While the global and national retail brands (Starbucks, McDonalds, Borders, K-Mart, Woolworths etc) pursue a common consumer experience and drill train their employees accordingly, too many independent retailers ignore the perfect opportunity to leverage their point of difference.
Missing from to many sales counter interactions in independently owned retail outlets is a touch of humanity, something beyond have a good day. My experience is that too many independents are chasing the big players and creating a me too experience. In my mind this makes it easier for consumers to compare the independent book shop or CD store or coffee shop with the global branded store.
We need to find a way to encode being local and being independent in our consumer interaction without it feeling regulated and required. It’s a challenge. We’ve looked at it from a technology perspective to see how we might facilitate a more human sales experience. We have some ideas and will play with these (and I’m not about to give another free kick to our competitors here). The reality, though, is that you don’t encode more humanity, you can’t. It happens because you want it and because it’s natural. Because you have time and because you enjoy the human interaction.
Being local and independent to my mind means providing less of a corporate experience. This means more local products; a greater local community connect; happier employees; more hand written signs in store; maybe no uniform; and, real communication with consumers.