Building your sales during the holidays and beyond
EAGLE COUNTY – All early indicators for this year’s holiday season point to a great year for skiing and retailers alike. The snowpack is well above average, and last month’s Black Friday, every major retailer’s metric for holiday shopping volume, suggested that selection and quality are more important to this year’s shoppers than price – especially good news for the many specialty shop owners throughout the Vail Valley. The Wall Street Journal reported that Wal-Mart lowered its predictions for November due to disappointing holiday sales on Black Friday, and that high-end merchandisers such as Bloomingdale’s reported year-over-year increases. This trend perhaps can be best explained by a national shopping study conducted this fall by Bob Gordman of The Gordman Group in Breckenridge, which indicates that selection and convenience are becoming more important to consumers and prices less important. While all of this is great news for store owners throughout the Vail Valley, it doesn’t mean its time to relax on the marketing front. Long-term success for any retailer depends on much more than the holiday season. It depends on providing a complete positive experience each time your customers do business with you. Successful brands get this. This month’s issue of Business 2.0 cites some examples: Apple Computers has installed what it calls the Genius Bar in its retail stores, which enables customers to sit down and discuss technology issues and problems directly with a computer “genius.” By providing this unique experience, it has shortened its selling cycle significantly, with 30 percent of the customers who visit the Genius Bar making a purchase the same day. Wegman’s gourmet grocery stores increased revenue by an estimated 9 percent by conducting in-store cooking demos. And Lowe’s is catching up with Home Depot by offering superior customer service. The lesson here is that we are operating in a new consumer paradigm. Consumers expect and demand much more than the products they purchase from merchants. They expect stellar service that offers them greater value, simplifies their lives, or provides them with a unique experience. They expect what I call a “complete positive experience.” A complete experience provides customers with the goods or services they are seeking, such as ski gear, trendy apparel, or good food and reinforces or strengthens their sense of self through association with a desired image or brand status. Think about your own shopping experience. When you go to your favorite ski shop and the sales persons call you by name and show you new products directly related to you, most often you feel a sense of affinity and value, consciously or subconsciously. This is the secret behind successful marketing strategies. One of my favorite examples is Armani Exchange. This brand knows their customers like none other. In fact, if you ask them, they would tell you they have created the new young adult generation’s fashion attitude. Their marketing does not stop at the emotionally-charged ads and graphics on their Web site. It incorporates a total experience and creates an attitude very in line with their customers’ core values and lifestyle. When you walk into a store, you are surrounded by music that has been carefully produced to evoke the self-image and esteem that shoppers seek from high fashioncreators. And it works. Music has become a very powerful part of their marketing strategy. So much that their best customers get a free CD with the different tracks played throughout their stores. These kinds of emotional experiences, when based upon customer research and carefully planned imaging campaigns, are very powerful tools for getting people aligned with your brand, and spending more. Other kinds of experiences are more interactive than image oriented. Some brands offer free product demos, how-to seminars, consumer appreciation events, and so on. Successful experiences, the kind that draw people to your brand and keep them coming back, are those that are based upon valid consumer input and feedback, rather than assumptions about what makes customers do what they do. Regardless of what type of business you are in, you can and must create experiences that offer customers more value than just the goods and services you offer. Be creative and set no limit. Jeanette McMurtry, principal of The McMurtry Group in Eagle, is the author of Big Business Marketing for Small Business Budgets (McGraw-Hill 2003) and talk show host of a weekly radio program of the same title, which airs every Tuesday at noon on http://www.businessamericaradio.com. She consults large and small businesses on how to affordably capture customers’ lifetime value. For more information about McMurtry or the book, visit http://www.mcmurtrygroup.com or email email@example.com. Vail, Colorado
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