Recent figures suggest that almost 25% of all commerce is online. That is quite a big number, but it also shows that despite all the hype, three quarters of all spending is still done through physical outlets, which gives some of us marketing oldies a bit of reassurance.
These figures make me wonder what our high street behemoths are playing at. When I worked in retail, we were obsessed with the customer journey – from the moment the customer walks past the shop doorway to coming through the entrance to looking around the store, joining the checkout queue, getting to the counter and finally transacting and exiting.
At each step, we wanted to entice the customer to move to the next stage – to come inside the store in the first place, to excite them with our range and using special offers to convince them to buy. We wanted to encourage them to increase their basket as they headed to pay, to give them a reason to want to return and, of course, to reassure them they had done the right thing. That is the same whether you’re in financial services, fashion or grocery retail.
All of that starts with your window – does it display your best merchandise in the best way, does it play on a customer’s emotions to want to buy today, does it invite them inside to find out more?
Although my high street has trendy fashion stores, bars and restaurants, the big brands that really should know better – Tesco, WH Smith and Boots – are the most uninviting, messy, and cluttered stores I’ve ever had the misfortune to see. Window vinyls are poorly applied, boxes are piled high for all to see and there’s nothing to entice or impress. It is as though they know customers are going to come in, so they don’t feel it is necessary to bother.
Well I have news for them – I am a prospective customer and I do have a choice – if they really want to cut back on retail marketing investment, then I will treat them as a commodity brand, and if I have lost emotional ties with them as a high street brand, then I will buy my merchandise online rather than step into their store.
As someone who cares about local high streets, this is a sad state of affairs. I implore stores to look again at their windows. One of the first lessons I was taught was never let your staff come to work through a back door – put them in the shoes of the customers and let them see the store the way a customer does – across the same threshold, through the same eyes.