The high street fights back! | The Chameleon Guide
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The high street fights back!

Despite the demise of yet more large retail businesses over the last month, there are some who are getting with the programme and working out how to keep customers coming to them through clever technology or providing an inviting experience through their shops.

There is definitely still a place for the high street. I’m not a big fan of shopping, but sometimes you do want to go and browse and look at the products you want to buy. Shoes, clothing, books and computers are the ones I would happily go and rummage around for. Shoes, only because I can’t be doing with the kerfuffle of having to return pairs because if they don’t fit when bought them online. Ditto clothes. Until there is a standardised clothing size, it’s often best to go and try clothes on. I vary between a size 8 and 12 depending on where I buy from!

There are some fancy new technologies being implemented which minimise the pain of shopping.

For example, Amazon is trialling automated checkouts in their grocery stores. You no longer have to go to a checkout. They have clever whizzery that scans your products as you pick them up and at the end, you just walk out and payment is taken automatically. I presume they’ve got your payment details logged somewhere!

Other stores have clever mirrors in their changing rooms that allow you to pay for your clothes there and then by touching your payment card to the mirror. Or which suggest other sizes, colours and variations. And better still allow you to summon a salesperson to save you the embarrassment of sticking your half-naked body out of the curtain to attract someone’s attention!

But it’s not just about technological advances.

Ikea, for example, hosted a sleepover at their Essex store for 100 Facebook users. Not only is it an unusual experience, it’s a great way to get people in to come and try out stuff and for Ikea to get their feedback on what works.

Space Ninety 8 has turned their retail outlets into a whole range of offerings, from art galleries to yoga classes to album signings. It has made the shop a destination rather than just a shop to buy clothes.

A bookshop in Falmouth has a bar! By day, it’s a bookshop and café along with space to go and work, and by night, you can go and browse whilst supping a pint.

How Apple are winning on the high street

And of course Apple, who have created their experiential stores.

The stores are designed to be spacious, uncluttered and attractive. They have products you can actually test out and use and they have classes to teach you how to get the most from your Apple product.

At the heart of it all is the people.

Stop trying to figure out how to sell something to somebody; figure out how you want your customers to feel. That’s the Apple way.’
Carmine Gallo, author of The Apple Experience.

Firstly, they employ people with a passion for customer service and who are unflappable under stress (those stores get pretty hectic especially when a new product is launched).

Secondly, the manual for dealing with customers goes like this:

  • Approach customers with a personalised, warm welcome.
  • Probe politely to understand all the customer’s needs.
  • Present a solution for the customer to take home today.
  • Talk about benefits, not features.
  • Listen for and resolve any issues or concerns.
  • End with a fond farewell and an invitation to return (even if the customer doesn’t buy).

The full presentation is here if you’d like to see it

Hiring the best people suited for the job is key to us all. The points above should be how we all interact with our customers. Getting these right is key to the success of any business, whether or not you’re on the high street or if you sell products or services.

Are there other innovative ideas that you can weave into your business to become memorable (for all the right reasons)? Or maybe you’ve already done something that has made a difference – it would be great to hear your experience.

The high street is dead, long live the high street.

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About the Author:

About Karen Espley, blogging for The Chameleon GuideKaren Espley of The Chameleon Guide works with ambitious small business owners on her Profit Accelerator Programme. She brings pragmatic and real world advice in a group setting to help her clients make a significant difference to their business through increasing profits and running a highly effective business.

Offering workshops and group profit programmes for companies wanting to reach their full potential.

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