Why detail matters in retail

Not too long ago, shopping was a humdrum chore. Barring the odd splurge around Diwali or Christmas, the standard shopping experience involved a customer looking to quickly make his purchases and a storeowner waiting to hear his cash-register ring. Neither party paid much attention to anything beyond the transaction, and no retailer went too far afield to delight a customer.

Cut to the present. Retail has evolved, and how. With competitors springing up every day, retailers large and small are falling all over themselves to retain customers.

What is it that they are doing to keep customers from jumping ship?

They are creating great experiences for their customers, the sort that would keep them coming back for more.

This sounds great on the surface, but how do they do it?

Retailers are paying closer attention to detail than ever before.

The wonderful world of detail

It isn’t just the Devil that lies in the details. Take the shopping experience apart, examine every part and you will find a wealth of insights that you did not know mattered, or even existed.

More often than not, your customers’ needs are just the tip of the iceberg. Look closely and you will find a gamut of unstated needs that you could fulfill.

Recall the last time you stood in queue at a checkout counter, hoping that the people ahead of you would magically disappear and let you breeze through.

The prospect of queue-free shopping is moving out of the realm of wishful thinking. Major retailers in the United States and elsewhere are now deploying mobile apps that let customers scan their purchases as they walk the aisles and pay with a credit card that is linked to the app.

A store that has this system in place enjoys quite an advantage over its lesser-evolved competitors. No customer likes a long queue, and the prospect of avoiding is just too tantalizing to pass up.

Such is the magic of attention to detail, and retailers of all stripes are leveraging it to good effect.

The managers of Farmacia Similares, a Mexican drugstore chain, realized that the majority of their customers were from the lower-middle income group, and could therefore not afford quality healthcare. They capitalized on the opportunity they saw by offering low-cost, yet high-quality health checkups and medical consultation. This gave a huge fillip to the company and took its popularity to an all-time high.

Pay close attention to the general ambience of your store — you might find a goldmine there, as several boutiques, jewellery and apparel stores have. These stores ensure that every last detail in their ambience — be it the music they play, the layout of the store or even the colour of the walls — appeals to the kind of customer they want to target.

Contrary to popular belief, it pays to sweat the small stuff. A sharp eye for detail never goes amiss.

How to see beyond the obvious

Details are things of beauty. The sooner you spot them, the greater the distance you can put between yourself and the competition. But isn’t this easier said than done?

Not quite. Here’s how you do it:

  1. Take your processes apart: Examine everything you do at your workplace. Break every process into individual activities and critically examine each one. Does it play any role whatsoever in delighting the customer? If it does, see how you can make it even more effective, and if it doesn’t, you might want to discard it, or, better still, replace it with something that truly adds value to the customer.
  2. Be insight-hungry: Try as hard as you can to get behind your customers’ eyeballs. Get every insight that you can into their experience with you. What is it that makes them happy, and what doesn’t? How could you make their experience better? Collect copious amounts of detailed feedback and consider investing in a system that acquaints you with the sentiment and experience of your customers. This will throw up insights that you would otherwise have overlooked — and that your competitors are likely overlooking. Advantage you!
  3. Eyes open, ears open! : Encourage your customer-facing staff to keep their eyes and ears open. These are the people who are in near-constant interaction with your customers, and are therefore bound to have great insights. Reward them for the valuable nuggets of information they give you, and try every suggestion for what it’s worth.

“The difference between something good and something great is attention to detail” said legendary preacher Charles Swindoll. Take his words to heart, and you’ll on your way to greatness.

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