20090714-bags

What All Customers Want (And How To Give It To Them)

Lately I have been reading a lot of reviews on Yelp to better understand what consumers get ticked off by. It’s interesting how insanely demanding consumers are, but yet how little they want. This is what I have learned.

They basically want 4 things from you.

1. A sense of community.

No one craves generic cookie cutter retail. Consumers shop independent retailers because they expect to feel more welcomed and want to feel like they are a part of something.

I don’t care if you are selling a cup of coffee or $1000 gowns. It’s the environment that makes that difference and gives stores that sense of community. They also want to feel appreciated and even if they don’t go to all the events you plan, they still like to know about them. It gives them a sense that you have included them as a part of something.

The Starbucks guys tell us that we need to be in 3 places: home, work/school and somewhere else. That “somewhere else” should be our retail locations. The internet, with its ‘second life’, and thousands of retail fashion websites (none of which I’ve heard of making any profit) will never be able to appeal to consumers’ emotional needs like a brick and mortar store can. At the end of the day we need, crave, and want social contact.

2. They want easy, fast friendly service.

I can’t believe that about 90% of comments were on rude or poor service! See my review of Christian Louboutin on yelp. There is a thin line between being harassed and giving excellent customer service.

Take a walk in the Saks 5th ave shoe department if you want to know what being harassed at retail is like. It is important to train your staff on not just customer service but on building customer relationships, which means you get repeat sales from existing customers and aren’t just hustling for sales from new customer.

Recently I had a customer email me that she needed to pick up her layaway before Thursday because she was going out of town to a wedding. The store is closed on Tuesday and Wednesday, and I had no one to open the store for her. So I overnighted her the keys so she could get it herself. She left the key with the shop next door and came in the following week to pay for it. Definitely not something I would recommend in the big city, but we knew her. The word of mouth we got from our “outrages” customer service could fill a phone book.

Going a little out of the way proved to go a long way when it came to customer reviews.

3. They are looking for value.

Note I didn’t say cheap prices. The consumer today is very savvy with websites like Shoptime where they have up-to-date sales and price information at their convenience. This is where, as a merchant, you need to know your consumers’ price resistance and costing. We can no longer afford to just pay the price the vendors ask for. We need to be in control and have an understanding of what it’s worth to our consumer.

So next time you’re in the market, before you ask for a price, ask yourself “how much would my customer pay for this?” Then ask the price. I think you will be surprised at how little the mark up might be and you will either have to rethink some of your brands or negotiate with them a littler harder. We are in business to make money, not to show off trendy brands that are over priced and only sell when marked down.

At the end of the day, a tee shirt is just a tee shirt and we have to look at garments for what they are at face value, not by their label.

4. They want something new…… they want to be the insider.

They want to be the first to try a new dish, new designer, or new idea. Diana Vreeland said it best. “give the consumer what they didn’t know they wanted.”

More of the same is what has been killing retail. Consumers want to talk to other people about something new that they have discovered or as happened to them. This type of word of mouth or social media is so important that no one has been able to put a dollar amount to it’s return… but I can tell you it’s priceless. I haven’t booked a hotel room without reading a review in years. I don’t care how pretty the ads look.

The consumers who have experienced it themselves are more credible than anything staged. Consumer experience is, at the end of the day, the key to having them come back, tell a friend—love you.