Community Retailing: The End of Passive Retail

The following is a guest blog post by wireless industry consultant and expert, Bob Lafon.

We see so many articles about the retail apocalypse” and even more blaming the physical retail lull on Amazon and e-commerce in general. Arguments can be made, however, that today’s retail experience is part of the problem when it comes to the continued decline of in-store traffic. After all, who wants to get dressed, start their car, drive, find a parking space, walk inside a physical store, and have the possibility of having to wait to be helped, unless the experience had in the shop makes it all worth the inconvenience?

That said, I’m going to spend time in this blog attempting to once again help retailers become destinations for the experience they provide customers.

Community Retailing

If you’ve ever lived, worked, or visited a small town, you’ve likely encountered shops that have been around for generations. These same shops somehow seem impervious to the market pressures that affect other retailers. If you don’t believe me, here is a local retailer who is making things happen despite the size of his client base.

So what’s their secret? Let’s unpack their success in the following several bullet points:

  • They’re a part of the community. This means they sponsor local football, baseball, basketball, or soccer teams; they participate in community days events; their Store Management attends the Chamber of Commerce events and volunteers their time on a committee; and when someone in the community encounters tragedy, they help fundraise, volunteer, or both.
  • These shop owners have small business programs in which not only the companies receive discounts, but they extend those same discounts to employees as a perk.
  • They’re full service. In other words, they never direct you to a toll free number or online help resource when — as a client or customer — you call in with a problem needing solving. They take ownership of the issue and make it their own until it’s resolved to the customer’s satisfaction.
  • The community-focused retailers market exclusive offers to those who’ve supported them in the past through purchases at the store.
  • They make sure customers have a place to sit and relax if they have to wait. Maybe even have coffee or water available for those in line, and a live TV to make wait times seem as short as can be.

What’s Old” is New Again

Now, if this sounds counter-cultural or even a bit old fashioned, consider this: not many years ago, one of the 100+ stores I operated in the world of wireless had such stores, often in small towns with limited populations. Consistently, it was these retail locations that had our highest sales, highest profit per transaction, most repeat customers, lowest employee turnover, and lowest churn.

It’s said that everything comes back in style eventually. In my own life, I’ve seen this to be true from clothing to even culture. Trends tend to be cyclical. If that is truly the case, why not learn some lessons from a bygone era and provide an experience that’s worth the inconvenience?

People First and the Tech to Follow

Yes, you should still use the amazing tools in your iQmetrix POS System to determine purchasing trends, product sales trends, selling habits on the part of your staff, return rates on products, targeted marketing campaigns, and more. These tools will absolutely help you run the most profitable enterprise possible when used right and regularly. Just remember that people buy from people, so be the kind of people that customers will want to inconvenience themselves for; people who are their neighbors, friends, and supporters of their community. People who care, people who give, people who help.

More Than the Money

The CEO of one of the nation’s largest agents with more than 1,000 locations, said in a book he co-authored that employees should be able to bring their soul to work.” While many of us experienced professionals rail against the younger generation, in my opinion (numerous articles I’ve read on the subject support this as well), this up-and-coming generation wants to feel like they’re a part of something bigger than just earning a paycheck. So, by being a Community Retailer”, you’re giving them the opportunity to truly bring their souls to work.”

Worried about the death of boring retail”? Read more on how to stay ahead of the competition while keeping customers engaged and invested in your business. 

About the author:
Bob Lafon is a wireless industry veteran of nearly 35 years. He’s a Business Consultant working exclusively in the industry, a speaker at many industry shows, a columnist for industry publications, and soon to be an author of a book on B2B selling. Bob also operated an award winning Premium Retail Agency with more than 100 stores for a tier one wireless carrier and worked directly for three wireless carriers as well.

Shutterstock / Dusan Petkovic