Thursday, 17 February 2011

Scrutinised or Seduced?

Retail experiences – scrutinised or seduced?

Unless you've been on planet Zog you’ll have noticed it was Valentines Day this week, and some of the attitudes and behaviours of my friends got me thinking about how subjective ‘attention’ is, in particular with retail brands.

Personally I loathe the idea of a prescribed day of romance so resist the clich├ęd pressure with a fierce determination, and in much the same way I resent intrusions from retailers who think they can anticipate how I want to spend money.

It would appear retailers are better informed about us than ever before – so how come some give us the creeps while others bliss us out with their attention? In a world where we demand ‘show me don’t tell me’ retailers must now demonstrate they ‘know’ us by making the experience relevant as well as personal.

The question is how to provide us with increasingly personal shopping experiences without falling into the creep out zone?

The answer lies with the critical aspect of consent. Before retailers can reasonably expect us to be delighted with their attention (rather than feeling our privacy is being violated) they must understand that ‘knowing the customer’ now means providing us with tips, advice and offers that help us out. Actions which support our buying habits are the ones which bliss us out, and the creepy behaviour is where the retailer has studied information based on personal demographics and used this to take a punt on what we love.

And that’s the thing – we choose who we want to be close to. Before retailers can ever hope to succeed they must develop a consensual relationship based on respecting our choices rather than the ones they’d prefer we make (or the ones they’re sponsored to persuade us to make). They must embrace the notion that we’re either into them or we’re not, and start to respect this.

So, how wonderful would it be for our favourite store or brand to delight us with random surprises when we least expect it, compared to the Valentine equivalent of prescribed attention that doesn’t really mean that much.

At the supermarket instead of a loyalty card, a coupon or a voucher wouldn’t it be great if the cashier was able to spontaneously announce “we know you’re favourite coffee is blah so as a thank you there’s a free one ready for you when you next visit” or in the coffee shop they said “have that one on us today” – far more memorable and packed with surprise and delight. Yet its all based on the same techie information systems currently employed.

As in the world of relationships, we notice what people don’t do, rather than what they actually do, and the minute we start to feel taken for granted resentment and cynicism sets in. Rather like the world of romance, retailers have to place their attention on subtle seduction rather than an obvious technique. So to avoid the accusation of “bet you say that to all the girls” retailers must be prepared to support, respect and encourage what we love already – and give us more of it!

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Romancing in retail

Sounds so obvious but wouldn't it be fab if all the people working in fashion retail actually knew a little about, well, fashion! Nothing too fancy, just one or two pieces of advice they could give to numpties like me who don’t really have a clue what really suits them.

I was truly, absolutely and utterly delighted when I visited New Look in Solihull last Saturday. I confess I didn't have much of an expectation when it came to receiving service, but rather like a party you’re not looking forward to, I had a great time once I got there. I mooched the store, selected a few items to ‘try on’ (sadly, as a wizened fart, the days when I could buy something and know for sure it would fit/suit me are long gone) and this was when the delight began ……..

The fitting rooms are really rather lovely – none of the usual high street tumbleweed dust balls, dirty mirrors, chewing gum or broken doors. Next came the ‘big mirror’ experience. I don’t know about you but when I try on clothes I want out of the little cubical PDQ to get a proper look at the outfit (latent catwalk yearning perhaps?) The etched quote on the central mirror is in the tone & personality of a mischievous best friend urging you out, then, even better than that, it actually encourages you to be honest with the female next to you – if she looks gorgeous – tell her! Yey

Then the defining moment. A sales assistant who (a) knew her stuff (b) had energy, enthusiasm & charm (c) was helpful, friendly and like a breathe of spearmint fresh air. A total joy. Let’s call her retail Rosie – not more than 17, maybe 18, she knew how to engage me, advise me, share her knowledge and suggest alternatives. I just loved it – she wasn't in the slightest bit pushy, simply loved what she was doing – and it showed by the bucketful!

