Stop Selling and Start Communicating

When The Hard Sell No Longer Works

Well, even in 2013, we at Retail Concepts are left scratching our heads. It seems to be a recent trend (to our dismay) that many retailers are reverting back to the ways of the 1970’s…and we aren’t saying that in the most positive of ways.

If we think back to a little while ago (ok, 2011), we talked to you about our new “selling” model. Inform and Deliver took the retail community by storm because it encouraged retailers to evolve their “selling” to make it function for new-age customers. We talked about making stores work for their customers without having to hound them. We talked about branding at every touch-point. We even talked about transparency and non-verbal communication… some said “so new age” and we said, “hardly so”.

Read on to see why we are confused and even a bit frustrated with the retail world.

If we’re going to be transparent like we always are, in the past couple of months we have seen stores doing many things that just aren’t working. Things like…

  • Pushing multiple sales without having the client in mind
  • Flipping returns- selling a customer goods of higher value when they come in to return an item with no consideration for what the customer wanted when re-entering the store
  • Giving bonuses to associates who are able to sell “difficult” merchandise
  • Measuring a store associate’s “sales per hour/shift”

Why are these four (above) things happening? In most cases, management is measuring sales associate’s performance based on sales. This pressures employees to improve their numbers without fully taking into account their better judgment and personal ethics.

The other reason is commission selling. Allow us to explain our dislike of commission selling, as we know some of you are raising your eyebrows at this being on the *naughty list*. In our opinion, commission selling is off-putting for consumers and sales people alike. Putting pressure on customers to buy is uncomfortable for all parties involved and really detracts from the in-store experience your store should be providing your customers.

Overall, these tactics detract from the brand experience and put stores at odds with their customers. A retail store that communicates effectively with consumers has employees that are hard working, informed, well trained and have customer experience as a top of mind priority. In turn, this builds a stronger, better business with more loyal and informed consumers. These stores think in a different manner and do things that include:

  • Database collection for customer info – after all, information rules. By putting customers in the database they can be notified when brands they like arrive in store (in advance, of course), they can be informed if their size arrives (if perhaps they wear an off size), they can be given a birthday gift, and they can be invited to special events that fit their interest.
  • The store is transparent in their objectives. There is nothing to hide if your store is doing what it should be doing.
  • Employees are motivated or incented but not pressured to do things that make them or the consumer unhappy or uncomfortable.
  • Pricing, sales and promotions occur WITHOUT tricks and games.
  • Employees and associates know what’s happening and can give consumers informed and honest answers.

We have gone down this road before together and cannot stress enough, that more than ever (the stakes are high people), it is important to understand what your specific customers want. Are they environmentally conscious? Does having a local component matter to them? Does a retailer’s willingness to be charitable and involved in the community affect your consumer’s willingness to buy?

Excuses for why you don’t/won’t change won’t work here. Look to Lululemon as an example – it is an international conglomerate that still manages to localize each of its locations. Chipotle’s motto, “Food With Integrity” is based around its desire to source locally grown ingredients in a sustainable fashion. Our clients, Kitchen Warehouse and Vin Bin allow customers to shop on their own terms by having store layouts and in-store signage that make sense for their segments. Hointer, a fantastic new concept in Seattle geared towards men, uses technology to minimize customer/associate interaction, because after all, who wants to be stared at when trying on jeans?!?

Retailers, big and small, are backing off and giving customers the experiences they want, not the ones you want…and it is all translating to more sales and happier customers and staff for those stores. Are you ready to make the change and start implementing “Inform and Deliver 2.0”?