Customers are precious, treat them well or lose them forever.
It’s time to accept that there won’t be a normal anymore, not in retail at least. No kidding. The idea that change is a constant, possibly the only true constant, is hardly new. I’m no history scholar but even I have a feeling one or two erudite people have beaten me to that statement. So, when considering where this leaves retail and where it could go, there could be an easy out for me, “who knows, whatever I say here will be outdated by the time you’ve read to the end”. That’s tempting but would make for one of the shorter blogs I’ve written and certainly wouldn’t give me the chance to namedrop a few of our field marketing services. Yes, apologies there’s a hidden agenda in here, not well hidden admittedly.
Maybe it’s easier to begin with what hasn’t really changed. Happily, the view that physical retail would be killed off by Covid and associated changes in consumer behaviour seems to have been a little premature. Whilst I lack solid data here, I’m going to make a bold claim that it seems relatively likely that consumers didn’t enter 2020 saying “I don’t care about the service you give me” and that they weren’t then gradually convinced by the arrival and development of a global pandemic that service does matter after all. That said, there does seem to have been a raising of expectations. Being exposed to one or two examples of excellent customer service might have played a role, even if they were in sectors or industries with no direct link to retail. Isn’t it annoying when one or two go and spoil it for everyone…..
Customer experience is such an emotive subject. We all have examples of that time we were left disappointed and vowed never to enter that store, get on that plane, or stay in that hotel again. Hopefully we all also have more positive examples, the times where our loyalty and even love for a brand and how they do things grew exponentially. Sadly, based on my own experience that brand loyalty behaves a bit like personal fitness. It’s really hard work to acquire, takes a lot of effort and consistency to maintain, but is so much easier to lose. But then if it were simple, I’d be running marathons every weekend and would have dispensed with my lockdown-acquired snack drawer.
Just how easy is it to irritate a hard-earned customer to the point where they abandon you in favour of a new shiny alternative? Well, according to PWC and their Future of CX, annoyingly so.
“32% of customers will walk away from a brand they love after just one bad experience”The best brands understand that digital and physical retail don’t operate as silos. It’s all just retail.PWC, The Future of CX, 2021
32% doesn’t sound too bad, right? To give that statistic a little more bite, notice the punchline. “….a brand they love after just one bad experience”. These are customers you’ve probably worked hard to cultivate. In fact, you’ve worked so hard they aren’t one of your average customers, they love your brand. Now, with one potentially small error they’re gone, possibly for ever. Might not even really have been your fault, that delivery that didn’t turn up, that over-sensitive customer having a bad day. Doesn’t seem fair, does it? Maybe not but leaving the unfairness of life to one side the reality is you could lose a third of your favourite customers if you don’t put sufficient focus on delivering a consistently excellent experience. And, equally worrying, those customers don’t even care about where they interact with you. Online, offline, who cares? They don’t.
So, now you’re worried. You might be thinking that the future isn’t quite as bright as you’d thought, and that you quite liked the old normal where consumers meekly surrendered when faced with a few glitches and the expected customer service “challenges”. Well, no need to panic, help is at hand.
This is where field marketing comes into its own. Ceding control of some of your precious brand experience, however uncomfortable that feels, could be the answer. One of the easiest ways to achieve a more consistent representation across your retail presence is to engage a field marketing agency to play a role in ensuring messaging is present and correct and that product is readily available for purchase. If you’re relying on highly stretched retail store staff to close the all-important sale, there’s nothing that alienates them to your brand more quickly than losing a guaranteed sale because inventory is not to hand. Employing a merchandising team to check on price tickets and stock on shelf can help you rest a little more easily.
Now that you’ve taken steps to ensure product is present and correct you are going to want to give those precious store staff a helping hand. There are options here, and the direction you choose should reflect the nature of your product, the time of year and even the retailers you are working with. If you have complex products that benefit from detailed explanation and prompt complex questions, the difference between an average and great purchase experience could be the knowledge of the sales assistant, allied to the feeling they have for your brand or product. To ensure knowledge gets to the level you need, consider engaging a field marketing agency that’s adept at delivering engaging training content. You need store staff to be interested and to see value in what they are hearing. If you can make their lives easier, then it’s a win for you, and likely for the customer too as they meet engaged, knowledgeable staff.
To win in such a competitive space you are going to have to show you empathise with your customers and do everything possible to address their changing needs.
So, you’ve now worked with a field marketing agency, like Retail Marketing Group, to make sure your displays are on-point, you’ve audited inventory, and been able to provide detailed feedback to the retailers on gaps and opportunities. Retail store associates love your product because they’ve been educated in thoughtful, helpful ways and they really understand why customers will benefit from their purchase. There’s one more option worth considering, especially for the critical high volume selling periods. How about dedicated resource in the most important outlets that is 100% focused on your brand alone? Imagine the sales uplift you will see if the customer gets an experience on a par with a 1st party store that you operate yourselves. These are brand ambassadors, and the best of them are worth their weight in gold. We identify candidates for these roles who first and foremost, love what they do. They have passion for the sector, love engaging with and helping customers, and get pleasure from hearing those cash registers ring.
And there you have it. Customer expectations are higher than ever, and their willingness to forgive has been diminished as they have developed a greater tendency to brand hop when things aren’t as they’d hoped. To win in such a competitive space you are going to have to show you empathise with your customers and do everything possible to address their changing needs. That might mean bringing in help. As an agency we pride ourselves on delivering that help, with field marketing services that run right through from audit and POS compliance to training, and even selling directly to your customers. Our business is built on helping you acquire and hang to those precious customers. Get in touch and let’s talk.