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Insights from a World Retail Tour – Part 1

by daniel

Recently, I was fortunate enough to participate in the Westfield World Retail Study Tour, taking in the cities of Tokyo, New York, London, Paris and Milan. Along with 41 other tour participants, who represented the breadth of the Australian retail industry, I was able to see countless examples of international retail best practice as well as listen to presentations from some of the worlds leading retailers and companies affiliated with them. As someone who provides products and services to retailers rather than someone immersed in the daily challenges of the retail environment, I went on the tour hoping to be able to bring back some objective, customer-based insights into what I had seen and then open them up to debate or comment from anyone who felt them to be worth their time. To do this, I can be critiqued in the comments section below or more directly and aggressivley at Insight 1 Customer Centricity to the fore Any retailer worth their salt will tell you ‘ Of course we are customer focused, we have this, this and this going on’ but after this trip I would counter that by saying ‘ you may be customer aware, but you are not customer centric’ Walk into most stores in Australia and you know that the staff may be aware of you. In the good stores they will even come over and try and assist, but there is in most cases a sense of obligation to the interaction rather than one of genuine desire to help. Walking into almost any store in Tokyo on the other hand is a completely different experience. You almost get the impression that it is all about you and the fact that you have taken time from your busy day to go into that store is doing them the greatest honour. Right from the first step, the genuinely friendly store concierge that greets you at the door puts you at ease (and in the bigger stores makes you feel less intimidated) and the level of attention given to you by the other staff further in store only reinforces that. No request is ever treated as too small and you never feel as though you have just distracted someone from updating his or her Facebook status either. Then upon leaving you are once again sent on your way with what feels like genuine well wishes. Some people may say, but is that not just good customer service? Yes, it is probably part of it (and more of that in another post). But in my opinion customer centricity is about so much more than just service. In an environment where I am made to feel like the center of the world, I am more likely to forgive the inevitable customer service faux pas’ like out of stocks, etc. and return to that store to purchase again than had I just received transactionally good customer service. Other great examples of customer centricity I saw are;

  • The Nike and Converse stores that allow your buying experience to become deeply personal by tailoring for you to design and customize your shoes before buying
  • The Nike Fuel band craze that swept through the tour group also emphasizes the point. (For more on that see )
  • The admittedly gimmicky American Eagle store on Times Square that provides you with your 15 seconds of fame by putting your picture on the massive billboard outside their store for the world to see.
All of these have one thing in common. It’s all about me. The next post – Insight 2 – Customer Service will be up in the next few days

This article was published on Thursday 21 February, 2013.
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