On Saturday I visited a major outdoor clothing retailer. The experience confirmed why I dread shopping and got me wondering about the management thinking that underpins and drives the activities of sales assistants.
Much has been written about the changing role of the retail outlet in the context of increased online shopping. It seems apparent to me that there is a disconnect between the rhetoric of retail changing to suit changing shopping behaviours and the death grip of a pushy sales mentality.
Retail psychologists will recognise some of the irks I have. Firstly the experience of being mugged the moment you step across the threshold with the notionally friendly greeting of ‘are you alright there?’ . Whilst the content of the communication is friendly, it is socially inappropriate and is not an expression of interest in my welfare. It is a vacuous utterance from a shop employee who really wants to ask me if I’m going to buy anything from them. In that sense it is deceptive.
Talk about ‘processing’ customers as resources to extract their value. Step one open the ‘process’ with a technique that obliges people to say ‘yes’ because pop psychology tells us this is a good thing. Good for who? The customer?
Having resisted the urge to run out the store because my need to privately explore the product range I have been browsing on the Internet is stronger, I am then confronted with my ‘new best friend’. My new friend wants to follow me around the store to notionally help me but the ‘spider like’ attempt at constraining me in a silken cocoon of product feature verbiage is suffocating.
I just want to escape. I don’t want to be in the place. I don’t want to ‘helped’ to make a buying decision as if I’m suffering from a knowledge and capability disability.
When will retailers learn that sales assistants (sic) driven by an aggressive sales philosophy sugar coated with facile friendliness is bad for business?
People are going shopping for different reasons now. They are going informed and they are going to explore. In that exploring they will use their own capability as thinking adults to buy the product they want.
This was a black experience for me and one that might just stop me exploring the outdoor brand I like in that retail outlet even though the T shirts tell me I shouldn’t.