The Case for Retail
I went to a department store today with 3 empty color cosmetics in hand to replace. With minimal time to waste, I approached the "Brand" counter. I needed new ones; I had no questions; no changes; no nothing. The first woman worked for the "Brand" and not the store ..... so she had no idea which draws the products were in.
When I told the second woman (who was working the same counter) I was in a big rush and could she please ring me up while they were finding it; she said she didn't work for the "Brand". The first woman finally found the products for me but since she didn't work for the store, she couldn't ring me up. The third woman was in charge of ringing up; but it was my unfortunate luck because she was on the phone. Or was it their unfortunate luck.
Because I walked out. That was after I told them it was absolutely ridiculous that between three people they couldn't ring up $100+ order in under 10 minutes. Remember they didn't need to sell me anything; they just needed to complete an order.
I love my color cosmetics. I don't need to be swayed on the merits of anything. And these people could not complete a sale. I have many fears about what could detract this company off course and retail is one of them. However, Retail is like many things in life. You can't live with them; and you can't live without them. So what do you do when you know you have to be in retail but you know it makes your brand vulnerable.
This is all new and I'm certain a year from now I may be rewriting this entry. However, for now I'm sticking to the following: Brands need retail. Consumers need to touch and feel a product and many of them need to interact with a person as they do it. So you could have a great product but it could be misrepresented by the service received at the counter or if the salesperson is ill-informed.
Read more: Why the Beauty Business
I have always thought the restaurant business was a crazy bad business. You could have an amazing chef; but if the parking sucks; the hostess is rude; the bar is too crowded; the waitstaff is slow; or the silverware is dirty....you get my point - you are not going back. There are so many interactions that a customer could be displeased. No wonder many restaurants fail. On the flip side there is Apple. Yes, it's not a restaurant, but they have just as many points if interaction - maybe more as technology can be very frustrating. And Apple is a dream. Why? They overstaff their departments with intelligent people. And they are not shy about replacing a product for free if it's defected. Ok so here we go....Plagiarism is the highest form of flattery.
The case for retail is profound, especially in the development of the brand. But there are a few things that are paramount in protecting the message and the experience of the consumer:
1. Careful selection of a retail partner - a small boutique retailer may be ideal.
2. In store teaching of the product and providing short information cheat sheets for sales.
3. Bigger is not better. Perfect the experience in one store and then replicate what works.
4. Hire well and Overstaff
5. Encourage and track customer suggestions.
6. Frequent visits. Kick those damn tires often. And most important,
7. Alignment of interests: Commission aligns sales with increasing revenue.
Once the "Brand" has been established you become fractionally insulated. For example, I'm still going to replace my color cosmetics - I'll just go someplace else. But you need to have a solid Brand for customers to overlook a poor experience... once - and you better hope it doesn't happen again. What's unfortunate is this "Brand" is paying for a "bricks and mortars" strategy and I would be happier if I could avoid all this and order it on line. Hopefully my strategy of marrying traditional retail with internet retail will be well received....