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.
Perhaps the goal of retail management is to put consumers on guard as they enter and leave a store through either a “shout out” or through security checkpoints. I think there is mammoth room for consumer valued retail change, change to be amplified, socially released and post auto-shared by grateful customers. For the record, I was unable to sell Circuit City management on the colossal marketing power of cash register associates. I was also ineffective in convincing them to require the following words after every transaction: “Thank you so much for shopping Circuit City and we look forward to seeing you again soon.” Why did I fail? Management's answer: “Our sales associates are young and unwilling to deliver a sales pitch repetitively to our customers.” So much for brand ambassadors at the last three feet of the sale, so much for enjoying and amplifying a consumers happiness as they grasp their shiny electronics, so much for boomerang store traffic, so much for Circuit City.
In physical stores, separate from the speeds and feeds of retail cloud-weaponry such as social networking, SEO, SEM, mobile apps, SCRM, e-commerce, data mining and digital transaction measurements, we are left with good old adjuvant customer care. Which is broadly defined as caring and sharing human interaction: inexpensive to deploy, yet powerful, effective, logical and consumer valued.
WARNING: The following Gen One Ventures retail principles requires leadership to articulate, docent, motivate, mentor and accent brand ambassador actions as part of every employees job description and evaluation. View each simple principle as expected from your most valuable shoppers. Read as delivered from the mouths of consumers, through the voices of social networks hunting for brands, products and services hopefully destined to your retail store:
1. “Smile, please kindly smile to acknowledge my value to your brand. Smile whether you are the guard, the floor associate, the manager, the most important employee in the store behind the cash register.”
2. “Help me: be accessible, but don’t hound me. Please do not make me chase you around the building and feel bad or humiliated because I have a question for you.”
3. “Offer me free delivery if I spend more than X. Offer me coupons and promotions at the cash register to prompt my return. Offer me special services and rewards based upon my annual spending.”
4. “Please be knowledgeable and relevant on all your store products, promotions and services.”
5. “Dress for success, dress invitingly, dress to serve and support me not to scare or avoid me by looking like a wonk.”
6. “Please don’t be pallid, be affable. Show me you care about your store, care about your brand, care about me as your consumer by showing me, by convincing me why.”
7. “Be digitally informed and fluent regarding products not available in your store with easy access to purchase products on your web site right now, right in front of me.”
8. “Please make your store environment, store personality exciting, energizing, a destination I dream to come to, I dream to shop in.”
9. “Remember me. Find a way to remember me, reward me and stay in touch with me locally as I only live 2 miles from your brand building. Remember me as special, especially during holiday and drive periods.”
10. “Wear a name tag so we can get to know each other, so I can feel more comfortable, so I can respect you by calling you by your name and building a valuable consumer to associate relationship.”
Peter Weedfald is president of Gen One Ventures and author of Green Reign Leadership
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