Shopping with precision

Shopping with precision

Over the past few weeks, I have been privileged to share some of the findings from research done by Delicious Living and iVillage in retailer seminars in Chicago, Seattle, Minneapolis, Reno and Boston. The research shows what women look for and avoid when grocery shopping for “health.” We talk about what needs and conditions are factors, as well. It is very insightful – and a great help for retailers to understand how to make their messaging relevant to health-focused shoppers.

Part of the introduction that I share with this presentation is a statistic from a Deloitte Harrison Group Study entitled “The 2010 American Pantry Study: The New Rules of the Shopping Game.” They make the statement that “84% of shoppers have become a lot more precise in what they buy.”

This statement flows well with what the Delicious Living “Shopping for Health” research points out – that grocery shopping today is a very deliberate activity, with many ingredients and benefits being sought and many being avoided.

For a natural products retailer, this knowledge is very empowering and enlightening. After all, the bulk of your product selection is focused on being healthy! Once you connect with what the shoppers are looking for, you are in a great place!

I do think, however, that the precision that shoppers are showing is for more than just products – and think that is also in providers, in the retailers that they are buying products from.

A good retailer can save you time. A good retailer can add value to your purchases and your shopping experience by virtue of their well-maintained store and their well-chosen and trained staff. And, by putting key items on sale, they can also save you money.

Why would you frequent a store that is not clean? That is poorly laid out? That is not well-staffed, in either quantity or quality? That is overpriced on commodity items?

A few years ago, my wife and I were having new flooring put in the bathrooms of the house that we were living in. While having this done, we also replaced the thirty year old toilets with new, low water flow, ones. This was an operation that we had timed very carefully with the flooring installer and our plumbers so as to not be without a functioning bathroom!

To make a long story short, the plumbing part of the experience did not go as planned!

By way of history, I had a multi-decade experience with the plumber that I used, having chosen this firm for a variety of commercial contracts over the years, as well as for my needs at home. (I had been very precise in choosing the one that I felt to be the best – and had that choice validated many times.)

Both floors were in, both toilets were out – but one floor had been done two days before the second one so it was ready for its new toilet and we were only “without” for a few hours, according to the plan…….

“Larry” wasn’t, to be blunt, the best plumber that we had had – and he hemmed and hawed about the work. He said that he needed specialty parts to connect the new toilet with the existing pipes and that the job couldn’t be completed until the next morning.

(Insert much frustration and many, many trips to a local convenience store here.)

“John” showed up the next morning. He had picked up about $5.00 worth of parts from a local home improvement story – Lowe’s or Home Depot. He had the new toilet installed in just a few minutes time. (Both of these stores were open for hours after Larry had given up the night before.) John had talked to Larry and knew exactly what was needed to finish the job – but had been unable to convince Larry that it was that simple.

Larry had insisted that I pay him for a service call since it wasn’t his fault that the piping wasn’t compatible. I paid him, albeit reluctantly. John didn’t want me to pay him, but since he did the job and part of his pay was the revenue that he brought in, I paid him, enthusiastically.

Enter the owner…..

I called the owner, Mark, and he returned my call – 4 days later.  (Long-time customer, bad experience, four days wait - ouch!)

When I explained the situation and the timeline, he, believe it or not, took the position that Larry was right and that John didn’t do anything special – and that I got what I paid for.

(I did get him to refund the service call funds that I gave Larry via a gift certificate for future work, but it was only after a conversation that was much longer than it should have been.

How does this apply to you and your store?

1. You do have Larry’s and you will have “Larry incidents.” How do I know? Because your staff is human! There will be times when customers are disappointed as long as people are human. Hire right, train thoroughly, monitor behavior, but realize that there are times when your staff is going to fall short.

2. You do have John’s and there will be “John incidents”! This is good news! Some of your staff will go above and beyond and provide great service. Praise, honor and reward these folks. They provide great value for you and your customers.

3. You will be put in the Mark role. Realize the implications – and think long term when talking with customers – if they are happy with you and, especially, if they are not.

People are taking great care where they spend money. Having the right products and the right messaging are both keys. Being the right store is a key as well!

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