Posted by: Chris | June 15, 2007

Five Ways Services Marketing Will Help Brick and Mortar Gain Ground

Clearly over the past decade, brick-and-mortar establishments have taken a beating from competing e-shops. And while I am not opposed to online shopping, I can hardly to stand to watch the institution (yes, I said institution) of the physical storefront continue to dwindle. The solution: services marketing (or as Ted Mininni so aptly calls it, marketing to employees). I believe that, through services marketing, B&M shops have an exclusive advantage over click-shops. I propose 5 advantages that brick and mortar establishments have that are direct results of service marketing initiatives:

1. Recognition

Amazon may know my name, but it can’t recognize me from across the room by my bald spot which is becoming more and more prominent each year (sorry Dad for making fun of you for this-I’m getting my payback). Cookies are handy, but many people disable them within their browsers. Many others simply choose not to have them installed. And cookies never greet me and shake my hand.

2. Initiative

I used to work regularly with a salesman at a shop here in Tulsa. Whenever a desired (or potentially desired) item would come in, he would give me a call. Because of this initiative, I spent way too much money in his shop during his tenure there. E-mails are fine (usually), but I am only aware of them when I take the initiative to check and open my e-mail (which many times, I don’t, even if the e-mail is from one of my favorite shops). Many people opt out of e-notification. Many spam blockers prevent potentially valuable e-ads from ever reaching their intended recipients. And many people (like me) simply don’t feel like reading through them and categorically delete them. I personally have multiple e-mail accounts, and I only read one or two regularly. The others, I have deemed my “spam accounts.” Sometimes I check/read them; sometimes I don’t. And when I miss a sales-oriented e-mail or two, I never get a call.

3. Empathy

Recently at Cold Stone Creamery (one of my favorite branded-service establishments), I ordered a couple of Original Creations for myself and my wife. When I got to the counter to pay, the guy working the cash register told me he was only going to charge me for one. I looked at him, puzzled. He said, “I know you’re a teacher, and things are tough for you guys.” While I was a little surprised at how bad it must seem a teacher’s life must be, I gladly took the discount and left. Now, when I say “empathy,” I don’t mean pity, I mean a holistic sense of who your customer is. The guy at CSC had embraced this, and had been empowered to act upon it. And I’ve been back multiple times since then.

4. Relationship

This one’s a no-brainer.

5. Personality

Yep, I like it. It’s what differentiates an experience from a task.

Of course, just as there are benefits to real-life, tangible consumerism, there are also potential drawbacks.

1. Inconsistency

Outside of the size monitor I happen to be viewing at the time of a purchase, most of my online buys are incredibly consistent. This provides a measure of security-especially when I’m giving my credit card numbers.

2. Attitude

I’ve blogged before about how sometimes, it seems FLSA’s are really put out by the fact that I am troubling them to buy something from them (thus, consequently, paying their salary). But the transaction systems in place at golfsmith.com always seem to be perfectly fine with the fact that I want to spend money there.

3. Availability

Who’s going to be the one to open the 24-hour shopping mall? Is there already one out there somewhere? (And I mean a true shopping mall–not Wal-Mart-although they may be on to something here.) It may be a necessary next step in competing with the web.

Of course, each of these problems could be addressed by “marketing to your employees.” (Well, the availability problem may also require some creative scheduling .) Ultimately, B&M can win back ground. Services marketing and the branding of the service employee can be a powerful weapon in one’s arsenal. I know this list (actually, both lists) is incomplete. I’m interested to know what you think is missing.

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