The Advantage that E-Commerce Cannot Match
There are significant differences between E-commerce and brick and mortar retail. E-commerce is the shiny new object of the retail world. Limitless supply, low overhead, 24-hour access, low rent, low cost of inventory, higher inventory returns, greater Return on Inventory Dollars - these are just a few of the advantages of E-commerce retail. You also have much fewer problems with store employees because you don’t have a store. Yes, you have people sitting in call centers, but they are not the same as retail employees.
You typically have much closer supervision for those call center employees. And you have all of the metrics that can be closely monitored. How long were on the phone? Were they able to suggest an additional product? What was their average ticket? There are so many metrics to measure every moment the call center employee is at work.
But retail has significant advantages as well. The first advantage is the tactile advantage of retail itself. The customer is in the store so they can feel the merchandise. They can see the subtle color of the shirt, skirt, shoe, or desk that they will have in their home. They can smell the leather of the new purse, jacket or belt that helps to sell your product. And who doesn’t like to go to Costco on Saturday to taste the different foods that are being offered. I am certain that Costco can measure the difference that tastings generate. The next significant advantage is the immediate gratification a consumer gets in taking the merchandise with them. I can save $10 if I buy something from the e-commerce site from Best Buy, but I can have it and enjoy it RIGHT NOW if I buy that same product in the store. And those same employees in the stores that are difficult to manage tend to be a bit smarter and more informed than the call center employees; even if those employees are here in the US.
But, you know all of this already. There is nothing new in the two paragraphs above. However, there is something that happens in a retail store that has not been written about and cannot be executed in the E-commerce world and that is Random Acts of Kindness.
If you think about the best retailers in the US, there are employees working for those retailers that practice Random Acts of Kindness every day. I have seen employees at DSW hold a baby while the mother is trying on shoes. At Nordstrom’s I have seen employees walk a customer from their department to another department even though they would not make a sale for their efforts, they were just being kind. At Lowes I have asked an employee for a specific product which they did not carry. The employee told me which store I should go and visit to get what I needed. Another Random Act of Kindness. And you simply will not get that in any E-commerce site.
If you think back to the original Miracle on 34th Street, you will recall the scene where a child asks Santa (Kris Kringle) for a toy. Macy’s does not have the toy. But Kris tells the child’s mother to go to Gimbal’s, Macy’s arch rival. The word got out that Macy’s was the retailer with a heart. And sales went through the roof. Mr. Macy was thrilled.
Random Acts of Kindness are a strategic advantage. But can you teach your team to do be Randomly Kind to customers? I think that is going to be difficult. You can certainly encourage people and recognize people for their Random Acts of Kindness. You can be Randomly Kind to your employees thanking them for their efforts when they don’t expect it. And you should, because Random Acts of Kindness are the biggest advantage that Brick and Mortar has over E-commerce. If a mother has to stop shopping online because she has a crying baby, there is no one from your organization that can hold the baby while she is looking at a blouse. But in a retail store you can certainly try and calm the baby so mom can focus on your merchandise.
So if it is difficult to teach Random Acts of Kindness how does a retailer implement this strategic advantage. The answer is easy but the execution is difficult. You hire nice people that simply want to help the 80-year-old customer find the restroom; people that get excited about some else’s happiness; people that want to listen to your story because it makes you happy to tell it.
Never in the history of retail have there been so many choices for consumers. And never has it been more difficult to distinguish one retailer's offering from another’s. So the retailer that will win is the one that has made it a priority to find the differentiating factors in retail, like Radom Kind Acts.
I once had a boss that told me what an exclusive was. He said an exclusive feature on a product is one that you talk about that your competitor does not. Random Acts of Kindness are features of your offering that your customer will talk about that your competitor’s customers will be envious of.
In New Orleans they like to give people a free taste as part of their meal. Something memorable before the meal or something sweet after the meal. It is called Lagniappe (pronounced Lan-yap). At Axcelora we are going to make that same offer to any new clients. When you book 5 appointments or more we will give you one for free to give you a taste of how we work. And we will even make the first one the free one. Our Lagniappe to you. So just contact us at email@example.com and we can have a fun conversation.
Rich Hollander is a retail expert with over 40 years in the industry.