Retailers need to know your time is their money

I had half an hour between meetings in the city of Melbourne today – and I had some gift vouchers that I had received from my American Express membership rewards program.

I thought, what a great idea, I will have a little shop to get out of the cold and use these vouchers.

I selected the items in less than 10 minutes – an hour and 20 minutes later I was still standing at the cash register.

Ironically, I had just done an interview with CMO magazine – this marketing publication wanted to know my thoughts about trends in marketing.

I said, “One of the most important things is to respect a customer’s time.”

“In the online world, customers expect us to have an understanding of what might interest them based on their previous actions on the site. Amazon is famous for this.

“Customers want to be served what they are likely to want – they are asking retailers to be their curators – presenting things that are likely to appeal. If we are quick and efficient, as well as knowledgeable and professional, the customer is far more likely to buy and ultimately might even become an advocate talking about that customer experience.”

Every business understands that customers have different purchasing power; discounted pricing is not what all consumers are looking for. I would never travel half an hour to save $20 on an item; even if I really wanted that item, my time is far too precious. At some point there would be a sweet spot of how much would I need to ‘save’ in order to travel to purchase a product.

The reality is if I am looking for savings I will buy online – and not have to pay for petrol or parking – nor lose my valuable time.

What gives me hope that traditional retailers have a future is that they can delivery something that is much harder to get online – human interaction, professional opinion and ‘entertainment’. Alas, this is not what I got today and definitely not the norm for retailers in Australia.

I have not named names because it is not my intention to embarrass one particular retailer. There was an opportunity to learn from this experience – so at least my hour was not a total waste of time.

(The untrained sales assistant made more than 12 phone calls to other stores trying to work out how her computer system worked to use these vouchers, and she wanted to give me a discount by way of apology for wasting so much of my time. But, of course, she did not have the authority to do that and did not know how the system worked to get it to happen anyway.)

So ‘high-ho high-ho’ it is back online I go – and when I find myself with half an hour to keep warm in Melbourne next time, I will go for a coffee instead.

Naomi Simson has received many accolades and awards for the business she founded,, including the 2011 Ernst & Young National Entrepreneur of the Year – Industry.


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
SmartCompany Plus

Sign in

To connect a sign in method the email must match the one on your SmartCompany Plus account.
Or use your email
Forgot your password?

Want some assistance?

Contact us on: or call the hotline: +61 (03) 8623 9900.