“You need to care for your customers, not wait on them, no matter where your store sits along the ‘Covid-19 Reopening Scale,’” says Bob Phibbs, “the Retail Doctor.” It’s no longer 2019. Politics aside, today it’s inaccurate to say everyone sees things the same way; we all bring different perspectives. Additionally, as this poll shows, impartial news media are also something of the past.
Moreover, when local restrictions lift, those who prefer Fox News are nearly 10 times more likely to return promptly to all-or-most of their normal activities. In addition, of those preferring CNN, 46% reported they would remain in quarantine.
This means if you’ve reopened you would be 10 times more successful advertising on Fox News than advertising on CNN or MSNBC. Wherever you and your team get your news, those who get theirs elsewhere may have dramatically different perspectives from yours. Today, retailers often inadvertently send silent signals about interpretation of their Covid-19 policies.
What’s more, it’s critically important to understand that your customers reflect what their media feeds them. Don’t argue. Make them comfortable. You want them to enjoy stress-free time in your store and at your events, as well as being part of your community.
You must be aware of your local area’s Covid-19 attitudes, safety rules as well as regulations. California shoppers yell at people without masks; however, in other locations masks are rarely seen.
Determine your employees’ attitudes. Can they care for customers on both sides of these attitudes? Role-play how to talk to customers, either reassuring them or helping them understand the reasons for your safety policies. (Don’t focus on any one position, because they’re subject to change.)
Covid-19 has indelibly imprinted all of us. Our priorities have shifted. Millions visited Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium penguins online, when they were turned loose to wander the empty halls. Sydney’s Taronga Zoo live cam viewers exceeded the population of Australia. Visitors sought peace, tranquility as well as some entertainment.
What about your customers’ images of their old or new hobbies? Have you noticed how many more images you’re seeing of backyard birds and flowers? Perhaps, you are recognizing and exploiting how picture taking has changed by showing the equipment that will enhance your customers’ new endeavors?
Furthermore, the soccer mom is no longer the critical segment of our industry. Today, the hobbyist, serious amateur and professional are the mainstays of hardware sales. While the professional photographic market may still be depressed, the serious amateur/hobbyist has the latent desire to improve their photographic skills and enjoyment.
What’s more, as economic and political conditions intertwined with Covid-19, public awareness of the need to support small business grew. Small businesses must work together in their local regions to magnify this trend.
The successful photo retailer is rolling out “community building” experiences, both virtual and live. Serious photographers want a welcoming place to express themselves and communicate with a like-minded group. They’ve holed up too long. They’re ready to “restart” their lives as well as their hobby.
The Economic Reality
Unfortunately, many workers are still unemployed, especially in the hospitality industry. The economic reality is people in these categories were not a strong photographic equipment consumer base. Our customers tend toward the upper-and-top income people who are less impacted by the economic turmoil that’s frustrating many families. They have jobs as well as money/credit availability. They want to be welcomed into a human community to enhance their image making. Moreover, they want a fun and enjoyable as well as educational experience.
Now is the time to double down on showcasing your customers. Post customer images on your social media and in your store. If you can handle social distancing, allow a customer to display images in your store with a wine and cheese “grand unveiling” at a “VIP Customer Event.”
How many people will the featured customer bring into your store? How connected to your store will that customer feel? Maybe do something similar virtually. You’re looking for emotional connections with customers as well as potential customers.
Ration the hard sell in your social media. Manufacturers want you to hammer their “Deal du Jour,” so your customers’ e-mail or social media is overflowing with crass selling messages. In most cases, that’s very counterproductive. Remember the “social” in social media. Stories that don’t sell anything but make your customer glad they visited with you online are critical to building that community we all seek. Give shout-outs to heroes in your community, to other small businesses, to those who make your locale special. Clearly demonstrate that you’re a giver, a part of the community that makes it as good as it is.
We need flexibility in our store policies, our teams and also our personal attitudes. Situations will change. What won’t change is customers needing us to care for them, not wait on them.
Bob Phibbs, the Retail Doctor, and the PRO Buying Group invite you to a free webinar on these topics designed for camera stores.
Further, opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or policies of Digital Imaging Reporter.
Bill McCurry would love to hear from you with questions, comments or ideas for future columns. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (609) 688-1169.