Store Traffic is the Lifeblood of Retail Capitalism
In-store employees represent and mirror retail brand value and advertised brand promise. By extension they represent manufacturers' brand value and corresponding product promises. United in harmony, highly effective retail employees closely team with manufacturer brand promises to deliver exceptional consumer in-store and in-home experiences.
This physical brand leverage is not the same in the cloud absent of the mammoth influential august of human capital within store aisles. Mostly impersonal and anonymous cloud purchasing should really be unable to compete with superior in-store human services coupled to brand passion. Retail leaders call this bi-modal, in-store retail-to-manufacturer brand unionization “competitive advantage.” Yes of course best price for same product is always a wrenching competitive fare and market discipline for retailers to win or lose. However, beyond the price/value proposition and profit tolls there is something more meaningful, warranted and valued by every retailer: consumers returning kinetically to buy more.
I recall, while I was CMO for Circuit City, asking executives a simple question. “In your opinion, which is the most important and happiest position (job) in any Circuit City store.” Answers emphatically varied from store manager to sales associate to asset protection to stock clerk to service manager. I was frankly surprised that the answer I was hunting for was not immediately considered.
I stood up and declared my opinion: “The most important and happiest position in any retail store is the associate behind the cash register.” I reasoned their responsibility was to simply receive payment from a happy, fired up, highly energized and “ready to play with their shiny new products” consumer. That during the final transaction consumers do not ask tough technical questions, they are not deciding whether to buy or not, they are not considering if they should purchase their products at another retail store. Life is very good and brand fertile in front of the cash register for both store associate and consumer.
I further declared consumers are most happy and brand-susceptible at the last three feet of the sale as they stand with credit card in hand. In front of the cash register is where consumers feel, dream and impatiently imagine they are getting more than they are giving. Yet store associates do not seem to be trained as brand ambassadors. They do not seem to be corporate-invested to offer on-the-spot boomerang store promotions, coupons, reward programs or even weekly specials to boost much needed store traffic. Store traffic which we know is the lifeblood of retail capitalism. The cash register associate is any retail brand's last best shot to reward happiness, drive brand value, brand affinity: highly profitable boomerang-traffic opportunities.
Frankly, as we troll through a rough and tumble expensive transformation from solo-physical-retailing into omni-channel opportunities, it amazes me that very little has changed inside retail stores. Of course, when we enter stores there is a five year old fad where someone yells out “thank you for shopping at X today.” In some cases we have to waive our paid club card to an entrance “guard” or we have to pass by an off duty police officer at the front door requiring us to prove our paid receipt before exiting. I'm not sure if these methods are effectively valued by consumers.
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