Miami, FL—I know it’s not for everyone, but I still love the shopping experience. It’s a joke here in our office: “It’s Black Friday, where will Andie be? You can find her at fine stores everywhere.”
Now, as a proverbial consumer on Black Friday, I want the “WOW” shopping experience, and I have noticed that there are five elements to really getting that experience. The biggest reward for a retailer is when shoppers talk about their experience. Customer expectations at this point are really high—especially for a luxury store—so it’s easy to fall short.
Take a look at these five major areas that contribute to a great shopping experience:
- Engagement: Being polite, genuinely caring, interested in helping, acknowledging, and listening.
- Executional Excellence: Patiently explain and advise, checking stock, help with finding products, product knowledge, and exceptional product quality.
- Brand Experience: Exciting store design and atmosphere, making customers feel special, acknowledged, and confident they will get the best value, even if it is a little extra gift with their purchase.
- Expediting: Being sensitive to the customer’s time, being pro-active in helping speed up the shopping process.
- Problem Recovery: Helping resolve and compensate for problems, upgrading quality and ensuring complete satisfaction.
Customers have great experiences when salespeople immediately acknowledge you, are genuine, and can easily explain a product.
Once again, brand experience and engagement are the strongest drivers of loyalty. This is the “fuzzy” feel good part. Chain stores, because they are “chains,” run the risk of sameness and have a much harder time with that “feel-good” feeling. I have heard this called “Mall Malaise,” where there is boredom for consumers with the similarity of specialty chain stores. The feeling is that most chains are “cookie cutter,” because even if the stores are different from each other, the same stores are in every mall.
So the good news for the independent retailer is that it’s easy to provide a great brand experience. If people see the same look over and over again, they find it mundane, whereas independent retailers have the ability to keep their look fresh and innovating.
The ability of a retailer to resolve a problem once it crops up is another key element to the “shopping experience.” Keeping policies in place to resolve issues are imperative, as is ensuring that sales associates speedily resolve the problem, not pass it up the chain. I love it when associates stay with me until the problem is solved. It’s more of that warm, fuzzy, “I care” feeling. They say younger consumers, 18- 30, will recall a great shopping experience, whereas those over 50, (that’s me) are more likely to mention store representatives that seem genuine and caring. The important part is that there are age and gender differences that are easy to identify and relevant to every customer you serve.
For me especially, Black Friday is about “getting the deal.” I was in a very high-end retail store recently trying on a gorgeous leather jacket. When they told me the price I said, “Call me when it goes on sale.” Their immediate response was, if you buy it today we will give you 40% off! For those of you that know me, of course I said, “Make it 50%!” and we settled at 45%. I still wasn’t sure about the size. So I bought the jacket and they are bringing in another smaller one just so I feel comfortable and happy with my purchase. They went that extra mile to engage me and made the sale.
Don’t get me wrong: price is important to customers, but only one of the factors in creating the overall “WOW” experience. I recently read a report where 43% of consumers said that having consistently excellent products was a factor in their great retail experience. That was the top response in regard to brand experience followed by “getting a deal.” We have created a value-based consumer, even among affluent luxury customers.
Because of the recession, even affluent consumers focus more on value than price. I think with credit cards, retail, Internet and chain stores, people have become more and more scrupulous about where and what they buy. We have more educated consumers that are looking for a better value in everything.
Still, even if a jeweler’s customers still feel they’re in a challenging economic environment, retailers can deliver that “WOW Experience” if they provide the basic elements, which starts with excellent customer service. I think the best way to lay the foundation for customers to have a great retail experience is for storeowners to hire and train their staff accordingly. Enable them to take basic information about their shopper’s preferences and convert that knowledge into customized service. If you are mass merchandiser with no training program in place, I think the likelihood of creating a WOW shopping experience is slim to none. Hiring and training is the core to a business acumen that creates “WOW!”
It is always possible to delight and surprise, when retailers have everything in place. Let’s face it, one of the joys of being in this industry is to delight and surprise all year round! Now go “WOW” your customers and shine like a diamond!
Happy Holidays Everyone!
Andie Weinman is president and CEO of Preferred Jewelers International. Born with the “jewelry gene,” she has worked in the jewelry industry since she was 10 years old. Her first job was as a cashier in the opening of a catalog showroom and even at that tender age, she did a fantastic job. Weinman holds a B.A. in musical theatre and a B.S. in marine biology from The University of Tampa. When she realized that seawater and marine biology were not good on her hair, and she wasn’t quite good enough to make it on Broadway, the jewelry business beckoned. Weinman has picked diamonds, sorted color stones, shot waxes and did many jobs in the manufacture of jewelry. Her negotiating experience has given her the reputation as tough but fair in her dealings with the vendors.