Like it or not, the holiday shopping season is officially here! The shift of in-store retail sales to online sales gets all the buzz these days, but according to the U.S. Commerce Department online retail sales were just 8.1% of the retail total in 2016. I’m sure that number will be up a bit when the 2017 numbers are final, but the overwhelming majority of retail sales still happen the same way they always have: in the store!
My wife likes to say, “How did our moms survive without Amazon Prime?” But, the truth is there is a major value proposition in-store shopping offers that online shopping never will: the in-store experience. Take clothing for example — feeling the softness of the fabric, judging the thickness of that winter coat, asking customer service for another size of jeans from the back, trying it all on, comparing the price of the sweater you like in one hand with the one you love in the other hand. And finally, you get to see it all, on you, right there in the mirror in real time.
Now, imagine what it would feel like if you arrived at the clothing store and you were immediately stopped by an employee who said this: “Welcome to your favorite store, we’ve decided to save you lots of time and effort today. We’ve assembled an entire wardrobe for you, right here in this cart, and you can head straight to the checkout line!” The experience is gone, but so is the opportunity to think through the “solutions” (the sneakers to replace the ones with the hole), eliminate the challenges (jeans that are too tight), and imagine the possibilities (that expensive coat you really wanted and might have splurged for).
I see too many salespeople put the wardrobe in the cart before the customer walks in the store (or before the salesperson walks into the prospect’s office). Put the shopping cart and the cash register away, and pick up the pad and paper. Get back to basics — a well-prepared, well-executed Hourglass Needs Analysis is your best opportunity to keep your “retail store” alive and well. More listening, and less talking about your product, your company, or you in that first meeting will allow you to find the right “size, fit, and feel” that will take your prospect’s business to the next level.