The only real advantage brick&mortar shops have is too often forgotten

I just tried to google for articles, opinions and blog posts for the information how physical stores can compete against growing online sales. I found out lots of information, from instructions of how to advertise (locally) online to stock management and about this and that. Most of the stories still simply missed the most crucial point, the only real advantage what physical stores have over the e-commerce.

Last night I thought I’ll buy new shoes. I visited six (6) different shops and returned home empty handed. Only inn one shop I was greeted and asked if I need any help. In all other stores employees were busy carrying boxes, putting shoes onto the shelfs and doing whatever else except trying to serve the customers. I’m a simple person and I do not need any special attention but if even trying to get right size (of the shoes) to try them on needs jumping up and down, singing or shouting, I rather move on because I do not have sense of rhythm and can’t dance nor sing.

Practically everything what physical store can do and offer can be done online. Except face to face customer service. Or Customer Experience (CX), as it nowadays called, meaning everything from the shops atmosphere to the people. And the most important part of the whole CX is a person, employee working at the shop.

When the employees are willing to serve, knows their trade and are kind, that pays off. Like, when my oldest son was going to get confirmed, I went to shop with him for a suit. We visited handful of places, from high end shops to others and finally settled on a suit found out at Dressman (gotta say that quality-price ratio was surprisingly good too!). Only because of the far superior service we got. Young chap was very nice and not too pushy (important thing for us Finns!), knew the products and materials and had even good valid opinions. So, when it was time to get younger son confirmed, we had just one address in our mind to go for a suit and past experience was repeated.

Good face to face of humans can never be really transformed into online world, at least for many years. Brick and mortar shops should leverage on this, their only real advantage over the e-commerce. Good service keeps us consumers to visit again and again those places where we have felt good. Because we want to feel good and we are lazy and loyal if our problems are solved easily and nicely.

Customer centric, or customer focused or whatever terms you like to use, business starts from own employees. So, actually customer centric is employee centric, the first and main focus of any company should have. But let’s not get into that for now, I’ll save that for some other time.