Loyalty begins and ends on the store floor

How can you expect loyalty in customers without first engendering it in your sellers and stockists? Loyalty begins and ends on the store floor, says Nick Murray at integrated marketing agency KLP.

Nick Murray
Nick Murray

Many brands are ’wasting’ millions each year on consumer-facing campaigns that may well be getting the people into the store, but, critically, are not getting the sale. This is particularly true in assisted purchases – those items that are a considered buy, but where the sales staff have enormous power to persuade.

It’s these retail staff that can make the crucial difference in terms of converting sales, yet many brands are not engaging them within their campaigns. Instead they are too often seen just as people at the bottom of the food chain. However, by ignoring them brands are in effect leading consumers through the door, and then abandoning them to the whim of people that are not engaged with their brand.

It seems like anything to do with the retail staff is an afterthought within many shop floor promotions. The danger here is that if the staff feel unimportant or forgotten by the brand, or worse see it as arrogant and distant, then they are hardly likely to advocate sales of the product.

Four years ago we ran a pan-European survey among retailers, in conjunction with Microsoft. From that we discovered a number of key learnings, which have influenced our thinking in this area: brands were not communicating with retail personnel in the right way (if at all), even to the point where staff defined some brands as arrogant; in many specialised retail outlets staff were as passionate about the products as the customers; and that everybody – from the store manager to the shelf stackers – wants recognition.

Many in-store campaigns will include dedicated teams of field marketers or demonstrators, whereas it could be much more effective to work with the existing retail sales staff. Helping educate staff and create an emotional connection with the brand, and recognising them as perhaps the most important part of the sales chain, can create powerful knock-on brand advocacy within a campaign that will have sales staff happily recommending a brand or product.

We have been working alongside Microsoft with Xbox to do just this in its campaigns, using shop floor staff to do product demonstrations and engaging them with the brand. This has encouraged retailers and staff to become much more involved in the Microsoft brand at an emotional level – from being treated as equals, or knowlegable ambassadors, to being offered the chance to win ’money can’t buy’ prizes and being involved in promoting the brand in a fun and informed way.

A perfect example of this was a recent Rock Star promotion, which encouraged staff to set up their own ’gig’ areas in store to drive sale for the companies Rock Band game – this attracted and intensified staff interest, as well as amplifying the consumer campaign. They were then encouraged to send in pictures to Microsoft, with the most realistic in-store venues winning lots of Rock Band prizes. An added benefit here was that the campaign also encouraged staff to invest in the brand, merchandising their stores at their own expense.

The programme and its success has important implications for other assisted purchases, such as brown and white goods, anything from fridges to TVs, MP3s and mobiles. It’s particularly pertinent at a time when technologies move from the early adopters into the mainstream, where information and understanding of a product or technology begin to lag.

This approach can create an area of stand-out for the physical retailers, who are losing margins to online particularly in assisted purchases. If they can get this right they will most certainly drive traffic and retain sales instore.

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