A view of the industry through the
eyes of independent and chain retailers.
Why You Need an Executive of
to study what your customers do, act, think, and where they shop.
by Rich Kizer & Georganne Bender (May 3, 2010)
There’s a new revolution coming your way – a
Retail Revolution where everything is about to be changed,
re-defined, or eliminated.
What will the Retail Revolution impact? How about advertising,
acquisition, strategies, blue laws, buyers, capital, census, chain
stores, competition, consumers, department stores, discount stores,
big boxes, independent retailers, retail employees, and retail
employment; marketing, social medias, the Internets, full price,
sale pricing, promotional pricing, retail growth, income,
manufacturers, suppliers, vendors, inventory, investment, labor
force, market share, operations, payroll/sales ratio, outlet stores,
population, profit margin, retail industry, retail strategies,
retail events, urban locations, suburban locations, NIMBY (Not In My
Back Yard), trends …. We’re exhausted and we haven’t reached the tip
of the iceberg. Or the depth of the Revolution!
RETAIL REVOLUTION: NEW ASSIGNMENT – ECE
Lately, we’ve been on the look out for
Revolutionary Retailers who have embraced the Revolution and are
doing the things that are right for today’s customers. We’ve met the
good and we’ve then the outstanding. Here you’ll meet two
outstanding grocers but only one who has joined the Revolution.
Store number one is a large, well known grocery store that we were
excited to visit. Once inside, we were immediately impressed with
the store’s bright, colorful décor. The music wafting through the
aisles was upbeat and the sound of shoppers shopping was strong.
There were plenty of customers and almost every register was open –
what more can you ask for?
Half way into the store we stumbled across a big-deal, in-store
event – lots of product demos to help solve that quick dinner
dilemma most of us occasionally have. Okay, frequently have ….
Customers were enjoying the samples (you know our motto: Food is
Good!) and they were perusing the menu and recipe cards they could
take to help recreate the dishes at home. Pretty cool.
Or was it?
We were not seeing the smiling faces we expected to see, so we asked
a number of customers what they thought of the event. The collective
answer: Not so much.
One man summed it all up when he said, “This isn’t such a big deal,
or even new. Every grocery store does this.” He said his next stop
was another grocery store (he prefers their produce) just a little
over a mile away. He urged us to check them out and we did.
Store number two also had good ambiance and plenty of shoppers. This
store was clean and, we had to admit, the produce was spectacularly
displayed. Even better was the customer noise; it was over-the-top
laughter sprinkled with applause. So we followed our ears to a
demonstration of … You guessed it: Quick dinners. This time there
was a twist. In addition to the expected food samplings, this
retailer had included a mini-cooking school – customers were
actually preparing the entrees right on the sales floor. There was a
crowd of shoppers watching and taking in the inside tips from the
store’s resident chef. We looked at each other and smiled, knowing
that each of the two stores we visited were essentially doing same
thing. The difference was the CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE.
You know we asked questions. We wanted to know why the second
retailer made such a production of quick dinners. “Easy,” said a
store associate. “Our focus in on the customer experience. We value
that more than counting how many people go through the checkouts
Music to our ears! For years we’ve talked about the importance of
“The Sultan of Sizzle” – the person assigned to add pizazz to
whatever is going on in the store. It’s the Sultan’s job to look at
everything from the customer’s point of view; the Sultan influences
everything in the store from sales floor layout to in-store events
and promotions. And it’s a big influence, and an even bigger impact.
We’ve been told that Wal-Mart – yes, Wal-Mart – has someone in the
position of Vice President of Customer Experiences. That’s just pure
brilliance. Here’s a company that understands the importance of
market share expansion, but also understands that because customers
today compare the retail experience from store to store, their
stores need to stand out.
It’s no longer 1995 and the same-old, same-old rules of retail no
longer apply. Every retailer – yourself included – needs to change
because your competitors are changing, too. The battlefield is
raging for the top position in the mind of the consumer. And once
consumers learn that a trip to the store can include great service,
a unique experience, and be FUN all at the same time, they will
demand those qualities from every place they shop.
And so we say, every, single retailer in business today needs to
appoint an Executive of Customer Experiences (ECE). This job
description includes knowledge of what’s going on beyond the four
walls of the store, and how the store can affect the customer
experience. Your ECE’s job is talking with customers, walking the
customer walk, visiting places your customers hang out, even if
that’s a competitor or a business that has nothing to do with what
you sell – the goal of the ECE is to know and understand what your
customers are up to, and what they expect from you, at any given
time. The job of ECE holds a lot of responsibility.
We’re in a Retail Revolution. This means we need to do business
differently than we have ever done business before. As the old ways
of doing business make way for the new, don’t waste another moment
on things that no longer work the way they used to work. Instead,
meet with your team and talk about the customer experience in your
store. Find out what they know and how you can combine this
information with new and unique ideas to grow your business. You
will see the value of creating the office of Executive of Customer
Experiences. Once you make this customer-centric move you will have
officially joined the Retail Revolution.
(Note: To read previous
columns by Rich and Georganne, click on the titles in the right-hand
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