The opening lines of a recent newspaper article were: “One big-box book retailer, Borders, has toppled into bankruptcy protection. E-books and Amazon.com are changing the fundamentals of how people read and buy books.” The gist of the story was how independent bookstores are surviving by being creative with how they attract, retain, and build customer loyalty.
Their creativity didn’t involve cards or points or the traditional loyalty program approach. It was all about customers and knowing what they want and the environment in which they like to shop. They got creative by paying attention to the entire customer experience.
Let’s face it. The fundamentals of how customers shop and interact across all industries are changing. Businesses need to take a cue from the independent bookstores and start paying attention to the entire customer experience – all 360 degrees of it. To be truly effective, loyalty programs need to expand to encompass all customer interactions not just the rewards-for-shopping portion.
The article offered some examples of what these bookstores are doing to survive. It was some really good stuff – stuff that can be applied to all industries.
Being Recognized in a Crowd
Personal connection is the cornerstone of creating customer loyalty, and these independent bookshops create it by knowing their customers well enough to know what they’ll like as soon as they come in the door. They can walk them right over to the “staff recommendations” section, point them to a book they will like, and be correct about it! Larger companies can’t necessarily recognize customers within the crowd of individuals who pass through their doors daily, but they can leverage technology to know those customers.
Individualized offers and recommendations right at POS are the equivalent of walking a customer to the “staff recommendations” section and pointing to a relevant book. What would happen if the cashier at Macy’s hands my card back to me along with a coupon linked to it for shoes that match the outfit I’ve just purchased? It’s actually easier than you think. It’s all about using technology to a) identify your customers, b) make a suggestion of what they might like (based on that purchase or their purchase history), and c) communicate that merchandise recommendation in a convenient manner — right at POS.
Staying Longer and Spending More
I’ll tell you what would happen, I would end up staying in the store longer and probably spending more money than I ordinarily would have. Why – because I would have had no idea there was a gorgeous pair of shoes that would match my new outfit perfectly had it not been “recommended” to me at point of sale. At a minimum, I would walk over to the footwear department to check it out. (I am only human, after all and not impervious to a great looking pair of shoes!) Create a meaningful shopping experience for me, and I will respond – with my wallet and with my loyalty.
But wait, there’s more
This is just one example of a learning we can glean from the survival of the independent bookstore. There were more great ideas in the article than a single blog post can handle, so we’ll cover a few more of them over the next couple of posts. Stand by – it’s really great stuff.
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