Just because your organisation says it’s customer centric a lot, do you actually know how to make it real? I say I’m getting fit a lot, but I also eat fried potatoes every day. Here are my top 6 red flags that indicate you may not have the grip you thought.

 1. The products in your store are organised by product hierarchy, not the way the customer shops

There’s probably no better indicator of a retailer (online and offline) not thinking about the customer journey than when you see product category signs that don’t mean anything outside of the organisation, e.g. ‘Small Appliances’. I just want to know where the toasters are at and why they aren’t with the other kitchen things. This is probably the easiest thing you can do to improve shop-ability, relevance and see immediate sales results.

Have you noticed how the supermarkets are locating cheese with biscuits with cold meats with dips these days? That’s because they had a realisation that you’re probably putting a cheese platter together and they can help you buy more by putting everything you could possibly need in one place. I bet quince paste sales went through the roof.

If you want to see next level solution selling, you need to check out Kochhaus in Berlin…

[Picture: Kochhaus shows us how solution selling is done with the store organised into a range of recipes and ingredients pre-measured so that you’ll have no waste at the end]

 

2. Your understanding of your customer is characterised by demographics such as generation, i.e. ‘Millennials’

If your retail business is going to survive this decade, the one thing to get clear on is that the term ‘millennials’ refers to a cohort of people who were born between the 80s and the turn of the century (which makes them around 24-38 years old today). Just like every other generation, or population, there is a significant variation in attitudes and behaviours that split this group apart and you’ll be making a huge mistake to treat them as a single group.

The reason why millennials are so often the generation everyone is focused on has more to do with the fact that they represent the first generation to have grown up with the World Wide Web. The implications are that they have a different understanding of how the world works, what is possible, and what is acceptable in this digital age.

If you have any hope of making a genuine connection with your target customers, you’ll need to be in tune with their values, attitudes and behaviours, more so than their demographics. If you don’t understand them, it’ll be glaringly obvious very quickly and you can bet on missing the mark.

Take for example this classic tweet from Hillary…

[Picture: Hillary’s camp have clearly misunderstood the ubiquitous use of emojis as an aversion to reading and writing – goodbye voters!]

 

 3. Your marketing isn’t trigger-based, or personalised

It’s well documented how much people are bombarded with constant marketing and desperate stunts from brands clamouring for attention. So what are you doing with the privilege of having your customers’ contact details?

Success in the next age of retail will hinge on an organisations ability to collect and use data to understand and reach its customers so that they can build a connection by being in the right place at the right time, with the right message.

If you’re not collecting data, you’re not going to get any understanding of their behaviour and won’t be able to intercept them when it matters most. Outside of that, if you’re not doing it, you can count on your competitors to beat you to it. Let’s not forget, your list of competitors now likely includes Amazon…

 

4. You still struggle with questions like, should we offer free delivery when we actually want customers to come into the store?

It’s not about what you ‘the retailer’ wants. Power has indisputably shifted to the consumer and if you’re not going to give them what they want, someone else will. Basically, I don’t care how long it used to take to make sequinned tulle dresses and ship them from France, The Iconic can get a dress to me in 3 hours, why can’t you?

 

5. Your performance metrics don’t reference any customer outcomes

I’m not just talking about number of followers on Instagram or Net Promoter Score (NPS). NPS is a neat dipstick to test the waters, but it isn’t going to tell you much on its own. Your team need to be thinking about how you’re going to make customers properly happy and keep them coming back for more because they love you so much. Some measures to consider include Customer Lifetime Value, repeat rates, lapse / reactivation rates.

Similarly, if you’re throwing metrics around willy nilly, like measuring store associates on gross margin, you’re also missing the point. Store associates shouldn’t be worried about maximising margin, that’s the product team’s job. Get your service team focused on solving your customers problems with the best solutions for them, not the best margins for the company – it’s the happiest customers that keep coming back for life and recommend you to all their friends.

 

6. You’ve got a cafe in your store to encourage foot traffic and you’re not sure if it’s helping

In a climate where an increasing proportion of discretionary spending is going towards experiences instead of stuff, it’s obvious that the brick and mortar store needs to evolve beyond the product warehouse of days past. Many retailers have successfully incorporated food offers into their stores, but is it translating into product sales and brand loyalty for all of them? Does that mean a cafe will work for you too? It depends on whether a cafe enhances or supports what your brand is actually about, and how it relates to the rest of your offer.

For retailers like KITH, their cereal bar offers fans who can’t afford the shoes, a way to experience the brand and leave with a taste.

[Picture: Kith cereal bar in LA]

Its celebrity collab menu offers a way to feel closer to your favourite stars without having to shell out more than $10.

[Picture: [Picture: Even LeBron wants some of his own creation]

The primary function of a store is no longer a distribution point, it’s a brand experience centre. If a customer walks into a store, it will often be with full knowledge that of what options are out there, what stock you’re carrying and how your prices compare to competitors (or they’ll be looking it up as they stand next to a shelf). So what are you offering that they can’t get online? It doesn’t have to be a café, but it does have to be about your brand.

The store is now every retailer’s best opportunity to offer customers an immersive experience in the culture of your brand to build emotional attachment and maybe even loyalty through service and human connection. Think twice before you skimp on store labour!

 

Conclusion

So what can you do to make customer centricity a way of life in your business? Get obsessed with understanding your customers – why do they come to you already? Why would they never come to you again? How do they like to shop and what other brands are they shopping? You need to fully understand what they’re about, live their journey and then reflect that in the tangible aspects of your business. How it looks, how it sounds, how it feels and what you do. After all, it’s still true that actions speak louder than words.

Author Jace Loh

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