping?
Share theses and other thoughts on the topic in the comments below. Thanks.
Chris Weigand Design, LLC is a full service retail design consultancy. We love shopping and think holistically about the retail shopping experience including customer service. Contact us today so we can help make paying customers happy with your brand at retail. We help product brands, independent retailers, and large retailers with trend research, merchandising and retail design from concept to production. www.chrisweiganddesign.com