One of my good friends has a family-run men’s tailoring shop in an exclusive town in the counties, close to where I live. Their clothes are for those with deep pockets: the exquisitely tailored suits are hand-made by them or sourced from the finest tailors in Europe and typically retail at £2,500 or more.
There are not many shops like this one left in Britain. As a basic requirement they demand devotion, an unsurpassed knowledge, and an unwavering commitment to customer service.
Despite this, they are still challenged by today’s market conditions. As we sat discussing what options they had to generate new sales, we reviewed the marketing plans, multichannel plans, customer loyalty and family resources.
It struck me how ironic this is. I spend most of my time working with large retailers helping them to build customer loyalty with CRM programs and technology. These retailers are essentially trying to mimic the personalised service of my friend’s shop using pro-active personal communications, and reactive customer recognition & service in the store. Almost always with the careful application of a well thought out programme and the right technology these large retailers can improve their customer service significantly.
And so here I was, talking to my friend and helping her small enterprise adopt tactics that work for my clients. She has customer relationships that all retailers aspire to, and now she is reaching out to new customers to fight the affects of the recession.
For instance, due to her very short depth of style/colour/size combination (she often only buys one size deep) she is worried about advertising items on her site. I suggested that she allow the customers to preview early Spring Collections, and incentivise her customers to purchase items now, with personal delivery immediately the Spring Collection arrives with a bouquet of spring flowers. Although she buys with key customers in mind, this way, she can determine who else may be interested in particular garments – garments that would not have been available in the shop come spring as they would have been reserved immediately for the loyal customer.
And then, I have high street brands asking how they can get more personal with their customers. Ever thought of holding a 50 year anniversary party at the local art gallery for key employees and your top customers – try your top 300 customers? That is what my friend’s family did – and the sales eclipsed previous years’ sales in the same period in the 6 months following that great thank you. I know of some retailers – only a select few – who do offer ‘lunch with the buyer’ or ‘VIP customer ticket to seasonal press launch’ for their very best customers. Not very costly – but track those VIP customers in your CRM system and you may be amazed how that can incrementally impact not only those customers ongoing spend – but that of their friends – who often behave like your the VIPs.
Thinking like a small retailer – where the customer must always be thanked personally for their custom – is not such a great leap of faith for large retailers – whether your ATV is £2000 or £20. Customers can be thanked cost-effectively - it just takes thought.
Tanya Bowen is head of CRM consulting at BT Expedite. You can contact her at [email protected]