Unlock Channel Doors to Enhance Brand Experiences

Get a bunch of retailers together and the discussion quickly turns to getting and keeping customers. Loyalty isn’t what it used to be, price is more important and consumers are more product knowledgeable than ever before. Yep, that’s all true… and how much of that is different – really different – from “back in the day?” My feeling is that consumers have always seen loyalty and price as a balancing act and they’ve always wanted as much information as they could get – whether it’s from a Quick Response (QR) Reader or going in and talking to the salesperson or touching the fabric to see the quality of the hem.

Learning from History

Back in the day, the customer drove to your store and walked in the door. Maybe they were enticed by an ad or because a friend told them about something they had to have. What has changed between then and now? The number of doors into your store for one example! So, go count them! Did you include your direct channel “doors?” Do you know you have more than one of those?  If a “door” is anything that invites a consumer into your shopping experience, how many do you have? Most importantly, are the experiences at each of your doors the same?

We continue to read that the ultra-luxury brands are doing well and have done so in this economic downturn. Their loyalty is at an all-time high; their consumers will pay the high-prices and they get what they want. And, by the way, the ultra-luxury brands aren’t just selling to the ultra-rich – people are saving their money to buy the latest Coach or Gucci bag like never before. The lesson here is that the experience at these brands is consistent across all their doors and they take great care to ensure that it is. It’s not guarding the brand (although that is critical) – it’s more like “guarding the customer.” This isn’t just the realm of the ultra-luxury brands – all retailers should be doing this.  It starts with the basics – customer engagement, experience and satisfaction.

Going Beyond Traditional Consumer Engagement

Consumers engage with a retailer in many ways today. In addition to driving to your store, they log on. Beyond talking with their friends, they post comments on Facebook and ask for reviews on Yelp. They even go beyond perusing your catalog to also run Google images of your product line. Large brick and mortar chains employ many people to keep the floors clean, the garments picked up and the tickets on the products – what are you doing to keep your direct business “tidy?” One of the biggest issues that I have with many online retailers is that the site looks like the employees of the retailer have never seen it – otherwise they wouldn’t put up with it! So you want good insight into your direct business? Pay your kids to shop your site and watch them. Ask them what they like and don’t like and pay them $5 to find something that doesn’t work (get out your stopwatch and your wallet!) Look for their “ugh moments,” the point at which they give up the experience. Don’t get frustrated at their frustrations – learn from them. They are your consumers, their patience levels should not be ignored and you need to watch them shop, just like you watch consumers in your stores.

Assessing Multiple Doors

Now that you have them through your nice, clean “door,” what are they seeing? This is one of the major differences from the past. Customers today have many doors into your store – apart from being clean, do they all look the same? Is the merchandise presented the same way? Are you trying to convey the same lifestyle on the Web that you do in the store? Beautiful displays in the store look incongruent with stock pictures of individual products on a site and confuse the customer – what do you stand for? A good example of this synergy between lifestyle, direct and store is with Ralph Lauren – go to the site and just see how the experience is similar across these channels. Sure, Ralph Lauren is selling a lifestyle… but aren’t you? If you don’t have a lifestyle that you are catering to, don’t complain about losing customer loyalty. If your customers don’t know who you are and can’t relate to you, you have no loyalty. So, here’s a tip about consumer loyalty – every door contributes (or detracts) from the experience, and all of your doors play a part in winning that loyalty.

How to Gauge Customer Loyalty

If a consumer stops coming into your store, but shops exclusively on the Web from you, aren’t they still just as loyal?  Perhaps you aren’t measuring that loyalty in all your doors. Many retailers have spent millions to install customer tracking and recognition software in stores – have you spent the same amount to recognize your customers on-line? Are you capturing the on-line sale and the abandoned shopping cart (the equivalent of the store “window shopper”)? There are lots of great software tools that can do this – and you need them. The demand for customer data is greater now than it has ever been and it’s based on the same concept as always. The consumer comes through your door and you want to know about it… right?

This is the first in a blog series on the subject of “doors.” In future posts, I’m excited to explore this topic further and plan to touch on maximizing your door-experience and why this is the must-do of the coming years as well as pricing. Do you have any other questions or suggestions you might have on the topics of “doors?” In the meantime, invite a young adult onto your site and let me know how that goes. I’m curious to know how many doors you really have.

  2 Comments   Comment

  1. We”ve really been focusing on this sort of thing lately. We realized that we weren”t giving our online “door” adequate attention as compared to the desire customers had to engage with us there.

    We”re working hard on improving that now.

  2. Thanks for your comment! Glad to see that you are working on this. You certainly are not alone – call it a sign of the on-line times.

    It”s more important than ever to have your on-line “doors” cleaned up. So many more consumers are starting their searches on-line. And, with the proliferation of web-crawlers and spiders that are looking to compare and display your merchandise with similar products from other companies, you may only have one chance to look great. Make it count!

    Steve Davis, JDA Strategic Services


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