Academics call it ‘homogenous retail agglomeration’… what’s that you might ask? Being the same – every store, every street full of shops. Everything looks and feels the same and offers nothing new or interesting to the customer. In many British town centres, you could drop into the main street from a helicopter, open your eyes and not be able to identify the town because the brands around you would look exactly the same from one town to the next.
But there is a reason for this conformity. We all instinctively know why. Customers want to know that when they go to various stores they always have what is needed. Nobody wants to go to the high street only to find that there is no chemist. Or the chemist that is there, doesn’t stock everything you would expect to find in a branch of Boots.
We end up with conformity because that’s just what people expect. Another good example is the job interview. How many times have you read in business and management books that you need to be innovative, to stand out, and think differently? Think about all those posts on LinkedIn by Richard Branson – how it is your attitude that counts, not the tie you wear. But when you went to your last job interview did you wear a suit and tie or a pair of Converse trainers and a casual shirt? Probably the suit, because you know that the hiring manager will find it difficult to look beyond the trainers to see that you are the perfect candidate for the job.
An interesting feature by content expert Noreen Seebacher in Customer Think recently made some of these arguments. In her article, she advises retailers today to:
“Mix things up on your product shelves. Introduce products or services from companies that aren’t yet household names. Take a chance on local products. Have a revolving section of limited selections from new, emerging designers or manufacturers.
Give customers a reason to travel to your store. And then wow them with an experience that will keep them coming back.”
I think there is an extremely important point here. We endlessly strategise about how to create the perfect customer experience with a focus on how service should be planned, but the customer experience is more than just service alone. If retail brands want to succeed, they need to think beyond the omni-channel alone and consider how their store looks, how their employees behave, and what they offer on their shelves.
What makes the customer feel different coming to their store and why should they keep on coming back? I like the focus on local products and in fact this could be a way in which brands create a two-way dialogue with their customers. Why not involve the customers in choosing new product lines that should go on sale? If Lego can involve fans in researching new toys, then surely most retailers can create a way to involve customers in deciding new product lines.
Think beyond service alone if you want to create a truly great customer experience. Let me know what you think in the comments or get in touch via LinkedIn.