By Rick Areneman, President & CEO of the Harmon Group
People have changed the way they shop. That doesn’t mean they’ve stopped buying.
I was running errands today—taking envelopes to the printer, meeting with my accountant about 2019 taxes, picking up product samples from my retoucher (we’re all still working remotely). I stopped for lunch at a drive-through fast food spot, something I wouldn’t have done before the pandemic, and parked in the lot to eat.
I was facing a strip mall and couldn’t help but observe the shoppers entering the stores. It was very interesting. As you would expect, business was down. But for those who did shop, even though they spent very little time in the stores, to a person they came out with a purchase. They didn’t walk down the mall and go door to door; they entered one store only, made their purchase, and left.
It dawned on me that these weren’t shoppers; these were buyers. They knew what they wanted, and in some cases must have arranged the pickup because of the short time they spent in the store. It was obvious that these “buyers” had pre-determined what they wanted or needed and where they were going to buy it. Could this be today’s new norm?
After that observation, I made a number of calls throughout the day to my fourteen-year-old niece, my eighty-year-old retired friend, and everyone in-between to get their opinion. Currently, they’re all shopping online, and are either having their purchases delivered or are picking them up in-store.
As a marketer, I asked them if they will go back to the way they shopped previously when things get better, and the answers surprised me. Overall, they said they will eventually spend more time in stores, again, but will also continue to shop this way. Online shopping is now part of their established shopping protocol for practically all aspects of their life.
While this is a very un-scientific study, The New York Times published an article in May where several high-end retailers were interviewed. The consensus was that foot traffic will decline by double digits, and that the day of the window-shopping browser are over—at least for the foreseeable future.
What does this mean to a retail jeweler? Yes, you must have a well-executed website, and yes, your product images and videos must be of very high quality, because this is all your customers have to go by when shopping on online. But the most important takeaway is that you must stay visible. This goes well beyond your website. You must be active on social media in a way that will capture the attention of buyers in your market. This means being informative, entertaining, and, fun.
You need to maintain a presence through other marketing media as well, such as out-of-home, direct mail, or local broadcast. I have always been an advocate of sending personal notes to your customers, and using handwritten messages to empathize with them, show concern, and let them know you are thinking of them. You don’t have to spend as much on marketing as you have during the good times, but you absolutely must stay active and visible. In this environment, the store that meets its customers where they are will be the winners as things return to the new normal.
This is our current reality and I don’t see it changing any time soon. You should expect fewer total sales which means far more buyers than shoppers. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; your gross revenue could match or even exceed last year, even with fewer people physically coming in-store. If you stay visible, you will experience much more activity through your online media.
Now is the time to rethink your customer interaction and experience. Set-up private appointments and demonstrate the lengths you are going to keep customers safe, comfortable, and happy. Call your customers on their birthdays and sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to them (and send them a special note and coupon). It might seem corny, but right now it’s effective. If you do your marketing right, you will come out of this intact. If you don’t, you could be looking at a GOB sale in your future.
About Rick Areneman
As CEO, Rick takes the reins on strategic planning, business development, and all the tedious minutia of running a company. He enjoys attending industry shows and guesting on webinars, giving seminars and talks on current marketing trends and presenting innovative solutions to solve marketing dilemmas.
About The Harmon Group
The Harmon Group is a full-service marketing and advertising agency based in Nashville, Tennessee. Harmon Group is know for developing creative and strategic marketing plans customized to suit the unique needs of individual businesses, be they B2B or B2C operations. For more information, please visit: harmongrp.com.