From The Co-Founders


Tips, Tactics & Strategic Insights and Commentary
from The ROI Co-Founders, Pat Johnson and Dick Outcalt
Outcalt & Johnson: Retail Strategists LLC; Retail Turnaround Experts

Listening? What Customers Really Want (and Don't Want)

The constant challenge for retailers is to anticipate what their customers really want.  And this year, there seem to be plenty of choices available.

  • A "frictionless" checkout procedure? 
  • One hour delivery? 
  • Buy Now, Pay Later?
  • "This particular item in this particular color and size. Right now!?"
  • Etcetera

It is all part of the on-going challenge of retail; the art and craft of being a merchant. 

Then there are the customers who are reacting to the constant drumbeat of news about supply chain issues, merchandise shortages, and looming price increases by starting their shopping early. 

Adding to this stampede, some major chains were launching their Black Friday specials before Halloween!

What does all this mean for other retailers? For instance, should you launch your Holiday season earlier than usual? 

Well, here's some potentially very useful perspective from one shopper (who, as a PBS broadcast journalist, has a fairly large following on Twitter)*

  • "If you are a retailer and are already playing Xmas music when I walk in, I will leave… then go online & buy from your competitor. Mariah Carey $ season should be December only, it’s already crept into Black Friday. Draw a line. Halloween onward is not right."

In other words, there may be many customers out there who simply want retailers to just get a grip. Enough already!

What Else Don't Customers Want?

We came across a report of a study conducted by Adobe that concluded that more than 70% of customers "will abandon brands that are creepy, annoying and don't listen to them."

  • What makes a brand "creepy?" Tracking the customers online behavior, or sending emails without tacit agreement. 
  • What makes a brand "annoying?" Sending too many communications.
  • Equally annoying? "Not listening," such as continuing to send communications even after folks have opted out.

But what happens when brands (and retailers) are NOT "creepy" or "annoying?" Customers will come to trust them, and show that trust by

  • making more purchases (71%)
  • recommending to friends (61%)
  • joining a loyalty program (41%)
  • posting positive reviews or comments on social media (40%.)

Each of these very different examples share a common characteristic: the customers are not mincing their words! And by the way, they also are reminding us that it's not rocket science!

What do customers really want? The same thing they always have wanted: R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

We suspect that all of us are a bit short on patience after nearly two years of pandemics, uncertainty, disruption, personal loss. 

Which is why it just may be the year that retailers need to think beyond this Holiday season, and think even more about 2022 and beyond.

  • How best to maximize the mutual trust with your customers? 
  • How best to show them that you respect them, and want to earn their respect and loyalty? 

As we said, it's not rocket science; just don't be creepy! But it is the most difficult environment for retailers we've ever seen. 

Hari Sreenivasan, @Hari, Twitter, November 4, 2021.

** Paul Skeldon, Internet Retailing, November 4, 2021. Don't be creepy, don't be annoying and listen: how to avoid losing 70% of your customers, according to Adobe. 

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