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Bring Back That Special Feeling – Part 1

In this post I will discuss how Special in retail has lost it’s ‘specialness’ and in our challenging times retailers need to shift their focus away from their competitors and discounting and back to their customers and their needs and wants. The problem with retail today is that many retailers have become so fixated on their competitors and have taken their eye off the ball on who is really important: their customers.

Special Isn’t So Special Anymore
Discounting wars has become the norm of most businesses in recent years as they compete with each other like seagulls over a chip for ever diminishing returns. Price, most retailers believe, is the driving force behind consumer spending decisions, yet there is a stronger force utilised if it is harnessed correctly: emotion.

Emotional Spending
Most consumers it is well known buy on impulse or through emotion rather than through rationality. If this is a well known fact, then it makes sense that in order to increase sales we need to create a positive emotional experience in order to attract customers and get them to come back for more.

Make Your Customers PEE With Delight
So how do we create a Positive Emotional Experience? How do you get your customers to PEE themselves with delight? Simple. Again back to basics. Know thy customer. Know them back to front, inside out, upside down, who they are, what they eat, where they live, how much their average spend is – understand everything about them. What makes them tick and what ticks them off?

One way to really get to know your customer is to simply ask customers who walk in your store questions. Keep the questions limited and simple. Do not interrogate them under a lamp, instead, ask questions about who the product they are buying is for for instance, people love to talk about themselves! If you want more detailed information you may conduct an online survey if you have a Facebook page in return for an in-store discount or other offer.

Never Assume
Never assume that you know your target market. Be open, no matter how many years you have been in the retail industry, to test and measure. Before buying a large shipment of product, don’t just rely on your gut feeling or staff for feedback, instead, show a sample to a number of customers who come into your store. Get their thoughts and opinions, after all they are your customers. The biggest mistake that any of us can ever make in retail is to assume that we know our customer when we haven’t got to really know them. Sometimes we may really know our customer, however, we fail to test new products first and find later when we have 1000 of product x that the reason it didn’t sell was because their was something happening in the world that you weren’t aware of that suddenly affected their buying decision.

The World Is In Flux
The world is moving at such a rapid rate, and we often find it hard to keep up with what is happening. That is why your customers are invaluable as they can be canaries in a coalmine and their reaction to new products will save you a lot of financial heart ache.

Special has lost that Specialness
‘Special’ has lost its specialness as the word has been used and abused in recent years. ‘Special’ has become to mean that it is on sale or discounted, instead of different, particular, individual or unique. The shift has gone from the making the customer feel special by offering different products and a unique customer experience and service to simply offering the same run of the mill products at discounted price. From customer centric to product centric.

Refocusing On Your Species of Customer
In order to see clearly, as discussed, retailers need to focus on their customer’s requirements – the products that you stock and the experience you create when they enter your store. The word ‘species’ is related to the word special, and your aim as a retailer is to know your species of customer intimately. Don’t assume that just because you have run your business for years that you know your customer intimately. What actions and processes do you have in place to really get to know and understand what your customers want?

In Part 2 of Bring Back That Special Feeling (or Bringing Specialness Back Into Specialty Retail), David Cuschieri will show how you can bring back that ‘specialness’ to your business and help boost your bottom line.

Photo by tablewareforsale on Flikr used under Creative Commons


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