CRN From the Coal Face

CRN From the Coal Face

03.6.2011 Offer an experience the internet can’t


Retailers bemoan the loss of sales to customers shopping online but there is something they can do about it besides just praying for salvation.



Some retailers feel that trying to combat online shopping is like trying to stop a tsunami with an umbrella. I actually have a different view.

The internet has changed the way consumers shop around the world. Does that mean that every business that has a physical presence should just shut their doors and put their tail between their legs? That is an option – but not a good one.

Some retailers I speak with are very frustrated with “all those customers” who come into their store and ask for their expert advice and then leave to buy it cheaper online. But only 7 percent of people engage in expertise gathering and then buy online. That means you should be catering for the 93 percent of people who speak to you and want to buy from you.

The first item that I look at is to try to offer something you can give a consumer that an online site can’t give them. I like the word experience. Physical stores can offer consumers an experience that no online solution can. Keep in mind this experience can be positive or negative. An aspect of an online business is it is consistent. A physical store can vary according to the mood or attitude of the sales person that a consumer deals with.

I visited a motorcycle shop on Parramatta Road in Sydney. This relatively new brand is in a tough spot – they are competing head- on with Harley-Davidson. That is tough. Harley has a 53.4 percent market share in their category and I would argue is one of the few companies in the world with clients that tattoo their trademark on their bodies. To ask a Harley rider to change brands might require a free tattoo laser removal procedure to be included as part of the deal.

focused all of its attention on ensuring visitors to its store walk out with an “experience” under their belt. First, it fully understands its clients. They are upper class 45- year old males with a female who holds the purse strings.

When I entered the store, after noticing the bikes that were lit with an amazing array of coloured LEDs, I noticed areas designed to appeal to women. Clothing for women. Accessories. A cafe and lounge area with a range of womens’ magazines.

After discussing the store layout with one of the staff, I realised a major objective was to keep the female partners entertained. The longer they are amused, the more likely they are to make a purchase.

It got better, though. A major profit centre for the company is in accessories. On average, a new motorcycle leaves the showroom with $3600 worth of accessories. To help relieve punters of their wallet contents, they have an unbelievable array of accessories displayed in a variety of ways – but my highlight was the exhaust pipe display. Eight different exhaust pipes are mounted on a wall with a touch screen at the centre. While in the store, you choose your motorcycle on the touch screen and then choose the exact pipe you want. Not only do you see a picture of your bike with the chosen pipe, but you then hear exactly what that bike will sound like with that pipe – going through the gears, in full Dolby stereo sound. Not surprisingly, most bikes leave the showroom with custom pipes.

Even the purchase involves an experience. When you arrive to collect your bike, you are taken into an area only accessible to clients collecting a bike. You enter a lounge that is exclusive and comfortable, with its own coffee machine – and your bike is sitting in the middle covered with a cloth suspended from the ceiling. Before you sign the final documents, the covers are lifted to reveal your purchase in all its glistening glory.

Sure, some of these components are replicated online but business owners who make physical shopping in their stores an “experience” rather than just a transaction will be the those who succeed long into the future.

Tell me if you have taken the philosophy of “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” in relation to online sales or if you have tactics to keep people dealing with you in a more traditional sense. The first 10 people who send me their philosophy at md@smallbusinessrules.com get a free book.