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Personal shoppers add to retail services

Personal shoppers add to retail services

My last column described how technology and consumer behavior now provide an opportunity to create a more even playing field. I advised industry leaders to embrace that strategy and take significantly more control of their destiny.

Shortly after the article was published, I saw those words in action from a consumer’s view.

I faced most every husband’s worst nightmare: The wife’s birthday gift buying experience. The challenge was not what to get or the correct size, but the actual buying experience.

Imagine this: After several trips around the parking lot, I find a space to park. I adjust my too expensive T-shirt and attempt to confidently enter her favorite boutique. I make it through the front door and immediately, sheepishly and stealthily head for an aisle away from the line of vision of the clerk behind the counter.

Ah, I’m in the door, with no uncomfortable dialogue. I know that they know that I have no idea what I’m doing. I quickly ascertain where the too expensive jeans are and take the most direct route possible to find my booty.

And then it happens, the proverbial “May I help you?” from the young, attractive clerk. I’m had. I’m done. I’m embarrassed. She knows. “No,” I quickly respond, “Just looking.” She’s knows it. I know it. I’m not looking, I’m buying and fast. As I await the standard, typical sales clerk “Let me know if you need help” comment, she says, “Let me help.” Oh no, she just didn’t say that. I have no choice but to engage her. I am horrified.

What happens next is stuff of an advertising guy and husband’s dream. She asks all the right questions. She creates a line of dialogue and asks how I found out about the store, but most importantly made me feel comfortable and appreciated. I walked out triumphant as a consumer, an advertising consultant and a business card. She had a sale and information on how to reach me. Wow, even the smallest boutique can “get it.”

She definitely got it. It was my sense that she was trained to get it.

Subsequently, I visited the boutique’s Web site and it was all there, all the pertinent information about the store, including brands, location and hours, even the offer of a personal shopper. At that point, I already had one. Creatively there was a definite feel for who they were and what they stood for. Most importantly, the Web site was prominent in Google maps, it was easily searchable and with regard to specific brands it was included with national retailers.

The entire customer experience was nearly flawless. They got it. They embraced their destiny as retailers and have begun the road to advertising enlightenment.

By the way, the icing on the birthday cake came shortly thereafter. I got a phone message to make certain the size and brand was correct, and my wife got a card from my now favorite woman’s clothing boutique.

I paid retail for my way-too-expensive jeans and shirt (top, as my new favorite sales clerk described it) and I was happy I did. Most importantly, I have told all my sheepish, embarrassed husband friends about my experience and I’m certain they will buy there too. Remember, guys do not shop, they buy.

Customer experience, ease of consumer engagement and potential word of mouth advertising — those elements of this marketing communications study make everything else they do only more icing.

Most every consumer who is more than three clicks into your Web site or more than three steps into your store wants to buy something. Understand this is the most important part of the retail shopping/buying experience as it is the beginning or continuation of a relationship. Make it warm, comfortable and engaging. Your associates will feel better and sell more and your customers will definitely feel better and buy more.

Sam Walton and his Walmart greeters were among the first to embrace shoppers as friends. Like marketing communications in general, we now have the resources to level the playing field. Embrace your customers and make certain everyone in your organization does as well.

By the way, the boutique did not have an advertising agency only a freelance designer. And the jeans fit. Bad news for me, good news for me.

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