Observations of a Charlotte Marketing Consultant’s Trip to the Mall

May 9, 2013

As a marketing consultant and owner of my own marketing company here in Charlotte, I am always interested in how business engage and treat their customers and what they do for follow-up marketing.  So this last week-end was an opportunity to do some market research at one of our many malls here in Charlotte.

My wife and I are not shoppers.  In fact if retail stores relied on folks like us you there would be very few malls or shopping plazas.   Since the weather was poor this past weekend and she had leftover money on a gift card from Christmas (proving my point that neither of us are big shoppers – someone that has money on a gift card 5 months after he or she received it) we went to the mall.

While at the mall we grabbed a cup of coffee at Starbucks, stopped at two retail clothing stores and had lunch.  Here are a few observations about our experience at the two retail stores we visited.

Sears verses Macy’s  Sears Vs Macys

Which store do you think had better customer service?  The answer may surprise you.  When I think of Macy’s, I think of an upscale store focused on customer service.  I know when I go to Macy’s I will find all the name brand designer clothing lines.

With Sears, I think of value.  In regards to customers service, I would expect much more from Macy’s than Sears, namely because of the demographics Macy’s targets.

Our trip to Sears was fruitful.  We were able to find what we were looking for very quickly.  The item was on a clearance rack but did not have price sticker on it.  When I approached the desk the customer service specialist was busy with another customer but was very polite and acknowledged me and let me know she would take care of me as soon as she finished assisting her other customer.

Once we had her attention she was very helpful with answering our questions.  During checkout she informed us that by simply providing them with our email that 2% of each purchase would accrue in an account we could use toward future purchases.  She also let us know that Sears had a green initiative and we would be helping the environment by receiving an E receipt only.

Lets look a little closer at the checkout experience:  They provided me with an offer in exchange for my email address – store credit toward future purchases.  They now have my email address so they can market to me in the future.  Finally they made me feel good by letting me know I would be benefiting the environment by not having a printed receipt.  In reality, I’m sure a finance person figured out how much money they could save in printing and paper cost by emailing sales receipts rather than printing out hard copies of receipts.

As a a marketing consultant that teaches the Four Step marketing system, Sears was using step 2: Platforms and Offers perfectly.   The salesperson was the platform and presented me with an offer. I, in exchange for receiving the offer, provided them with my contact information.

Our next stop was Macy’s.  After browsing for a few minutes my wife quickly made a decision about what she was going to buy and we proceeded to the counter to make our purchase.  Here, the customer service sales specialist didn’t seem to care whether we were going to make a purchase or not.  Her focus was not on us, the customer, but the phone conversation she was having.  I’m not sure if it was a personal conversation or with a an employee if the store.  Either way it was disappointing to see a high-end stores in the mall not really focused on servicing a customer who was making a purchase.  Being on the phone while servicing a customer is just completely unacceptable not to mention rude for a company.

The message being conveyed – my call is way more important than you.  While ringing us up she did manage to squeak out something about seeing if we wanted us to enter our email but didn’t bother ending her conversation to explain what was in it for us – if anything.  Again, she was more concerned with the person on the other end of the phone.  Since no benefit or offer was properly presented to us we saw no value in giving out our information to them.

To Recap

The customer service specialist at Sears took the time to acknowledge us while servicing another client, assist us with her full attention during checkout and presented us with an offer that had value.  Sears captured our contact information so they can do follow-up marketing.  Macy’s lost out on its ability to do follow-up marketing with us. Here are a couple takeaways:

  1. It is important to train all your employees when working with customers, that with each customer touch, the customers has the employee’s full attention.
  2. Determine what you can offer of value to your clients or prospective clients to capture their contact information.
  3. Send a thank you message for their business once you have their contact information.
  4. Do follow-up marketing with them to promote your business with additional offers for repeat business and to create goodwill.  

Now that the shopping was done, and my wife successfully exhausted the balance on her gift card from Christmas we were off to lunch, which is the subject for the next post – how a local restaurant group here in Charlotte can dramatically improve their opt-ins for follow-up marketing.

Michael Beauchemin

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Certified Inbound Marketing Consultant committed to helping businesses grow sales through measurable, accountable marketing metrics.
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