Retailers need to get “preferred” status with shoppers

December 5, 2011 by Dave Haynes

Poking around looking for something else led me to a good piece, from summer 2010, in Retail Customer Experience, written by author Robert H. Bloom (THE NEW EXPERTS: Win Today’s Newly Empowered Customers At Their 4 Decisive Moments) about how mobile devices are changing the retail landscape and its dynamic.

The premise, in simple terms, is that most consumers – not just nerds – are already or soon will be walking around with broadband-connected PCs in their pockets (smartphones) that allow them to be incredibly picky about buying decisions. They can get product reviews. Comparison pricing. Pretty much anything they need to make a decision … right there in the store. In real time.

As noted, that was 18 months ago and smartphone usage, as predicted, has skyrocketed.

What this usage means, Bloom asserts, is that customer loyalty and certainly brand loyalty are going out the door and not coming back.

Customer preference, from the customer’s perspective, is deliberately making a choice — deciding from whom or where to purchase in order to obtain a valued benefit. Here is how a customer might explain his or her way of selecting a vendor: “My preference is based on how good you are at meeting my wants, needs and aspirations and reducing my apprehensions, concerns and fears. I have a lot of choices, and I will decide where to buy after looking at all of my options. Given all of my options and all of the factors in my purchase decision, I prefer you.”

Think of customer preference in terms of the specific advantages it offers you:

Individually, these benefits may not make or break your same-store sales performance, margins, or bottom line, but collectively they will be the fundamental difference between growing and declining in today’s fiercely competitive retail word.

How retailers get that preferred position is no simple answer, but one way is ensuring the information people get in store is valuable and relevant. And speaking to their needs. In-store digital is by no means a magic tonic for all this, but it is certainly part of the solution.

And the more retailers learn to work with this emerging technology, and not hope it just goes away, the better their prospects.

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