Dear Mr. and Ms. Retail Giant,
I know times are tough. People are sitting on their wallets, and even though you've been wooing us with discounts and free shipping, we're just not falling for your charms the way we used to. We know you're hurting: Saks sales are down 16%, Neimans and Nordstroms down almost 30%. Sure, it's the economy, but some of you aren't helping yourselves with some of your business practices.
Like what?, you ask (if you're smart).
Well for starters, customer service. Especially at the upscale end. At brunch last Sunday with a group of friends who are regular shoppers at Neimans, Saks, Nordstroms and designer boutiques, the topic turned to service. The number one complaint was that your Sales Associates, your ambassadors to the public, don't know your merchandise. They don't know what colors and sizes will be available from the Spring collection, even though the information is available on the corporate website. They tell us "no, that bag will not be available in the medium size," only to get it in the following week, and sell it to someone who just walked in the door. They tell us, "it's never been available in that color" and won't do a search even though someone we know bought one last week in the Chicago store. They don't always seem to be interested in being, well, helpful. They heave a heavy sigh when we ask to see something in the display counter. They look around and talk to their co-workers while we're waiting to ask a question. They don't offer to show us something similar that might interest. They act like they're doing us a favor just being there. So when we do find someone who gives good service, we stick with them. We ask for them, and pass their names along to our friends. I know we're all not spending like we once did, but especially now, the difference between making a sale or not could boil down to that person with your company logo on their name tag. You can't afford for them to be snooty, uninformed and apathetic.
When it comes to your e-tailing effort, for the love of Pete, will you PLEASE LOSE THE FLASH PLAYER. Yes, I raised my voice a bit there. We know it looks slick and edgy and you want to show off your hotshot web design team but it makes navigating your site more difficult, and for those of us who might want to recommend something to our friends or blog readers, makes it almost impossible to share your product pictures and direct links. You're missing out on some free advertising, and who's crazy enough to pass on that in this economy? Keep the flash for the zoom and pan feature, but give us pictures we can grab and post. Worth a thousand words, remember?
And a note about your pictures, I can't count the number of times I've posted a picture on my blog with the disclaimer, "this actually looks much better in person." I'm not a professional photographer, and I know that trying to keep up with the merchandise is a daunting task. But maybe showing in natural light, showing the item from different angles, I don't know. But I think some e-tailers get it right, like Neimans and J.Crew; check out what they're doing.
If you've read this far, thanks, and I'm always available if you need any more feedback.