Please Touch!

For years, retailers have been in a position to “set the rules” and shoppers have grudgingly complied.  At the door we have been met some sort of “NO” sign such as  “no food or drink”.  It is so common to see people with a beverage in their hands; a water bottle or a Starbucks cup, that discouraging a large number of potential customers from coming into our business doesn’t seem to make much sense. Sure, you might have to clean up a spill now and then but really – how often does it happen?  When business was rolling, retailers could afford to “manage for exceptions” which is what this sort of sign actually attempts to do.   Now we need to be more welcoming to all potential customers.

Other stores have come up with a wide variety of signs indicating that if you break something, you will have to pay for it.  No matter how cute or clever the sign may be, the end result is one that chills customer interactions.   Again, I have to ask, are you managing for exceptions with this signage?  How much breakage do you really suffer? Are there other ways more “customer friendly” to address the cause of the problem?

Is most of the breakage caused by large bags?  If so, an offer to stash a bag for your customer to “make it easier and more comfortable for them to shop in the narrow aisles” add to, rather than detracts from the customer experience.  Children?  Perhaps a designated play corner to occupy young visitors again has a positive rather than punitive message.

Even major brands such as Estée Lauder are making the shift.  A Wall Street Journal article yesterday described the new counter designs coming soon to a department store near you.  These new counters allow shoppers to browse on their own, offer items marked with clear rather than hidden prices and less merchandise in glass cases.  These shifts are intended to be more welcoming to younger consumers.  However,even I often feel intimidated by “beauty consultants” , feel embarrassed when something is more expensive than I am comfortable paying and feel obligated once I’ve had something taken out of a case for closer view.  The end result; I shop in stores where these factors do not exist.

If your business is suffering during the current economy, it may be time to take a look at your business from the customer’s point of view.  Start at the front door.  Do you have “NO” signs?  If so, remove them!  Are there other obstacles to browsing or impulse buying?  If so, now is the time to change.  It’s time to make customers feel welcome and encourage them to touch!

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