Innovative Retail Technologies

SEP-OCT 2016

Innovative Retail Technologies (formerly Integrated Solutions For Retailers) is the premier source for innovative yet pragmatic technology solutions in the retail industry.

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Know Thy Demographic K nowing the customer means many things; for example, it means offering her the personal- ized, pleasant shopping experi- ence that accommodates her shopping style, be it face-to-face, online, over the phone, or via mobile engagement. It means offering flexible fulfillment op- tions. It also means knowing your target audience, the demographics of the specific segment of the population with shared characteristics that draw them to your brand. Retailers must be crystal clear on demographic and train associates accord- ingly to identify and understand who falls within that target. The associate's failure to understand, identify, and accom- modate the expectations of your target demographic can break the customer experience. I'll offer up a prime example. My husband and I recently purchased a new home, and before moving in, we had to buy a few big-ticket items, includ- ing a refrigerator. We did our research, and after choosing the exact make and model, headed to a well-known big box home improvement store to make the purchase. In addition to the refrigerator, we had to buy several other things that day, so he and I took separate cars in order to haul our load home. I arrived first to the store. Even though I knew the exact refrigerator we wanted, I had some unanswered questions regarding inventory, delivery, warranty, etc. I tracked down an associate, and he answered my questions before heading to his workstation on the floor to look up some information. In the meantime, my husband had arrived at the store and joined me and the associate at the workstation. Once the associate realized my hus- band had joined the party, he no longer directed any of his questions about the purchase to me. He spoke only to my husband about it, as if to openly suggest that my husband was the one with the product knowledge and/or the purchas- ing power. I picked up on this immediately, and went so far as to think objectively about the situation as it unfolded. Was this really happening? Was I being too sensitive? The discourse over the refrigerator— which my husband and I were equally knowl- edgeable about — went on for another 10 minutes without any engagement of me on the associate's behalf. Could I have spoken up? Of course I could have. But I didn't, as I wanted to see how the situation would play out. We bought the refrigerator, but I came away offended by an associate who clearly doesn't under- stand his target audience. I'm a push- ing-40 female do-it-yourself homeowner. I'm making major appliance decisions for my new home. I'm his target audience. Was the associate's behavior sexist? Yes. But, for the purposes of this col- umn, his ignorance of the demographic that holds the purchasing power his brand relishes was simply poor retailing. Ignoring me, or someone like me, is not in the best interest of his store's profit margins. Understanding the big picture view of target customers — and teach- ing associates how to engage those customers — is. How is that done? In our July/August issue, Matt Pillar interviewed Todd Corley, founder and head of TAPO Institute. Here's what Corley had to say about whether engaging behavior can be learned: Developing an engaged workforce starts at the interview by identifying candidates who exhibit engaging behavior. They make eye contact, they have a positive disposition, and they make interesting conversation. That's reinforced through training, but there's another layer, and that's evaluation. Corley goes on to say that retailers should develop metrics for the ongoing evaluation of their associates' ability to make interesting, nonjudgmental con- versation, and reward that behavior that leans toward the culture they're striving to create. It's on the retailer to develop associate training that eliminates limiting behaviors and adds a broader perspec- tive to customer engagement. Central to gaining that perspective is a deep under- standing of target demographics. Let's cut this guy a break. Maybe he was having a bad day. Maybe he had a temporary lapse in judgment, or genu- inely didn't realize what he had done. But when associates don't recognize that they're not engaging the customer squarely within their demographic, it's time for training — and lots of it. BY ERIN HARRIS EDITOR IN CHIEF @ErinOnRetail What's Next 13 Sept-Oct 2016

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