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Counter Talk: Retailers need to surprise and delight

When was the last time you were truly delighted about a shopping experience? Not about the product — which you could buy almost anywhere — but the actual shopping experience?

You likely have not left many stores thinking, “I need to tell all my friends about this.” — unless the experience was awful, in which case you want to tell everyone. In fact, customers who have a bad experience are 2-to-3 times more likely to write a review about it than are customers who had a great experience. Research indicates that each negative review not countered by at least 12 positive ones can cost up to 30 new customers. Plus, 42% of customers purchase more after a good experience, while 52% stop making purchases after just one bad experience.

Even if we are not worried about negative reviews, most shopping experiences are perfunctory. Customers expect a pleasant experience — service should be efficient and polite. A friend used to tell her kids that “good behavior is expected, not rewarded.” In other words, they needed to go over and above to get that ice cream they wanted.

What are retailers and suppliers doing to earn the proverbial ice cream? Every chain is working to keep their customers happy. Others are really working hard to delight their customers — to exceed expectations, not just satisfy them.

Recently, Ulta decided to randomly reward their top loyalty customers. In conjunction with vendors, they direct mailed a gift — sometimes a full-size product — just for being a loyalty member. This resulted in tons of positive social media and traffic into the stores. Customers were so appreciative of coming home after a long day at work and getting an awesome gift, they told tons of people about it.

Bloomingdale’s constantly surprises me with special offers mailed in very engaging packaging. DSW remembers my birthday every year with a card and a great discount coupon. Similarly, Sephora’s three-tiered reward program offers its best customers more freebies and engagement.

The best example of empowered employees might be in Orlando, Fla., home of Walt Disney World, where staff are expected to make each guest’s visit “magical” with personal attention and service. Their guest return rate is an enviable 70%. It’s not practical to give away product on a large scale, but there are other ways to make customers feel special. This is all about being creative in making their experiences delightful.

Buying beauty online increases every year, and almost 40% of all beauty products purchased online are bought through Amazon. This counters the notion that mass beauty is flat because there are no testers or help to locate the right shade in stores. It proves that to drive people to the store, we need to make their shopping experience not only satisfying, but engaging, personal and delightful.

Some suggestions to “surprise and delight:”

  • Empower Employees: Give them leeway to make the customer’s day magical in some way;

  • Direct Mail: Send your customers something out of the blue, even a small gift will delight them;

  • Personal Invitations: Host a fun, themed party for the best customers — make them RSVP. Think of ways to make them feel like a VIP like pre-sale shopping hours or a special coupon discount;

  • Remember Their Birthday: Everyone loves getting a birthday card, especially with a coupon for a free product driving them to the store;
    Pop-Up Beauty Schools: Bring in professional makeup artists and trainers and hold a pop-up school. Women love beauty hacks and are even willing to pay for a class; and

  • Surprise Savings: Instead of putting a coupon on the back of a receipt, hoping that will encourage quick return, why not just surprise them with a discount on their next visit within a certain number of days?

Joann Marks is the founder and CEO of Cosmetic Promotions
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