I took her advice, made my choices and left for home feeling like a million dollars …….all because retail Rosie showed an interest, listened and was confident enough to share her enthusiasm

What she did that was so delightful …….

  • Smiled – simple & so obvious but sadly missing from high street retailing
  • Paid me a genuine compliment (must have been, other customers said naarce stuff too)
  • Made sensible suggestions in a charming, conversational way “tell you what looks great with that” or “I saw a lady this morning try that with a belt and it looked lovely” or “that colour really suits you, bet you’ve already got black trousers you could wear it with” and then finally, “when you’re tall it can be really tough finding the right fit but that shirt looks great” – genuine, honest and thoughtful
  • She made suggestions then she shut up! Never in my face, pestering or badgering – simply available with a smile or eye contact whenever I ventured for the ‘big mirror’
  • She said smiled and said thank you when I left the fitting room
  • Nothing was a pain – I’m so fatigued by sales assistants huffing, rolling their eyes or tutting in exasperation when I seek their advice – they just give me attitude and I don’t need theirs, I got one of my own!!

If fashion retailers made a conscious effort to recruit individuals with the energy, brilliance and enthusiasm shown by retail Rosie then the British economy would see a significant shift upwards – we’d all be seduced into a little but highly pleasurable retail therapy.

Romancing in Retail care

Hello and a heartfelt welcome to the first addition of romancing in skin care retail, a specialist blog for all skincare therapists and consultants. The aim is to offer inspiration, thought provocation, endorsement, and touches of humour in your world of retailing skin care products.

Surprise & Delight

This has nothing to do with ‘traffic stopping’ although the effect is just as valuable. The difference with the romancing principles is both you and the customer feel fabulous with the greeting – as of now approach everything you do and say with an “every encounter counts” mentality.

Quit using traffic stopping techniques which customers dread, and you’re bored to death with. Instead, engage your charm and imagination and begin to make every encounter count.

Ban the 4 most useless words in retail

Banned from this instant are the words “can I help you?” – it is dull in the extreme and makes you look like a numtie. Replace with a few of these suggestions, mix with several of your own and make it into a bit of a game. Have fun. Laugh a little. Be authentic. Be lovely

  • Compliment the person – love the style or colour of their coat/dress/hair? Then say so! Children do this effortlessly and it is charming, highly infectious and deeply irresistible – think for a minute how fabulous you feel when a complete stranger pays you a genuine compliment – so easy to do, and how much fun is it to make as your mission each day ‘discover something lovely about everyone’
  • Dare to be different – so few skincare consultants smile and say hello, and I have no idea why, we’re surrounded by such loveliness – what’s not to smile about?? Stand out from the glumness and say hello & smile at everyone (yes, even grumpy knickers, they offer the greatest reward when the smile gets returned)
  • Start an epidemic – smiling, enthusiasm and excitement are all totally infectious – so let’s start an epidemic. This has nothing to do with being perennially and psychotically irritating and everything to do with making the decision to communicate with energy and passion what you love about your products ……don’t love them? Leave – you do yourself a huge disservice staying with something you hate
  • Show off more! – when you have knowledge about skincare you owe to me to share this knowledge. Quit assuming I already understand why an eye cream is an essential part of my battle against face migration – I don’t! Quit assuming I want to know about product ingredients and ask me what I want to know about. I must, must, must leave smarter than when I arrived so inspire me with your expertise & insider knowledge
  • Answers create natural conversations – when you ask a question do you truly listen to the answer or are you waiting to speak? Asking questions is definitely the secret to creating great connections and effortless conversations so make it your mission to ask your question and then shut up! Sometimes people need a little time, especially if you’ve asked a fab question they’ve never thought about before, so give people space & time to answer instead of jumping into the silence. It really is the greatest compliment you can pay another – genuine listening is a rare and beautiful thing

The next blog will be about the ways we unwittingly confuse the customers ……until then, keep shining!