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Why Clarity ?  Better Shopping Experiences 

Ask yourself a question:  When was the last time you had a great shopping experience ?  Or a really bad one ?  Was the second question easier to answer ?

Its easy to love the retail industry – everyone can relate. But I like to dig into what drives the experiences we have when we go shopping. 

Going back to the bad experience, how often was the problem the store associates could not find what you were looking for ?  Delivery dates, product availability, and pricing were murky at best. How often did associates disappear, for fear of actually having to help you ? 

Let’s dig into some sample experiences I’ve had recently.

Positive Shopping Experiences 

I had an epiphany after three radically different shopping experiences. I couldn’t find what I wanted, but the outcomes were very different.

First visit was for laundry room cabinets. Where were they located ?  No idea.  A store associate pointed me to the box on the shelf, suggested where I would find accessories. Wasn’t quite what I wanted, so I had to custom order the cabinets. They looked it up in the system, printed a quote, I paid for it, and they promised it would show up in about 2 weeks. About 7 days later, I got a phone call, the cabinet was in, a few days early. It took two trips to the store, but the whole transaction time was about 35 minutes. Expectations: Exceeded.

My second visit was to find a piece of steel or aluminum pipe for a backyard project. I saw exactly what I wanted in the electrical department, but no price. After 15 minutes of searching, a reluctant associate told me that I couldn’t buy it. Huh ?  You see, it is not in my department. And no price checker in sight. No POS terminal either. It belonged with chain link fencing. So I went there. I found an even better piece, got to the checkout.  Barcode wasn’t on the item. Cashier went back to the garden centre, got a different piece of pipe with a barcode tag. Total time:  42 minutes. And why do retailers put paper tags on things stored outside in the rain ? And when did “it’s not my job” become standard operating procedure? Expectations: Not met, but I did get the pipe.

Third visit was simple – I was looking for anti-seize for stainless steel (don’t ask). Its a copper paste in a bottle. I didn’t think they’d have it, even though they sell lots of stainless steel nuts and bolts. An associate approached me, asked what I was looking for, and was able to tell me by searching at a terminal that they definitively didn’t carry it.  Elapsed time: 5 minutes. Expectations; Met – but didn’t have it.  For those merchandise buyers out there – think about the job people are doing with the products on your shelf. Stainless fasteners always need anti-seize lubricants. Why don’t you sell it ?

Observations

In two visits, store associates could find the info they needed, had visibility into inventory and to some degree, the supply chain. They were available, and they listened to what the customer was looking for.  The IT systems were enablers. They knew how to use it, and a POS or browser terminal was accessible to get the answers.

IT is wonderful, but if there is no way to access it, or the culture is such that staff avoid it, then its a dismal failure. Staff training and adoption as well as convenience is a must.  This problem combined with general operational issues made the second trip a failure.

A terminal in every department used to be the norm. Where did they go ?  What about using a register with a browser? What about handhelds ?  Recently, another client with large specialty stores finished rolling out 10 handhelds per store – tied in to POS. It’s working well, allowing associates to pre-scan items to save checkout time.

Conclusions

If you want your stores to work well, it’s about empowering your staff – and giving them clear insight into the supply chain, right at the Point of Sale, a handheld, or other store terminal.  Store devices need to be readily available, and should be the entry point to all of the information needed to service the customer.

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1 Comment

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  1. Andrea France
    Great read, Colin.  No matter what you’re shopping for, it’s all about the service. 

    I just got an invite to attend an event from a personal shopper at a high end department store.  Fantastic for me, but shouldn’t this be the standard?

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