Monday, August 22, 2011

Let's Bring Friendly Back

Somewhere a lot of businesses lost the friendly approach.

Starbucks made their mark when they came to my town a few years ago by engaging with customers, instead of staring at you, waiting for you to speak first.

When they lost their way, that was one of the ways they recaptured their niche.

Mediapost wrote about friendly recently:

How Retailers Can Win Over Consumers

Gen Y consumers will change how retailers operate. Stores will focus on becoming "user friendly," product ranges will dwindle and retention of staff will become a key factor in the success of retail operations.

Retailers have the chance to make changes now to grab Gen Y dollars and follow the example set by leading youth brands like Apple, Chipotle, Scion, and H&M.

1. Train People Well Apple is one of the brands universally popular with Gen Y. Male or female, college educated or GED, Gen Y loves its iPods, iPhones and iMacs. Other retailers get green with envy at the sight of ever-packed Apple Stores.

And you don't have to be a Gen Y member to figure out why.

Apple hires and trains its people extremely well. Apple Store employees know Apple's relatively simple line of products inside and out and, if you have a problem, you can always visit the Genius Bar.

Gen Y consumers are notorious for researching their purchases online before venturing out to a store and Apple's employees are able to actually make an alternate recommendation or provide further details to secure the sale of that consumer.

Train your people on product information to compete with well-researched Gen Y consumers.

2. Focus on the Product Put away the flashy signs and throw out any plans to discount your product.

Look at Chipotle, another top Gen Y brand. It has only a handful of core products, with a bunch of customization options and the menu is devoid of a dollar menu. Chipotle doesn't run sales, and it offers only a limited amount of discount promotions with most done at the individual store levels.

Scion, which was recently named the top car brand among Gen Y consumers, sells just four models of cars. Compare that to Ford, which offers 18 on its website (not including commercial vehicles). Consumers can customize their base model in several different ways, but Scion keeps its product selection small, making it easier for its sales staff and allowing more options -- like a Chipotle or Apple -- once you select a base model.

Even if you don't have a simple product, find simple entry points to lure in the Gen Y shopper and then look at the details.

3. Browsability The ability to easily browse your store and interact with the product is huge for Gen Y consumers.

Look at Gen Y favorites Swatch and H&M. Swatch retail stores are in the same futuristic and clean vein as Apple's, but with the watches hanging from the store walls -- not locked behind glass cases on the counter -- giving people a chance to touch and try on the brightly colored wrist accessories.

When visiting an H&M, you're never out of sight of a mirror. You can instantly pick up a shirt or a jacket and take it for a quick look in the mirror before deciding if you want to try it on in the fitting room. Old Navy has taken it one step further, recently introducing middle-of-the-section "Quick Change" booths, allowing people to quickly try on a shirt.

Patrick Evans is a Gen Y member marketing to Gen Y consumers as marketing and communications manager at STA Travel, the youth travel expert enabling students and young adults to explore the world by creating experiences filled with adventure, discovery and personal growth. Chat with him on Twitter at @statravelUS or @thatpatrick.

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