Retailing 104: Is Your Store ‘Consumer-Centric’?
From a revenue growth and net profit standpoint, you should focus on consumers first rather than product.
Our case studies show that one of the keys to Operational Excellence for independent specialty retailers is a commitment to being truly “consumer-centric.” From our experience most specialty tennis retailers would argue they are consumer-centric, but on this count, most would be wrong.
The difference between thinking you are consumer-centric and actually being consumer-centric is putting the customer first and really listening to what their wants and needs are, and focusing on providing “tennis lifestyle solutions,” not just products. A big part of this difference is gathering as much information about your customers as possible, and using that information to the advantage of your customers.
It doesn’t matter if your store business plan and target consumers are fit, athletic tennis players, or families, or senior players, or junior players — or any combination. To achieve and sustain any reasonable growth in today’s market — a market that is totally controlled by consumers — you are going to have to change the way you do business from being product-centric to being totally consumer-centric.
With a consumer-centric store strategy, the product becomes the “tail,” which you then are able to “wag” to attract and retain customers. But if the tail “wags” the store, you’re not servicing your customers the way they want to be serviced, and you end up chasing them to your competition.
Deliver Lifestyle Solutions
The point here is that, if you are product-centric, you’re telling a shopper all about the tennis racquet your staff person thinks they should buy. But that simply doesn’t work nearly as well from a revenue growth and net profit standpoint as being consumer-centric — and focusing your whole store on listening, suggesting and delivering individual tennis lifestyle solutions to your customers.
So, what does it mean to be a consumer-centric tennis specialty store?
The store and the organization are built from the customer perspective in, not the retail perspective out.
Have an ongoing, honest, and frank conversation with your customers who did buy and shoppers who didn’t buy from you about what they like or don’t like about your store operations and their shopping experience. Don’t be afraid to ask them, “What can we do to make your experience here more enjoyable and useful?”
The retail shopping process is easy to understand, pleasant, and customers have more control over the entire retail experience.
This includes your website and use of social media, your product portfolio, merchandise planning and a comfortable and clean store environment.
The shopping experience is tailored and personalized to different customer needs and shopping occasions.
Staff your store with customer-service naturals — people who really want to be of service, and who are trained to really listen to tennis shoppers’ wants and needs and who make suggestions about individual tennis lifestyle solutions.
Start a conversation with your customers that includes gathering information about them so you can better provide what they want and need.
Gather information at the point of sale and continue to gather info as the relationship grows. It will take some time, but ideally you’ll want to know their preferences for products and services, how they play, what they want their tennis equipment to do for them, their style of play, their preferences with apparel. Also note other family members, birthdays, whether they like playing competitive tournaments, social round-robins, where they like to play, type of surface they play on most frequently, etc. There is a ton of information you can glean just by asking the right questions and listening to your customers.
Many specialty retailers keep this type of customer information on file. Your point-of-sale system may be able to store this kind of data. Make sure everyone working at your store is trained and educated about fully utilizing your POS system to support your consumer-centricity.
Your store’s ongoing conversation with your customers will build loyalty and repeat business, and it is critical to enjoying increased revenue and profitability!
How to keep your “product portfolio” easy to understand for consumers.
This is part of a series of retail tips presented by the Tennis Industry Association and written by the Gluskin Townley Group (www.gluskintownleygroup.com).
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