It’s been a while since my last post and, amongst other things, I’ve been busy growing older. I now need glasses for reading, but am looking forward to the assumed air of intelligence they might bring. To enjoy this milestone to the full I thought, rather than ordering online, it was time to take a trip down the high street and enjoy the personal experience.
I visited three opticians. Perhaps you may be able to spot opportunities to optimise my shopping experience?
Store 1: JA Stewart-Robinson Optician , West Street, Marlow (established 1972)
“Do you stock X brand?”
“No, but a man came into our store recently wearing them and they looked really good”
“Do you know where I could buy them?”
“No, but there are a few more opticians on the high street- have you tried those?”
(And then I was surprised I had to ask this)
“Do you have anything similar?”
Store 2: Leighton Insight, High Street, Marlow
“Where are your frames for men?”
“They are all mixed up, as we display them by brand”
“Which frames do you have for men?” (Not an unusual question, I thought) “I don’t know- (Manager), what glasses do we have for men?”
Manager, remaining seated at a desk at the back of the store,
“Try brand X, Y, and Z”
I was left to track down the glasses and, not knowing anything about the brands on offer or why I should buy from them (or even how they charge for lenses), left.
Store 3: David Clulow, High Street, Marlow
“Do you have X brand?”
“Try this alternative, it’s very similar- look here’s a selection. These ones suit you”
“Do you have this model?”
“We only have our discounted glasses on display. We don’t put out the full price product until the sale finishes”
“Do you have any X product in store?”
“Yes, but you need to wait until the end of the sale. Wait a minute, you could have a look yourself”
(Opens a drawer stuffed full of plastic bags filled with premium brand frames, not in their cases) “If you don’t like any of these, you can bring in your own ones and we can fit lenses for you”
I found a few options I liked, but felt, for what they were, the glasses in the drawer were very overpriced. I left and returned to exploring the online options.
I found a website that offered a “Try a home” service, offering four pairs of frames delivered free of charge to my home for five days, with free returns, also from home. It was hard to say no.
I also found a “Frame Finder” feature where, by quickly selecting gender, face shape and size of the bridge and arm, I was presented with 90 options that would be more likely to fit and suit me. This would have almost been impossible in the three stores I visited.
I returned to Store 3 for the lens fitting as they had explained the process works better if you can sit in front of an optometrist while they take a few measurements to refine the prescription, based on the frames I had chosen. Store 3 waived their usual fee for lenses fitted to frames not bought in their store.
We all read of high street retailers struggling as their customers migrate to online purchases (or simply stop shopping – see “Worst June on record“.
Let’s not ignore that we know much of the challenge is that alongside the downward trend in consumer spending, retail leases were signed in better times and landlords have not moved quickly enough to reflect the new market values in revised agreements.
However, I wondered how much better could our three retailers perform if they had some of the basics in place? Here’s my top five basics :
- Identify your customers core needs and train staff to be prepared to ask the right questions
- Understand your brand (what makes you different) and your product range (why should I buy?)
- Displaying premium product in a manner in keeping with the perceived value
- Always maintain an element of newness in store especially during the stock clearance to highlight your expertise is still current
- If you stock brands in the stores (and I’m sure you do) then they have some great stories for your staff to tell. Tell me why Persol is worth the premium! Why should I try a pair from Starck Biotech Paris alongside the other options? Who was Oliver Peoples? And would I like to see how they are made? Even Luxottica didn’t share any insight to the brands in their David Clulow store and they should know best as they own them!
For more on asking the right questions, read Humble Inquiry by Edgar Schein. He describes it as a fine art of drawing someone out by asking the questions you don’t know the answers to, building a relationship based on curiosity and genuine interest in the other person. Schein is the expert on corporate culture but I find I benefit by applying his thinking elsewhere.
Technology gives us opportunity to enhance the customers’ experience in store and it needn’t be expensive. I remember a few years ago a Regional Manager in a Russian retailer showing me how he had uploaded an end of day stock list to a cloud, with links to the file shared with store managers to access on tablets which were already in the stores. This enabled staff to quickly locate an item for customers across the store estate if they didn’t have it locally and was achieved for zero cost.
I’m surprised by the general lack of emotional connection I experienced in two of the three stores. Scott Magids and Alan Zorfas from Motista together with Daniel Leemon from CEB declared in Harvard Business Review that a customer given the opportunity to emotionally engage with a brand can be worth 52% more to the business than a highly satisfied customer. They offer a solution to identifying and then leveraging emotional motivators that is worth reading if you’re interested in learning how to grow sales without mass discounting.
Why isn’t the experience I enjoyed online available in store, with a clienteling service helping retailers begin a long-term relationship with their customer? These applications capture relevant data and supporting the retailer through the sales process.
Opticians, like other retailers, have the opportunity to provide an omnichannel retail service and from my brief visit, might look closer at how to enhance the customers’ experience in store. If they don’t focus now, they won’t see where all their customers have gone.