It’s hardly news that retailers have been struggling for a while now. Consumer confidence and spending figures have been less than stellar for ages, despite the RBA cutting its lending rate from 4.75% to 3.25% in less than a year.
This has kept many experts on the topic of consumer behaviour and buying patterns occupied trying to work out the how and why of getting shoppers shopping again. The challenge posed to traditional retailers by overseas online offerings is well known, but there are signs that some merchants are starting to rethink the retail experience.
Retail trend-spotter and SmartCompany blogger Kevin Moore highlights one such instance of retail innovation, looking at the Deus Ex Machina stores that have been opened by the founder of surfwear brand Mambo, Dare Jennings, and his partners.
Moore relays the observations of his 22-year-old surfer son, jaded with the stale offerings of many surf retail outlets:
Walking the mainstream surf stores in Seminyak, my son, who is an avid surfer and owner of “rashies” and “boardies”, made an interesting observation: “Over the past 10 years I have grown and changed. These stores haven’t. They are exactly as I remember them the first time I walked into them, only back then they were new and exciting.”
It’s a feeling you sense many Australian shoppers have about the retail experience, with even major shopping centres not really doing much different to what they have been offering for the past 10 or 20 years. But, for Moore and his son, the Deus Ex Machina stores have a buzz, an excitement and engagement that come from a well-executed retail premise:
The Deus Temple stores are retail experiences where two hours and $30 to $30,000 can be spent. Beautifully designed and cut casual clothing and surfwear, coffee, food, surfboards, skateboards, scooters and motorcycles can be all purchased. All with an authenticity that is awe-inspiring.
The likes of Myer and David Jones are looking at “omni-channel” strategies, but maybe they need to go back to basics and start giving shoppers a reason to visit their stores to shop again.
When good customer service just won’t do anymore
Sales guru Sue Barrett has six CARE tips for organisations dealing with customers, and while the tips are not retail specific, they could certainly be taken on board and used by retailers as a way to improve customer relationships.
Barrett says customer expectations have radically changed and organisations that don’t upgrade will soon be left to flounder. She says companies have to be constantly evolving in their approach to customer service, innovating and refining their offering:
However long companies have been in the game and no matter the experience level of the customer-facing staff – sales, service and production – there’s always something else to learn about the products, services, customers, techniques, company and competition that will contribute to an improvement in both selling and customer support efforts.
Once again, as in Moore’s profile of Deus Ex Machina, what comes through is the need to provide the customer with a special experience, a reason to come back and shop again. As Moore notes about the “spiritual” Deus Ex Machina experience: “Do we want to tell other people about Deus and their shops and Temples? Yep, sure do.”
Nudge, nudge wink, wink: shop here instead
Our online anthropologist Richard Parker always has a fresh take on things, including the challenge of getting customers to switch to your brand or product.
Parker looks at how behavioural economics (also check out resident SmartCompany blogger Bri Williams on this subject) can be used to prompt and nudge consumers in the direction of your offering by “altering your customers’ choice architectures”:
It’s more gradual change than instant 180. It’s using content marketing to encourage consumers to take one little step closer to your product, by exploiting what matters to them (and remembering that people are generally lazy).
That nudge in the right direction might involve a little clever marketing, a better customer service offering or, for the really ambitious like Deus Ex Machina, a rethink of the retail experience to match the expectations of contemporary shoppers.