Shopping isn’t like it used to be, and as jobs continue to get axed and the mishandling of businesses lessens customer trust, a retailer’s reputation becomes all the more important.
Consumer sentiment is also key as it helps drive sales, so if a retailer is missing the mark in creating a memorable experience for its consumers, or fails to compete with the “faster, better, cheaper” motto of Amazon, the retailer suffers, big time.
Reputation.com‘s 2017 Retail Reputation Report 2017 Retail Reputation Report is a new study that assessed 400,000 consumer reviews based on the in-store shopping experience. The reviews, posted on Google and Facebook, were extracted from 8,000 different locations across the United States. Nine key in-store experience categories were used when grading retailers: value, service, wait time, cleanliness, convenience, manager interactions, product availability, staff competence and parking facilities and amenities. A perfect score received five stars. The number one ranked store on the list received an overall score of 4.5 stars as well as over four stars in eight of the nine categories identified.
“Today is a reco economy, consumers trust their social media circle and even strangers more than they trust brands or their advertising,” says Tony Chapman, keynote speaker and Toronto-based business marketing consultant. “We sleep in strangers’ beds, drive in strangers’ cars, hook up with strangers over Tinder, and the peer-to-peer economy is expected to be $300 billion by 2020.”
Retailers not only want to attract customers, they want to keep them, and word of mouth can make or break a business. However, as more people opt to make their purchases online, removing the face-to-face contact that in the past kept customers coming back, companies have to find new ways to get people to shop and stay shopping.
“Now that consumers have an alternative to shopping in the store, retailers must offer something different than what online provides consumers, which is the in-store experience with knowledgeable, well-trained, highly motivated employees,” says Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) in New York City. “If brick and mortar retail can’t compete on price, selection or convenience, it must compete on superior customer service…retail companies must invest in their workforces and retail stores.”
For Appelbaum, retailers who may not have a strong digital pull need to tap into characteristics that are unique to the offline world. “A skilled sales person can take a look at a person’s body type, hair cut, etc. and make recommendations on fit, colour and style that a person could never get online,” he says.
“To succeed in brick and mortar you have to matter,” adds Chapman. “Dollar store matters because it enables an affordable treasure hunt. So does Winners and discounted luxury malls. Canadian Tire or Home Hardware matter because they provide the thinking and products needed to ‘do it yourself’, and high-end grocery stores matter because they unlock the inner foodie.”
Even so, Chapman says “most retailers don’t matter to consumers” and “if you are a good retailer but surrounded by mediocrity, you will be pulled down because of your neighbours, lack of traffic etcetera.” It’s tough to get people physically shopping these days, yes, but retailers must adapt.
Chapman says retailers need to “put ‘person’ality and ‘human’ity in their offering” and teach the human resources arm of a company to invest in moments, helping “turn transactions into transformations.”
Driving experiences, investing in superior customer service and reinventing spaces are three ways retailers can make their presence known and compete, and some are doing this better than others. Brick and mortar retailers once had a monopoly over consumer spending, but now the speed of the online marketplace has made it difficult for such businesses to keep up. But, is it too late? Are the days of brick and mortar businesses fading fast?
Chapman thinks so. “We will miss deeply the role that retail played in our lives — in terms of anchoring our main streets, the malls and our livelihood–especially entry level employment. Your phone has become the most convenient way to shop, it is the world’s biggest and best vending machine.”