What’s a retailer to do?

January 13, 2008

What’s a retailer to do? Now that the holiday shopping season is complete, other than January gift card sales, retailers need to talk to their customers about why they continue to wait longer and longer to shop (if at all). 

Seattle Times article*:  December 18th, 2007 – 7 days before Christmas!In an online survey of 63,000 shoppers conducted by NPD over the past weekend, 18 percent said they hadn’t even started shopping, compared with 11 percent at the same time a year ago; 67 percent had not finished, compared with 51 percent a year ago. The three top reasons shoppers cited were: they were waiting longer for better deals, they had little time to shop and they didn’t know what to buy.

*Seattle Times article link:  http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/businesstechnology/2004081437_shoppingstall19.html

7 days before Christmas – and 18% of the population hadn’t even stated shopping yet – that’s an increase of 64% over last year’s 11%.  And almost 7 in 10 hadn’t finished.  30% more than last year!

Retailers!  Are you paying attention!?  Shoppers are in control as never before – but more unsure about what to buy than ever.  All the marketing noise means nothing if your customer doesn’t feel in control of the relationship.  They are going to shop when they want, where they want, and pay what they want whenever possible.  They need your help, but want to control the relationship.

 What’s a retailer to do? 

Don’t despair.  It is time to take clues from the many on-line small retailers and “solo-preneurs” who are teaching us all to be in control of our retail relationships.  Here are a few tips in answer to the three top shopper-cited issues:

 They are waiting for better deals

  1. Basics:  Starting 4 weeks before Christmas, make a “lowest price guarantee” on core product (your sweaters, socks, dinnerware, etc.).  Make the marketing for these products about add-ons and bonuses. 
  2. Must-haves:  No worry here.  Hold your price.  Unfortunately there were few of these in 2007 (Wii, Ugg boots, iPods).  Note to retailers:  You are boring us!  Get back to your roots as purveyors of interesting, unique products.  Who will take the challenge?

They have little time to shop & They don’t know what to buy

  1. Offer personal shoppers.  These should be your associates who are highly skilled in building customer relationships.  Give them free reign to create solutions that excite and engage their customers.  Market this service!
  2. Get into web 2.0!!!  Set up brand-right pages for your personal shoppers on FaceBook, MySpace, etc.  Create legitimate blogs for them as well (not some marketing exec, but a real personal shopper).  There are several more ways to take advantage of web 2.0 – if you do it right! Start now and you’ll have thousands of eager shoppers willing to follow your personal shoppers’ advice next holiday season.
  3. Make it easy for your regular staff, particularly the holiday temps, to help harried & confused customers.  Provide gift category training early in the season that teaches your staff what gifting problems customers are looking for you to help them solve:  Traditional and innovative choices for key people on their lists:  family members, friends, intimate relationships, etc.  Then, follow up with daily reminders to keep them focused on these solutions.

It bears repeating:  They need your help, but want to control the relationship.  Stop talking to them, and start having a dialogue.  There are many more things you can do, but this should get you and your team thinking about your tactics for next year.

Mike Osorio

Your Dare to be Contagious strategist