Show, don’t tell

After a ten-year gap I’ve recently got back into running. My trainers were tatty so I figured I’d splash out on a new pair, especially as trainer technology seems to have progressed in, ahem, leaps and bounds since I last bought running equipment. I could have fired up Wiggle and got a close-out deal but I value my knees so didn’t rush into buying the first cheap pair I saw; I wanted to look around, get some expertise on board. I did some “gait analysis” research online but – given the fact I frequently rant about buying from IBDs – to buy the actual shoes I had to visit an independent running shop. In the end I bought a pair of Brooks trainers from Newcastle’s leading running retailer. I’m happy with the purchase, and got lots of the kind of advice good bike shops give.

However, the sales person didn’t attempt any add-on sales. I was clearly new and gagging for it, and telegraphed this desire by also buying a pair of bonkers socks with individual toes (twelve-quid a pair, since you ask). But I had to prompt the sales guy to get them for me (the shop website had shown they stocked them). For all the salesperson knew I might not have stopped at socks and trainers, I might have been in the market for a full, high-margin wardrobe; I could have been upsold on a gilet, a running vest, perhaps a pair of shorts.

Nada, nothing, not even a lacklustre attempt to get me to buy some gels. Some high-margin add-ons would have made my visit far more profitable so I was disappointed there was no attempt to prise even more money out of me. And it’s not as though the shop was rammed – it was quiet and I was clearly in no rush to get out of the door. I was willing the guy to sell to me, yet he didn’t.

I’m pretty sure you’ll have trained your staff to take every opportunity to get customer’s cash (you know that “Is that all?” is a passion killer), and the example above wouldn’t happen in your store, but, meanwhile, let me ask you a question: would you value more retail training articles within these pages? I ask because we used to do lots of them. The very first issue of BikeBiz (it was originally called BicycleBusiness, with BikeBiz reserved for the website) was three-quarters bike trade stuff and a quarter retail stuff.

Should BikeBiz revert to that model, and do more articles on non-bikie stuff? Or do you think that info is copiously available elsewhere and therefore BikeBiz should stick to bike trade topics?

Looking back at that first issue of July/Aug 1999 there were loads of articles on experiential retail and the latest trends in shop-fitting. There was a snippet about meeting Professional’s Nick Thake at the Retail Interiors Show (“I’ve never seen anybody from the bike trade here before,” he laughed). Fascinating stuff. To some. How about you? 

I’m selling to you right now. I’m asking questions in order to shape a product – this mag – so you’ll become more likely to “buy” it (i.e. read it).

You don’t need to read my words, I have to make you want to read them. I do that by being at least moderately entertaining (I’m also available for bar mitzvahs) and reasonably coherent (jury’s out on that one).

But you could just as easily go elsewhere for such opinions. In fact, you could be a bit of a trade-mag showroomer – reading a bunch of titles, kicking our virtual tyres, trying out our opinions before “buying” elsewhere. I have seconds to make you stop. And think. If I don’t it’s all just random letters on a page.

I have to offer up something intriguing, or you’ll hoof it. In short, I have to offer you serendipity – proffering thoughts and views that you might not have been expecting to read about today. 

But I’m not just talking about the mag here, I’m talking about what customers now expect from the retailers they’ll reward with their presence.

Experts say that retail brilliance comes from surprise and delight, not efficiency and predictability. The key to using serendipity, they say, is to show, not tell. And this is more than just visual merchandising or an attention-grabbing window-display. Been to a Costco store recently? Seen how many staff they’ve got offering food samples? Bet you snacked a bit, yes? And then bought? I have.

What services do you offer on your website or only when people ask? How could you represent that in an in-store way? And how could you introduce not only related items to folks at the till, but unrelated items? Serendipity leads to sales. 

So, more of that sort of thing in the monthly mag, or less?

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