Editorial / Insights

Retail Role Play: Analysis of Consumer Pain Points

Retail role plays

As a retailer, usually the best method to improving your business is to be able to take on the perspective of your potential customers and look for weaknesses in your offering from that viewpoint.

Unfortunately, it seems that some retailers haven’t yet caught on to this idea and we can see this disparity between retailers and consumers adding further to the sense of despondency that is crippling the Australian retail industry every day.

So, for the sake of our livelihood, and the general prosperity of our economy, allow me to put you right in the average consumer’s shoes so that we can take a fresh look at the situation.

Let’s say you need to buy something. Everyone does it on a regular basis – unfortunately, not everyone has the experience and wisdom that allows them to perceive everything that goes on behind the scenes in retail. As a consumer, you now have more power than ever before when it comes to making a choice, getting value for money, evaluating product reviews, comparing service offerings as well as modes of delivery and pickup. With all these positives for the consumer, what are some of the negative thoughts we all have and what can the retailers do about them?

For the purposes of this exercise, lets pretend the item we are buying is available online and in-store – and let’s look at the different concerns for each method of purchase separately:

The Traditional Bricks-and-Mortar Outlet

Parking

One of the most frustrating aspects of visiting modern shopping centres: it takes so long to find a park.

‘Isn’t this the same everywhere?’ Well, no, it really isn’t. Some centres have more parks than others, some supermarkets provide more undercover parking and so on. Will it affect a business that parking is tough to get or that it has a time limit heavily policed by council sharks? The answer is yes – these decisions, even though they might be ‘small’, can greatly effect a consumers willingness to go to certain locations. I can’t tell you the number of times I have heard people complain about parking. Now that we have online alternatives for our item, this type of complaint may begin to disappear.

How Can Retailers Address the Issue?

This can be tricky, as car park sizes are often comparative to the size of rent. Retailers are advised to thoroughly research different locations and choose the situation that suits best suits their target demographic.

Getting Customer Service

Another bug bear of the in-store consumer; it’s just too hard to find quality customer service. Factors such as declining profits and increased penalty rates have made the staff numbers we were seeing 10 years ago impossible to achieve today.

How Can Retailers Address the Issue?

While increasing the number of service staff might be challenging, improving their training shouldn’t be. Knowledgeable service staff can be the difference between sales and empty carts, and is in fact one of the main reasons people will continue to shop in-store – simply to see someone. Good customer service is single greatest weapon in the bricks-and-mortar store’s arsenal. Don’t leave it at home.

Getting an Item Home

This may not be relevant for every item available for purchase, it is worth thinking from a consumer’s view: ‘How do I get that item home? Will I need to borrow Dave’s 4WD or can I get Dad’s trailer this weekend?’

How Can Retailers Address the Issue?

As items get bigger (just think of TVs) you may have to consider a delivery service. We used to sell mirrors at the Queen Victoria Markets. Big mirrors. Most shoppers at QVM came to buy produce and weren’t able to get the mirrors home , so we were able to increase sales by offering a Saturday delivery at a small fee.

Online Retailer

No Hands-On Ability

Perhaps the biggest annoyance for many when buying items online: I can’t touch it! I have to see it before I can buy it! This is different to ‘showrooming’ (which is really just the modern-day research of products that has occurred since retail day one). There are some products that people (not all) just won’t buy online, for some its jeans, others its business suits, even cars.

How Can Retailers Address the Issue?

There is no real way around this issue for online retailers, other than offering in-store purchases as well. Multiple high-quality images and well-written product descriptions can help, but that won’t ever be enough for some customers.

Checkout Barriers and Marketing Overkill

Why do I have to register to buy my item? I know what I want, so just take my money and let me go!

In 2007 many online retailers talked about owning the transaction and the customer. Unfortunately for them, these days were short lived, as no one wants to be forced to go through surveys about their pets, how they spend holidays and more just to buy an item.

Alongside these barriers is the ongoing marketing that occurs to customers as a result of this hunger for personal details. Multiple emails offering deals, specials and general cataloguing (if done insensitively or insensibly) is a sure-fire way to lose a customer and their future business. Email marketing is the most cost effective way of connecting with your customers, but be mindful of bombardment and irrelevant emails.

How Can Retailers Address the Issue?

As a former boss once told me, “I go into the bottle shop, I know where the scotch is, I pay and walk out” – some things retailers have right in a bricks-and-mortar setting should also be applied online, so ensure your website makes purchasing quick and painless for consumers.

When it comes to email marketing, it may still be the most cost effective way of connecting with customers, but be mindful of bombardment and irrelevant emails.

Waiting

As an avid online consumer, I hate the long period of waiting that goes with the online purchasing territory. Seriously, I am like a kid checking the letter box four times a day, rummaging through several take-away food menus looking for my order. Online sellers are at the mercy of limited delivery options, as it often takes just as long to receive goods delivered from within Australia as it can to get them from Hong Kong. This is slowly changing, with shipping aggregators offering great rates to online businesses with multiple logistics providers. The Iconic is even offering 3-hour local shipping! Perhaps the wait will be over in the near future – for now, the wait for items will continue to frustrate many.

How Can Retailers Address the Issue?

Unfortunately there isn’t much to be done in this case. If you have extremely deep pockets, you could consider setting up your own speedy delivery service. Otherwise it makes sense to assess the service levels of every fulfilment provider you can consider partnering with. Above all, make sure your customers have accurate expectations for delivery at the point of purchase and be sure to deliver on that promise.

Moving Forward

These are really just a few of the pain points that consumers will consider when making purchasing choices. As retailers, we can do something about some of them. Many of the above areas will come down to personal preference, which is as hard to pick as to choose the winner on Cup Day.

Retailers can put processes in place in order to ensure that most of these are thought of in advance presenting a few different options where applicable; understanding the consumer thought process is an invaluable commodity for retailers. This review of some of the negatives is the perfect argument for more omni/multi channel advancements – or as many have said recently: this is simply modern retail.

2 Comments

  • Great article Chris. There are so many things to consider in running a retail business, often the most important “what is the value interaction” for the customer gets left out. So much retail is now becoming purely transactional. What happened to romance, dreaming and style. Luxury marketers are very successful in experience marketing, I think we could all learn from this model.

    Reply
  • Thanks for taking time to comment Simon – totally agree with you statement on ‘the customer gets left out’ – Many industries now are so caught up in numerous business pursuits that they forget the reason they are able to actually have a business – that is the customer.

    Reply

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