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As Retail Reaches Its Tipping Point, Double Down on Service

If you’re a small business owner, much of the recent news surrounding retail is grim (see: boarded store fronts, ghost town malls, the internet consuming in-person sales). Retail, one of the largest contributors to our economy, is reaching its tipping point, and with each new acquisition made by an e-commerce giant, the tipping point draws nearer.

The world of retail is changing. Technology has made it possible for goods to be delivered by drone, there’s no going back to the hey-days. But the rise of technology does not spell the end of Main St. and brick and mortar retailers, it just means it is time to adapt.

In a world where technological convenience reigns, the only check on its pervasive rule is service—the strength of service can be flexed in many ways.

An obvious start is customer service. Whether you own a clothing store, hardware store, or gift boutique, you are an expert in what you carry. The Internet can teach customers plenty, but they will always crave your expertise. Do these jeans look good? Do you have any color swatches you recommend? I’m trying to find a gift for my (fill in the blank), what would you suggest? Your knowledge is, at the very least, a confirmation of a customer’s initial instinct and potentially a perspective they might never have considered. Drones can’t help you pick out the right tile for your bathroom.

Service also comes in the form of what your store offers (i.e., literally what you are serving customers). People want fresh and new to an insatiable, head-spinning degree. While you don’t want to turn your displays into turnstiles for flash-in-the-pan fads (looking at you, fidget spinner), you do want to introduce your customers to innovative products they might not have seen before. This is where we come in. With products in 16 categories, we have something unique for any store that our stories and videos help you quickly become an expert in.

Beyond the selling of products is the experience of walking into a store and discovering. It’s touching and seeing the product. Leverage that. Host events in your store that incorporate the use of the products you’re selling. Hold cooking classes and wine tastings for customers to use your kitchenware; craft nights naturally create an opportunity for tactile product testing. You’re not only giving customers a chance to experience the product, you’re building bonds that exist beyond the context of sales—these build trust.

Jon Venhuizen, CEO of Ace Hardware recently noted, "We had a big 5,000-store celebration this weekend. Many of [the store owners] were out there smoking meat on a grill. You can't smell that on Amazon." You can’t taste it either.

You have a valuable product. You want people to buy it. But how do you get a customer through the door? The reality is this is getting harder. You need to go beyond your physical store to attract and delight customers. If you have an online shop, great. Use it to blend the on-and offline. Showcase offerings to customers anywhere and provide in-store pickups.

But even more powerful than an online shop, in terms of ushering in customers, is social media. In particular, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, provide a platform for you to flaunt every form of service mentioned above. Pictures say 1,000 words and a well-crafted post promoting the merchandising of a hot selling product can demonstrate your product knowledge and entice the customer to see it in person for him or herself.

Retail’s tipping point is your cue. With the power of service in all of its forms, we can tip it to a stronger, more connected retail world. The economy will thank us for it.

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