The Curse of Lazy Retailing


The Curse of Lazy Retailing

I grew up behind the counter of a general store in a small country town. The hours were long, and as a family, we didn’t take a holiday for the ten years we owned the business.

We knew every one of our customers by name, knew what kind of cigarettes they smoked (it was the 1980s, don’t judge), knew their kids’ birthdays (they always got an ice-cream or a bag of lollies). We celebrated, commiserated and generally got involved with the community on a personal level.

It dawned on me the other day as I was wondering through another faceless shopping centre in Queensland how much retailing has changed. In my opinion, not for the better.

It feels as though retailers have become complacent over the past 20 years. Take a trip into any bricks and mortar retail business, and I bet you have encountered the curse of …

Lazy retailing.

Last weekend I went into a national retailer to look at 360° cameras. The one I had my eye on retails at around $400, but, I wanted to have a look at it first. You know, out of the box, hold it, have a play, take a photo, maybe (God forbid) have a human interaction. I found the product chained to a wall only to be told that it couldn’t be opened. It was there, if I wanted it, great, but I wasn’t going to see it outside the box unless I handed over my credit card.

So, I walked away, without my camera, questioning myself about if I’d bother shopping at that particular store again.

But surely, that’s just one interaction I hear you say, and true, it is. The point is though; I’m pretty confident you don’t have to stress your memory too hard to think of a recent interaction where you have felt as though the retailers just didn’t try.

What about asking a team member where something is located within their store? Do they smile and walk you to the location, taking the opportunity to find out a little more about how you plan to use the product you’re looking at, or even just have a chat? I highly doubt it; more likely they point in the vague direction and say you’ll find it between the washing machines and the dryers.

It’s just that we’ve become used to that as the norm. It doesn’t matter how busy a retailer is these days, for the vast majority lazy retailing is the standard.

After I had finished school, I worked for Harvey Norman, during that time Gerry Harvey mentored me. Each week he’d choose a topic, and go down the rabbit hole, whether it was why end caps worked (he came up with the concept), rotating stock or shop blindness. There was always something to learn and talk about.

Lazy retailing was not permitted in any of his stores.

If you weren’t busy with a client, you were cleaning the store, merchandising, moving stock around. You took products home and learned about them, you played with the products, and you knew what each line item within your area did and didn’t do.

Think about a recent retailing experience you’ve had. Could you ask a sales person if a product you were interested in was able to do what you wanted it to do, and, were they able to answer? Chances are you were met with a blank stare followed by (if you’re lucky) I can look it up for you.

That’s just lazy retailing. Many years after leaving Harvey Norman I found myself working as a product sales coach. I would visit retail stores and coach staff how to get a product into a customer’s hands and interacting with it.

From pure sales driven data set, the percent of customers who purchased a product after they had had an interaction with it is staggering. So much so, we rolled the coaching model out across all of the retail store’s nation-wide.

People love to play and experience products before they purchase.

The lesson is this.

Customers have become so attuned to completing their research online, shopping around for opinions from friends and checking out product review sites before purchase that the majority already have a pretty solid idea of what they want before they enter your store.

You need to give them a reason to spend their money with you, not at an online store or your competition down the road.

Encourage your team members to take products home and use them. Ask a friend who doesn’t work with you to mystery shop your team. Ensure your staff know if they aren’t with a client they are cleaning or merchandising or learning about a product.

Get your products in the hands of your customers and allow them to experience what retailing should be like. Coach your team on the difference between feature and benefit selling. Allow them time to talk to and engage with your clients.

All of these things may seem small, but they will each have an incremental improvement on your bottom line, your customer satisfaction and your team morale.

And, really, it’s not difficult to stand out from the retailing pack.

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