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The Next Big Step In Physical Retail Is The 'Relationshop'

It is time to rethink retail and reinvent shopping for the physical store. Granted, not all retailers are doing badly, but many are struggling to get people into their stores. To increase traffic, retailers need to take the relationship between the store and the customer one step further.

With many retailers struggling to keep their stores open, one cannot help but wonder, what happened to shopkeepers when coming out of the financial crisis?

It is not that people are not spending money—in the Euro area consumer spending reached an all-time high of €1,357.78 billion in the fourth quarter of 2015, up €16.29 billion from 2014. In the United States, consumer spending also reached an all-time high of $11,330.70 billion, up $297.40 billion in 12 months.

Consumers have not lost their faith, so let’s not lose faith in them.

What Is The Core Offer?
Retailers with physical stores need to take a long hard look at what lies at the core of what they offer. If they just think about the products on the shelves, the fierce competition with online outlets of today is already lost. Someone else will always be offering the same or something similar for a cheaper price, with the added convenience of shopping directly from homes and devices.

At the core of a lasting relationship with customers is a unique shopping experience. It is time for retailers to truly adapt and change from unique selling positions to unique buying reasons to attract and retain customer interest and spending. Finally, the shopping landscape has to evolve from a product showroom to becoming a physical space in which to interact and engage with shop visitors.

Introducing The Relationshop
In a Relationshop …

… Just like in a relationship, you care about what the other party wants and needs, or you will end up on your own, or being cheated on. If this makes you think of brand loyalty dynamics, you are absolutely right. Any brand is defined by its relationship with people.

… You create moments of relevance and importance to your customers. This mindset is a guiding light on how to add events and experience design to your store. Sometimes something fancy is not the right thing to do. Sometimes it is the little things that matter.

… You occasionally need to take a good, long hard look at yourself. Do you just deliver on what is expected from you? Perhaps, the problem is not in how you deliver, but what you deliver. Many retailers, in fact many businesses, have gone out of their way to be good at things nobody cared about.

… While price does not mean everything, you cannot go half-heartedly into occasions that matter. In a retail setting, your frontline sales assistant has to be both attentive, service-minded, and knowledgeable to be part of an interesting shopping experience. If the retailer cannot be bothered to invest time, expertise, and resources to have a great team, one can hardly blame customers for not being bothered to come back.

What retail marketers need to ask both themselves and their customers is whether or not their store succeeds as a Relationshop to build and maintain a continuous flow of returning Relationshoppers.

Consider these two real-life shopping scenarios showcasing how a Relationshop mindset can assist in creating loyalty and even advocacy, and what happens when not.

1. Opportunity Missed
“I listened to a streaming system at a consumer electronics store. When I asked for a piece of music, I was handed the iPad with the system app to find something myself. I listened to it for a minute or two, and was not impressed by the sound quality. When I handed the iPad back and said thank you and goodbye, the sales agent could barely be bothered to look at me. Opportunity missed, as I was clearly looking for something of better—and more expensive—quality.”

People come into your store because they have an interest in what you are selling. It is your job to present them with insight, alternatives, and related choices, and you need to be able to do it better than Amazon. You are the expert here, so you should tell the story of the product and your own preferences.

2. Opportunity Ceased
“A piece of luck. I found a decent pair of new branded shoes at half price off in a sporting goods store. Unfortunately, they didn’t fit but, as I got ready to leave, the sales assistant asked me if I could wait a minute. He called up another store that had the shoes, got them shipped to the store we were in, and asked me to come back and try the other size a few days later. He even gave me a call when they were in. This particular tale ends with the shoes living happily ever after on my feet. And they weren’t even expensive shoes.”

This particular sales assistant realised, perhaps instinctively, that he was not selling the product, but the shopping experience, creating a positive connection that will make people come back.

While evolving your store into a Relationshop, you need to think in scenarios like these. They are little moments of strategy and words put into significant action, and they have to happen in an unscripted, honest way, initiated by the right team members in the right setting.

There is a wealth of opportunity for the retailer who understands how to evolve from pushing products to keeping customers, so maybe it is time to consider this:

Is your store a Relationshop?

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