10 min read
Retail is about the unique. Retailers are arbiters of creative expressionism. Retail is about finding the odd, the unique, eclectic, and beautiful but wait…what about the staples?
The products that we know and love and are our favorites. Retail is full of contradictions.
Meaningful retail is more of an idea than it is an actual process.
We see things in a store that we like and we instantly love that store. It creates a connection. We will be back. It has pulled on our desires, both emotional and physical. One thing that we know is true is that retail is rapidly changing and evolving.
Make no mistake this past year has been a whirlwind for the industry. Long touted as an “apocalyptic” event, retail’s correction splashes our headlines causing an uproar. Typical fashion shows, buying events, and industry conferences all cancelled by the stir of COVID-19 within our communities.
Retail is more than what you think it is.
Simply, retail is not just this activity in which we sell goods or services to consumers. It is the basis upon which the very notion of shopping rests upon. Without retail our society would come to a screeching halt.
There are many facets and layers to which retailers belong, but most know one value to be true— retail is built upon the human connection.
For the last few years, e-commerce has steadily become enmeshed into brick-and-mortar’s stronghold, creating new normalcy, and standards of how things are done within the professional industry. New brand’s barriers to entry lowered and we have seen emerging fashion revitalize an area once dimmed by the brand loyalists to the successful conglomerates to which they have shopped for years.
This brought about a new feeling of openness to such a secular community. To be someone in fashion you must know someone.You must come from money. You must have worked the past fifteen years as the assistant. So on and so forth.
This all flipped on its head. Rookie designers and enthusiasts alike were suddenly able to take their crack at the industry.
E-commerce now is no longer this dormant beast, but is the light to which many brick-and-mortar consider their saving grace when COVID-19 came along.
As we continue to adjust to life with this new disease all about our cities, it brings about many new questions. Will brick-and-mortar retail continue to suffer? Will e-commerce continue to strive? One thing is for sure and you can place your bottom dollar on is the fact that people go out to physical retail to have memorable experience.
A couple of years ago when experiential etail was the popular buzzword and pop-ups were really the hot craze, it was looked to as the cure for a stale and dusty business that lacked ingenuity. As folks realized people want experiences, that is what they got. The only problem is experiences are not the only driver behind what makes consumers physically tick in a brick-and-mortar store.
Oh no, not by a long shot. If it were a recipe it would look something like this:
10% Employee Development
30% CX (Customer Experience)
30% Human CNX (Human Connection)
30% Wild Cards (Talk Triggers, Differentiators, USPs)
What does all of that really mean?
1. Employee development means that you are treating your part-time and full-time retail employees with intention. With devotion. Investing into them so that your company culture can grow and thrive.
We love hearing the “grow with us” model, but look your employees need clear job descriptions from the get-go, it cannot be this evolving description to which they have no clear uniformity (oh you’ll wear many hats line). Employees have to have structure to which they can follow.
2. Customer Experience ties back to the experiential portion. Call it what you may, but it is all the same. Your customers crave an experience. So give it to them. They do not want to be sold on a bunch of items they don’t need, they want to come by your store because it is “the place to be” or has that “wow factor.”
What is “wow factor?” Wow factor is being able to harness the excitement your target audience has for products inside of your four walls like a lightning bug in a jar. It namely means that you are listening. So listen people! Seek out your best customers, find out what they want and what they love and then provide it to them. It’s really so simple it’s hard!
3. Human connection. This one is a real doozy too. Maybe it is because there is not much you can tangibly measure. But also the most important. To have a meaningful connection with a complete stranger as they shop your inventory you need to strike an emotional cord with them.
This starts day one. This starts with everything you have set forth to create.This starts with you, the owner. It then trickles down to your staff and their work ethic and goes along with customer experience hand-in-hand. Understanding what the customer truly wants and what they ultimately desire. The more human connection your store has the more customers will have passion for your brand and speak about it.
Creating a community of brand lovers who will return time and time again.
4. Lastly, wild cards. This could be anything from talk triggers, your differentiator, what makes your store different, etc. Setting out to surprise your customers for some sort of unique treat throughout their buyer’s journey is essentially what all customers want. They want to be surprised and delighted with the overwhelming feeling of awe that they felt when in your retail shop. This is seen most effective when it is operations based.
When you put these items together you get a cohesive retail experience that builds upon itself long-term. Your attitude from the beginning is what sets apart the movers and shakers from the duds who are closing up shop. Many many people are in the business for fun, which is amazing and awesome, but if you are and don’t depend on it for your sole source of income, please don’t just have a laissez-faire attitude because it affects the stores around you and retail as a whole.
Have passion for this wonderful profession.Take pride in your work. Love what you do. You might get to help some people on a daily basis. This can be rewarding. Everyone has their own story and that really is what retail ultimately is—-a deep meaningful story told through, a different lens.
Brick and mortar retail is here to stay, because as old as time people need to have that human connection to which they feel a sense of belonging and being liked by others.
So, if you keep things simple, intentional, and pour your personal touch into your store rather than listening to the criticism, your business will continue to thrive.