Christian Retailing

Accurate data is the new currency PDF Print E-mail
Written by Erik Ernstrom   
Wednesday, 15 July 2015 01:48 PM EDT

Regularly updated shopper information means better service

Erik-ErnstromOne day a friend of mine went shopping at a big box store. (This isn’t going to end how you think.) He was looking for a dog bed, and the one he wanted was featured in the store’s weekly ad. By the time he arrived, there was only one bed left, so he tossed it in his cart and headed for the register.

The cashier turned the bed around and around, flipped it over and searched everywhere, attempting to find the barcode so she could scan it. Unable to locate it, and since there wasn’t another bed on the shelf, she picked up her phone and asked someone in the back to get her the UPC so she could ring up the sale.

Being the retail-minded fellow that he is, my friend decided to push a little. He asked why she needed the number. Couldn’t she just ring up the price from the ad so he could be on his way?

To which she replied, “If I sell this to you as a generic item, our system will think it’s still on the shelf and it won’t get reordered. And the next customer who comes in wanting one won’t be able to find it, even though our inventory shows that we have one.”

Wow!

Now ask yourself: Does my staff understand the value of data like this big box employee does? Do they truly believe that correct product information is needed to serve our customers? And do they feel the same way about our customer data?

If you want to send catalogs to customers most likely to respond, or invite your best customers to a private sale, is your customer data adequate to do it? What if you were launching a kids day? Do you have enough data to properly identify the specific email addresses you need to use for the announcement?

To serve your customers at the highest possible level, your staff should be taking ownership of both product and customer data at the time of every sale.

  1. Every item should be scanned through the POS.
  2. Every one of your customers should be “captured.”

Doing these two things will connect the purchased items to the specific customer. With this data, you can do just about anything.

But in order to scan every item, you will need to enter every item into your POS in the first place—even if you’re never going to reorder it. And think of what happens if you can scan every item. Your staff will be able to look up anything in your store without having to track down the buyer; your customers will see each item listed on their receipt; and simply put, it just looks professional.

And when it comes to capturing customer information, your associates’ routine should be to not just ask for customer information, but to verify each time that it’s still current. People move, get married (or become single again) and change emails, so it’s best to check. Be careful about getting too personal, though. Asking in front of other customers if they live at 4321 Main Street in Memphis, Tennessee, might be crossing a sensitive line for some people. A better way to verify this information is to ask, “Do you still live on Main Street? And is your AOL email still the best one to contact you with sales information?” By phrasing these types of questions carefully, you’re showing the customer that accuracy and privacy are both important to your store. Demonstrating this goes a long way to instill confidence in your customers as well as your staff.

Finally remember—even during the crazy times of the year—the priority of capturing customer information and scanning every item never changes. In fact, those are the times when it’s most important.

Take Christmas as an example. It’s an easy time to slack off because you’re busy, but your staff should actually step up their efforts for two reasons:

  1. You have more customers making purchases than any other point of the year. As a result, this information becomes a significant portion of your customer analysis.
  2. As we all know, a certain percentage of your customers only come in once a year, and this is most likely that one time. If you skip them, you’ll have to wait an entire year to update their data again. And if you send mailings based on purchase history, they won’t get one. Or, worse yet, their address needed to be updated, so you’ll end up wasting money mailing a catalog to the wrong house—all because your staff was too busy.

Never let yourself or your staff find an excuse to not value data. Just like the employee in my opening story, train your staff to exude pride in the data that your store needs to survive and thrive! CR


Erik Ernstrom has worked in the Christian products industry for 24 years. He started as a receiver in the backroom of an independently owned Christian retail store, eventually managing that store. He has also managed a customer service department that served 300 Christian retail stores.  He now works for The Parable Group, managing the business analytics department that yielded nearly 100 million customer contacts last year.

 

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