Sales & Marketing

10 stupid things that retailers do

8 min read

17 February 2014

From video overuse to customer stalking, here are ten ways for retailers to lose customers.

1. Falling for the pop-up shop buzz

Ah the pop-up shop, beloved of PR agencies and offering those most ephemeral of returns – “brand awareness” and “the cool factor” rather than the more pedestrian “profit”. Except they stopped being news about two years ago so you’re not going to make the papers, or make people remember you without working a little harder. Temporary retail can be great, but make sure you’re selling, not just showing.

2, Too much information

Consider this: You want the number of an attractive member of the opposite sex. You think you and she will be great together. Despite a little reluctance on her part, you get her number. Brilliant! So you text her telling her how great you are. And phone her. She doesn’t reply. So you text her some more. She’s irritated, a little bit creeped out and wondering how difficult it is to get an injunction. So she blocks your number. Now you’ll never win her over.

Replace our ladyfriend with ‘customer’, the texts with ‘e-shot’ and the block function with ‘junk’ and you’ll see how this applies to retail.

If you’re stalking your customers, stop. Next time you send out your sixth sales missive in a month while congratulating yourself on your excellent data capture strategy, remember that your customers have a ‘junk’ button and know how to use it. And they haven’t seen, much less opened, an email from you in about a month now.

3. Video killed the marketing budget

Video content: time consuming and almost always presented as a ‘must have’ in any marketing plan. But why? Why will a customer want to watch your video? Is it amusing? Can you buy directly from it? Does it give them new knowledge, help them tackle a problem or even just show them how to do something? No? Well when you’re up against a whole canon of cats-doing-funny-things and epic-fail videos on Youtube, so ask yourself why Joe Bloggs will be watching what is essentially a corporate advert of his own volition. Clue: He won’t.

4. Sinking your own ship with shipping costs

You’ve got them to your website? Great! They’ve got a couple of items in their basket? Fantastic! You want to charge them £4.95 for shipping? Oh wait, they’ve gone. And you didn’t even get their email address. Shame, that.

5. QR codes – why?

Rather like the early noughties trend for putting dot.com on the end of business names in order to signal blistering modernity, the QR code has been ruined by its own ubiquity. It’s now used as a sort of marketing punctuation, designed to show the business is sufficiently “with it” rather than to serve any purpose. Do you think your advert has such a compelling call to action that customers are going to want to immediately visit your website, not even able to wait long enough to type in a URL, such is their fevered anticipation? Great, stick one on. No? Use that precious advertising space a little more wisely.

6. Binary thinking: It’s not online or offline

Save our dying high street! Rise of the online retailer! Pick a side, folks – only one can win. Except this isn’t true, because the two can be combined quite nicely, actually. Sure, online retailing isn’t the quick fix many would have you believe. It involves everything from the ability to write compelling copy to understanding complex Google algorithms (or being able to pay people to understand them for you) but this doesn’t mean it is out of reach for smaller retailers. The shopping scene of the future won’t be either online or offline, it will be blended, and savvy businesses are exploring how they can make this work for them now.

7. Not supplying Wifi

If you have Wifi in your store, why aren’t you sharing it with your customers? Not only can it allow them to buy online, in store (say, if a product isn’t in stock that particular day), the sign-up process can also be a great way of capturing data (though please see point 2 regarding its use).

8. Facilitating showrooming

It’s not about footfall, it’s about sales. While the sight of a full shop may warm the cockles, it’s only full tills that are going to warm your home. If people are coming to a shop to explore a product, check they like it, and then going away to make the purchase online, you’re doing it wrong. Make your price point competitive, your sales assistants slick and ensure it’s really easy to buy your product online while they’re there if they don’t want to take it with them that day.

9. Squatters rights

Shops now aren’t just shops, right? They’re places to hang out, relax, check out what’s hot, chat to the staff too, yeah? Yes, but first and foremost they’re shops, so if your customers are in there for a long time, they should be filling their baskets, not hanging out (we’re looking at you, Apple). Don’t waste your business rates on facilitating a pleasant meeting place. If people are in your shop, they should be shopping. And your sales assistants should be making that happen, not pretending to be their more-hipster-than-thou best friend.

10. Let’s (not) get engaged

One major mistake retailers, and indeed many big businesses, make is thinking that the customer want to engage with them, and just the tiniest sliver of attention from a brand, helps “build relationships”, giving them a fuzzy warm feeling inside that will just keep them coming back to you for more, secure in the knowledge that you, multinational retailer, really do have the best interests of them, Karen Smith from Hull, at heart.

They don’t. They’re not stupid, and they know that beyond what’s in their wallet, or what is likely to trigger them buying more, you’re not really that interested in what makes them tick. They don’t want you to love them, they’ve got family for that. They want discounts, loyalty points and free stuff. 

Written by Alex Johns, Worth Retail.

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